Agenda 21: Everything you need to know about the secret U.N. plot, in one comic
Agenda 21: It’s the biggest threat to your freedom, and unless you regularly attend yahoo-filled local planning and zoning meetings, you’ve probably never even heard of it.
Until recently, this 20-year-old United Nations plan to promote “sustainable development” was known only to stalwart defenders of Liberty and Freedom like the John Birch Society.
But the underground resistance is about to go mainstream. GOP intellectual it boy Ted Cruz leads the counterstrike, and the Republican Party is even considering a public flambéing of Agenda 21 in its official 2012 platform.
Looking to help break the siege of bike paths and high-quality education on our freedoms? Here’s what you’ll need to know.
For more than 20 years, the United Nations’ (U.N.) Agenda 21 Rio Declaration on Development and Environment, a source document on sustainable development intended to help governments understand and undertake measures to cope with climate change, was little known to U.S. city planners.
Recently, however, it has become a rallying cry for Tea Party, property rights advocates and others, who have succeeded in introducing anti-Agenda 21 legislation in half the country’s state legislatures.
The Kansas resolution, like similar resolutions proposed in many other states, describes the non-binding action plan that grew out of the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in this way:
The United Nations Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of environmental extremism, social engineering and global political control…
This United Nations Agenda 21 plan of radical so-called “sustainable development” views the American way of life of private property ownership, single family homes, private car ownership, individual travel choices and privately owned farms as destructive to the Environment…
Concerns about American sovereignty are not new, nor are assertions of a U.N.-led “one-world government” domination, which undergird this narrative of a U.N. of restricting individual property rights and redistributing wealth from developed to developing nations in the name of questionable climate change.
What is new is the degree of legislative activism targeting sustainability planning efforts at all levels of government, from activists attending meetings in force to oppose local plans, to state legislation introduced to stop perceived Agenda-21-oriented practices by states and local governments.
In recent research, we sought to understand this trend by examining the proposals and passage of state bills, which were introduced in over half the state legislatures in the U.S.
These proposed bills take the form of binding legislation or non-binding resolutions, and use language similar to the above Kansas resolution as well as that contained within the U.S.
Republican Party’s 2012 platform. This language is also found in the first bill to be passed by both chambers unanimously in 2012 in the State of Alabama.
The loose coalition of activists consists of several thousand individuals throughout the U.S. call themselves “Americans Against Agenda 21,” or “AgEnders,” and there are numerous others actively engaged but not officially members of this group. Activists affiliate with local Tea Party, property rights, and liberty groups.
The John Birch Society and American Policy Center promote anti-Agenda 21 opposition and legislation, and former Fox News host Glenn Beck added his name to a dystopian futuristic novel with an afterward that instructs citizens on recognizing and stopping Agenda 21. Proponents of this movement widely circulate training materials, YouTube videos, and tool kits for purchase.
Agenda 21 opponents counsel cities to “get out of ICLEI” by cancelling their memberships to ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives), a non-profit organization which assists cities with climate action planning. Some websites claim that upwards of 135 U.S. cities have done so.
Interviews with activists suggest that the counter-movement transcends political lines, citing the Northern California-based group, Democrats Against Agenda 21 and affiliated Post-S
ustainability Institute, which argue that public planning processes purposely block genuine citizen input; that unelected, regional bodies are unconstitutional; and, that redevelopment and sustainability planning infringe upon on property rights.
In order to understand Agenda 21’s rapid ascendance on state legislative agendas nationwide, we compared all 50 states by first constructing a national database of state level data gathered from a variety of publicly available sources,
typically reflecting the situation in 2010, as this was a watershed moment in which the Tea Party and other conservative candidates won legislative seats.
We then tested expectations about what state-level characteristics make some state legislatures more likely than others to introduce anti-Agenda 21 legislation.
We also focused on the state of Arizona as a representative case, as its population’s sociodemographic characteristics and key actors’ narratives and modes of participation parallel findings from research on Tea Party and property rights activism and our quantitative analysis.
We interviewed 21 leading participants and observers of anti-Agenda 21 mobilization in Arizona and the U.S with high levels of legislative activity.
From 2012 to early 2013, legislators in at least 26 states introduced anti-Agenda 21 legislation (see Figure 1 and linked Table). All bills opposed or restricted Agenda 21 sustainability practices and object to any relationships with the United Nations and non-governmental organizations including ICLEI.
During the period of our research, Alabama was the only state to enact binding legislation. Four states passed resolutions (Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah). During this same period, another four bills were active and 31 failed.
About one-third of the failed bills that were to be heard in both houses passed out of the house of origin — often with high votes in support and along party lines with Republican members in favor.
Although the sustainability proponents we interviewed interpreted as a success the failure of bills to become law, they acknowledged that the issue will likely resurface either through legislation or in other ways, such as activists turning their attention to local planning issues or seeking to unseat elected officials who support sustainability.
In fact, the Tea Party and property rights activists we interviewed view bills that have moved out of only one chamber not as failure, but promise for the future.
Although non-binding resolutions do not have the force of law, activists consider passed resolutions as the foundation for subsequent binding legislation and as motivation to colleagues for replication nationwide.
They hope the resolutions will cause a chilling effect whereby states, regional agencies, and cities would be reticent to implement Agenda 21-like practices for fear of provoking future negative public debates and interactions.
In our exploratory quantitative analysis, we found that conservative states–those with higher shares of owner-occupied households, military jobs, greater income inequality, higher levels of public expenditures on social services, higher Republican voting fraction, and fewer zero-car households—were more likely overall to see the introduction of anti-Agenda 21 legislation.
We then examined the themes of opposition voiced by Arizona’s activists, which mimic themes previously identified in Tea Party-related literature — from citizen patriots battling big government to activists facing threats from above and below as well as the need to protect the U.S. Constitution and founding principles of the country.
Opposition to the United Nations factored heavily as well in public discussions and all state bills introduced. So too was questioning the role of government and planning, which was prominent in the language of the bills.
As a result, the narratives facilitated a contentious “us versus them” environment with much identification and deliberation about the “other.” Interviewees on both sides often referenced the oppositions’ loose facts and fear mongering.
Organized and passionate opposition is part and parcel of planning. Citizen concerns related to property rights, smaller government, government distrust and skepticism, and reduced taxes have festered for decades.
However, there are two new elements, particularly in the eyes of the participants and national observers. First, planning opposition has been at unparalleled levels; it is unusual for organized opposition to rise above an individual local or state level and to become as widespread as occurred through these numerous state bills.
Much opposition reflected in the bill language and our interviews relates to activists’ perceptions that they have been deceived by “rigged” planning processes that have predetermined outcomes geared towards sustainability practices, subversive guiding principles of sustainability,
and purposeful imposition and mobility of these plans from city to city. One conservative interviewee argued, “The towns may be different, but the plans are not.”
We believe this widespread outbreak of introducing legislation may indicate a longer-term situation whereby sustainability opposition becomes part of the state agenda with continued public discussion and media attention.
The bills — even if they fail — inspire imitation and create momentum and learning opportunities, as evidenced by the bills’ proliferation across the U.S. This was confirmed by our interviewees and an analysis of documents and online materials.
Adopted resolutions may invoke a chilling effect, dampening future activities such as curtailing city-based ICLEI memberships or sustainability planning.
Second, social media and other internet communications facilitated the spread of activist positions and proposed legislation, and enabled digitally networked activism to flourish nationally. Participants quickly and widely spread information, articulated counter-narratives, and send out rallying cries to generate greater participation and awareness.
As many remarked, public agencies no longer control messaging through their websites and sympathetic mainstream channels; instead planning activities are becoming more visible through the lenses of critical activists.
Thus, planning and research communities would be well-advised to understand this and not dismiss it as unworthy of careful deliberation. A practitioner supportive of sustainability reflected that some good might result from recent legislative uprisings:
(I)f it makes planners realize that they have to get true community engagement… The criticism is that planners push through something. They really have to walk it like they talk.
People don’t want to show up at planning meetings. Maybe this whole issue has accelerated how we can do community engagement well and share best practices. It’s maybe about having more planners listen and be respectful to a diversity of opinions.
The above statement calls attention to limitations of public outreach and input processes for plan development, which are well covered in planning research. Those interviewed on both sides recounted with frustration that the opposition was dismissive, dogmatic, and unwilling to engage in genuine dialogue.
A way forward may be continued research and practice drawing from the political theory of agonism to reframe civic engagement. In agonistic contexts, actors come to consider their opposition as legitimate adversaries rather than as enemies unworthy of engagement.
In such moments, actors retain their core values and identities and may find common ground with others in a limited way or agree to disagree. Group consensus is not a goal, but compromise through bargaining and negotiations may occur.
While challenging, the long-term objective is to transition when feasible, from highly antagonistic, counterproductive encounters to interactions of agonistic debate.
Thus, our findings underscore the need for on-going research and attention to agonism’s potential for planning and sustainability debates. We must also consider the difficulties and opportunities that come with an evolving hybrid media system of communication.
Agenda 21 - Chapter 1PREAMBLE
Agenda 21 addresses the pressing problems of today and also aims at preparing the world for the challenges of the next century. It reflects a global consensus and political commitment at the highest level on development and environment cooperation. Its successful implementation is first and foremost the responsibility of Governments.
National strategies, plans, policies and processes are crucial in achieving this. International cooperation should support and supplement such national efforts. In this context, the United Nations system has a key role to play. Other international, regional and subregional organizations are also called upon to contribute to this effort.
The broadest public participation and the active involvement of the non-governmental organizations and other groups should also be encouraged.
The developmental and environmental objectives of Agenda 21 will require a substantial flow of new and additional financial resources to developing countries, in order to cover the incremental costs for the actions they have to undertake to deal with global environmental problems and to accelerate sustainable development.
Financial resources are also required for strengthening the capacity of international institutions for the implementation of Agenda 21. An indicative order-of-magnitude assessment of costs is included in each of the programme areas. This assessment will need to be examined and refined by the relevant implementing agencies and organizations.
In the implementation of the relevant programme areas identified in Agenda 21, special attention should be given to the particular circumstances facing the economies in transition. It must also be recognized that these countries are facing unprecedented challenges in transforming their economies, in some cases in the midst of considerable social and political tension.
The programme areas that constitute Agenda 21 are described in terms of the basis for action, objectives, activities and means of implementation. Agenda 21 is a dynamic programme. It will be carried out by the various actors according to the different situations, capacities and priorities of countries and regions
in full respect of all the principles contained in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. It could evolve over time in the light of changing needs and circumstances. This process marks the beginning of a new global partnership for sustainable development.
Economic policies of individual countries and international economic relations both have great relevance to sustainable development. The reactivation and acceleration of development requires both a dynamic and a supportive international economic environment and determined policies at the national level.
It will be frustrated in the absence of either of these requirements. A supportive external economic environment is crucial. The development process will not gather momentum if the global economy lacks dynamism and stability and is beset with uncertainties.
The record of the 1980s was essentially negative on each of these counts and needs to be reversed. The policies and measures needed to create an international environment that is strongly supportive of national development efforts are thus vital. International cooperation in this area should be designed to complement and support
- not to diminish or subsume - sound domestic economic policies, in both developed and developing countries, if global progress towards sustainable development is to be achieved
Providing adequate financial resources to developing countries
Investment is critical to the ability of developing countries to achieve needed economic growth to improve the welfare of their populations and to meet their basic needs in a sustainable manner, all without deteriorating or depleting the resource base that underpins development.
Sustainable development requires increased investment, for which domestic and external financial resources are needed. Foreign private investment and the return of flight capital, which depend on a healthy investment climate, are an important source of financial resources.
For many developing countries, the reactivation of development will not take place without an early and durable solution to the problems of external indebtedness, taking into account the fact that, for many developing countries, external debt burdens are a significant problem.
The burden of debt-service payments on those countries has imposed severe constraints on their ability to accelerate growth and eradicate poverty and has led to a contraction in imports, investment and consumption. External indebtedness has emerged as a main factor in the economic stalemate in the developing countries.
Encouraging economic policies conducive to sustainable development
The unfavourable external environment facing developing countries makes domestic resource mobilization and efficient allocation and utilization of domestically mobilized resources all the more important for the promotion of sustainable development.
In a number of countries, policies are necessary to correct misdirected public spending, large budget deficits and other macroeconomic imbalances, restrictive policies and distortions in the areas of exchange rates, investment and finance, and obstacles to entrepreneurship.
In developed countries, continuing policy reform and adjustment, including appropriate savings rates, would help generate resources to support the transition to sustainable development both domestically and in developing countries.
Many indebted developing countries are undergoing structural adjustment programmes relating to debt rescheduling or new loans. While such programmes are necessary for improving the balance in fiscal budgets and balance-of-payments accounts, in some cases they have resulted in adverse social and environmental effects,
such as cuts in allocations for health care, education and environmental protection. It is important to ensure that structural adjustment programmes do not have negative impacts on the environment and social development so that such programmes can be more in line with the objectives of sustainable development.
The above-mentioned policy changes in developing countries involve substantial national efforts for capacity-building in the areas of public administration, central banking, tax administration, savings institutions and financial markets.
Particular efforts in the implementation of the four programme areas identified in this chapter are warranted in view of the especially acute environmental and developmental problems of the least developed countries
Agenda 21 - Chapter 3 COMBATING POVERTY
Poverty is a complex multidimensional problem with origins in both the national and international domains. No uniform solution can be found for global application.
Rather, country-specific programmes to tackle poverty and international efforts supporting national efforts, as well as the parallel process of creating a supportive international environment, are crucial for a solution to this problem.
The eradication of poverty and hunger, greater equity in income distribution and human resource development remain major challenges everywhere. The struggle against poverty is the shared responsibility of all countries
A specific anti-poverty strategy is therefore one of the basic conditions for ensuring sustainable development. An effective strategy for tackling the problems of poverty,
development and environment simultaneously should begin by focusing on resources, production and people and should cover demographic issues, enhanced health care and education,
the rights of women, the role of youth and of indigenous people and local communities and a democratic participation process in association with improved governance.
To provide all persons urgently with the opportunity to earn a sustainable livelihood;
To implement policies and strategies that promote adequate levels of funding and focus on integrated human development policies, including income generation, increased local control of resources, local institution-strengthening and capacity-building and greater involvement of non-governmental organizations and local levels of government as delivery mechanisms;
To develop for all poverty-stricken areas integrated strategies and programmes of sound and sustainable management of the environment, resource mobilization, poverty eradication and alleviation, employment and income generation;
To create a focus in national development plans and budgets on investment in human capital, with special policies and programmes directed at rural areas, the urban poor, women and children. Activities
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