Agenda 21 is Evil

by | Feb 6, 2012

The Agenda 21 conspiracy theory is back in the media, thanks to a New York Times report on Tea Party opposition to bike lanes, smart meters, public parks and other dastardly measures that the United Nations is preparing “to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities.”

For UN nerds and sustainable development saddos, Agenda 21 is a stunningly tedious ground-breaking attempt to bring together environment and development in a ‘dynamic programme’ to be implemented by a ‘global partnership’ of international organisations, governments, businesses, and local communities in ‘every area in which human impacts on the environment’.

Agenda 21 was agreed at the Earth Summit in 1992 and was briefly a big deal in the 1990s. Even my local Council here in rural England briefly had an Agenda 21 group. Now though, despite being regularly reaffirmed at UN summits, it’s largely forgotten. Neither has it had much, if any, impact on global development, sustainable or otherwise.

But the American right has never seen it that way. I don’t know who first read Agenda 21 and got the fear, but back in 2005, Nancy Levant (author of the anti-feminism tract, The Cultural Devastation of American Women) was already freaking out:

No one told me about Agenda 21. I found it by accident on the Internet. Then I went to the U.N.’s website and read Agenda 21…I started documenting and keeping running lists because, I discovered, Agenda 21 was huge, highly developed, and a done deal…

I also realized that there was no way to explain Agenda 21 easily. It’s too big, profoundly sophisticated, intentionally masked and hidden by corporate agendas and ecological ideologies that are, themselves, exploited by corporate agendas.

But more than that, I realized that for Americans to understand Agenda 21, they would have to come to terms with a truth that, I fear, they won’t believe. What would that truth be? Let me try to say it in one sentence: Agenda 21 is the end of America.

The paranoia, however, goes further back than that – to 2001 or possibly long before (the NYT says that Tom DeWeese has been working on the issue since 1992). At its most extreme, adherents believe that Agenda 21 is a front for a broader “global depopulation eugenics program” which will see six billion people culled from the global population.

The big boys have got in on the act, as well. Glenn Beck portrays Agenda 21 as the perfect example of how globalist elites hide their cunning plans for world domination in plain sight (he’s particularly suspicious of the local government organisation for sustainability – poor old ICLEI). Alex Jones, pushes the idea of a eugenics cult particularly hard. Even David Icke is in on the act.

The UN has always tried to ignore this stuff, imagining it will stay safely out on the fringe. But it hasn’t. Here’s Newt Gingrich opposing Agenda 21 as “a series of centralized planning provisions” that will take control of American private property.  He sees it as an example of how the UN is seeking to establish “extra-constitutional control” over the United States.

Last month, the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution recognising the “destructive and insidious” nature of Agenda 21 and the push is now on to get this condemnation onto the party’s platform for the 2012 Convention.

Opposition to Agenda 21 – and to the UN itself – is  now firmly in the Republican mainstream, in other words. The UN could do with thinking carefully about this as it prepared for the Earth Summit’s successor, Rio +20. It wouldn’t want to give the next generation of conspiracy-minded whackjobs more meat to feed on, would it?


  • David Steven is a senior fellow at New York University, where he founded the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, a multi-stakeholder partnership to deliver the SDG targets for preventing all forms of violence, strengthening governance, and promoting justice and inclusion. He was lead author for the ministerial Task Force on Justice for All and senior external adviser for the UN-World Bank flagship study on prevention, Pathways for Peace. He is a former senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of The Risk Pivot: Great Powers, International Security, and the Energy Revolution (Brookings Institution Press, 2014). In 2001, he helped develop and launch the UK’s network of climate diplomats. David lives in and works from Pisa, Italy.

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