Have you heard about Agenda 21? There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what exactly Agenda 21 is – or more importantly isn’t. Here what it is: a broad voluntary and non-binding blueprint for sustainable development.

Below are a few common misperceptions about the plan.

Myth: Agenda 21 seeks to promote a “world government” through the creation of “a centralized planning agency [that] would be responsible for oversight into all areas of our lives.”

Fact: This is probably the most common misperception about Agenda 21. Rather than some sovereignty syphoning conspiracy, Agenda 21 is a totally voluntary and non-binding framework that encourages individual countries to consider the environmental impacts of their land, resource, and transportation development policies.

Adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Agenda 21 (the 21 refers to the 21st Century) reflects a broad international consensus that worsening poverty and growing stresses on the environment require greater integration between environmental and development concerns. These are concerns that, now over 20 years since the plan was first introduced, we can clearly see are serious and growing.

At the end of the day, implementation of any part of Agenda 21 is up to the individual governments – not the UN. The voluntary and non-binding nature of this agreement has also been confirmed by the Heritage Foundation, a staunch critic of Agenda 21.

Myth: Agenda 21 would supersede the domestic laws of the United States and other sovereign nations.

Fact: As a non-binding agreement, Agenda 21 does not take supremacy over U.S. law. National governments are ultimately in charge of their own development, and neither the UN nor any other international organization has the right to encroach on the sovereignty of any country in the implementation of Agenda 21.

Myth: Agenda 21 is an amalgamation of socialism and extreme environmentalism with strong anti-American and anti-capitalist overtones.

Fact: Agenda 21 provides a blueprint for sustainable development—development that simultaneously promotes economic growth, improved quality of life, and environmental protection. Agenda 21 was adopted unanimously by all 178 countries that participated in the 1992 Rio Conference. U.S. President George H.W. Bush was among the 108 world leaders present at the conference when the document was adopted.

Myth: The UN is bypassing national governments, using the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) “to make agreements directly with local governments” on implementing Agenda 21.

Fact: Not even close. Many municipalities and cities around the world have found that Agenda 21 is a helpful “pre-made” guide for their own urban planning efforts and have joined an international group—ICLEI—to help implement some of its recommendations. ICLEI is not part of the UN. Many cities and towns throughout the U.S. belong to ICLEI, but their participation is not linked to any UN mandate.

Myth: Agenda 21 calls for the elimination of private property ownership, single-family homes, private car ownership and individual travel choices, as well as family farms.  

Fact: It says nothing of the sort. Agenda 21 does not call for the confiscation or appropriation of land or property anywhere, in any country. It is fully consistent with personal freedoms and the right of citizens to own property, homes, cars, and farms.