United Nations Agenda 21 (and Agenda 2030 and New Urban Agenda)

When people first discover Agenda 21, they are typically amazed by how large and widespread it is, and by how they have somehow been unaware of it for so long.

When they look into it though, they are presented with two very different pictures. Both views are very extreme, highly subjective, and difficult to believe. One side appears to be living in a fantasy world where Agenda 21 will transform Earth into a paradise, the other in a paranoid world where where Agenda 21 is a conspiracy to enslave mankind.

What you are reading now is an attempt to describe Agenda 21 from a more objective viewpoint. It is hardly a complete study, but it should provide a good starting point for your own investigations.

While reading this, you might find it strange that it says surprisingly little about what Agenda 21 actually requires. That's mostly because Agenda 21 itself is somewhat vague, expressing itself more in terms of goals than the actual details of implementation. That vagueness though is what makes the document so potentially dangerous: it's just as easy to read it as a plan to enslave mankind as it is to read it as a path to utopia.

The Documents

The full text of Agenda 21, Agenda 2030, and New Urban Agenda is available on the United Nations web site.

For convenience, we will use Agenda 21 to collectively refer to all three of these documents and other related UN publications.

Agenda 21

In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment & Development published a 350 page document known as Agenda 21, the 21 representing the twenty-first century. Its four sections cover Socio-economics (e.g. reducing poverty), Environment (reducing pollution and deforestation), People (rights for women, indigenous peoples, workers), and Implementation (science, technology, finance).

It presented a warning of a dire future if no action is taken, and then provided a much more hopeful outlook based on a large collection of attainable goals. On its surface, it appears to be generally good for everyone, with little to object to other than minor inconveniences and changes.

Most member countries of the UN have accepted Agenda 21, though in a voluntary non-binding form. The document recognizes that most national governments would not be able to directly force this policy on its citizens, and encourages it to be adopted by state, regional, and local governments, as well as by non-governmental organizations, and to be supported by individual citizens. Section 1.3 says:

… 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 details in the document are broad and vague enough to allow for future changes and to allow for different interpretations by different organizations depending upon circumstances. Section 1.6 says:

… 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 … It could evolve over time in the light of changing needs and circumstances. …

Its supporters say that Agenda 21 is the most wonderful thing to ever have happened. It will solve all the world's problems and provide an excellent future for our descendants.

The United Nations produces inspirational videos, such as What Is Sustainable Development?, that describe Agenda 21 in glowing terms without actually saying anything concrete. Everything on the topic is full of weasel words and vague optimistic descriptions of the future, designed to generate warm fuzzy feelings, and is almost devoid of any hard facts.

Its detractors say that Agenda 21 is a colossal conspiracy, designed to take over the world by destroying everyone's individual rights. They see millions of people at all levels of society working together to achieve the goal of enslaving mankind. They also see other, unrelated conspiracies as being closely linked with this one.

There is some truth in each view, but neither seems to be strongly anchored in reality. But there is very little available in the way of objective facts and details, only the two extreme positions. Agenda 21 is either the most wonderful or the most terrible document ever written.

Agenda 2030

A more recent UN publication, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, lists 17 goals to be achieved by 2030, and lists 169 targets that would ensure that the goals have been reached. This document is commonly referred to as Agenda 2030.

Again, even though it sounds like a specific plan, Agenda 2030 is very vaguely worded and full of weasel words. For instance, consider Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Assuming we know what this goal actually means, we might expect the 11 associated targets to be explicit measures of what it hopes to achieve by the year 2030. But instead the targets are items like:

  • 12.5 β€” By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse
  • 12.6 β€” Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle
  • 12.c β€” Rationalize inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption by removing market distortions, in accordance with national circumstances, including by restructuring taxation and phasing out those harmful subsidies, where they exist, to reflect their environmental impacts, taking fully into account the specific needs and conditions of developing countries and minimizing the possible adverse impacts on their development in a manner that protects the poor and the affected communities

Does substantially reduce mean make a token effort, or almost totally eliminate? Does encourage mean make gentle suggestions or force under threat? Does rationalize … actually mean anything? If it did, wouldn't it simply say Eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies?

New Urban Agenda

The Habitat III conference in 2016 presented this document as an extension to Agenda 2030, promoting four mechanisms for implementation:

  • National urban policies for integrated systems of cities.
  • Stronger urban governance.
  • long-term and integrated urban and territorial planning and design.
  • Effective financing.

It's obvious that Agenda 21's goals and targets can be interpreted in many different ways. It's also obvious that they are being interpreted in many different ways.

The Players

The United Nations and Sustainable Development

The term Sustainable Development was coined by a 1987 United Nations document, known as the Brundtland Report: Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

During the 25 years following its publication in 1992, Agenda 21 was incorporated into official policy by states, provinces, counties, regions, municipalities, and non-governmental organizations throughout the world.

According to Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:

This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution.

Environmentalists (and other groups concerned about the world's future)

Many people and organizations, while recognizing the Agenda as a very weak document, see it as hope for the future. It provides them with something large and real to point to when trying to convince governments and other organizations to do the right thing.

When used in this way, Agenda 21 can be a powerful tool for good, especially when dealing with governments that have in principle accepted the Agenda as part of their official policy.

Libertarians (and others concerned about individual rights)

Many people see the Agenda as something that will hurt individual rights. It provides governments with justification for imposing its will, overriding the rights of individuals for the good of the community.

When used in this way, Agenda 21 can be a powerful tool for bad, especially by governments that have their own agenda.

Secondary Players


Sustainable development is not a top-down conspiracy from the U.N., but a bottom-up push from local governments. β€” Don Knapp, spokesman for ICLEI.

ICLEI (International Committee for Local Environmental Initiatives), retains its original acronym but now calls itself Local Governments for Sustainability, presumably to avoid the communist-sounding International Committee.

It is a non-governmental organization that promotes Agenda 21 to local and regional governments. It provides events, speakers, and training programs to encourage Agenda 21 policies at the local level and to help municipalities to implement Agenda 21, (currently to over 1500 municipalities in over 100 countries).


Not surprisingly given its UN origin, many of Agenda 21's proposed solutions are a form of socialism. Socialists and Communists are well aware of this, and use Agenda 21 to achieve their own goals.

Sincere Do-Gooders

The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel. β€” Horace Walpole

Many people want to help others. They feel bad when they see things going wrong, and feel good when they are able to do something that has an immediate effect on the problem. But they often don't consider the deeper situation, its original cause, or any eventual side-effects of their solution.

To them, Agenda 21 offers both hope for the future and an opportunity to be directly involved for the good of the world (Think globally, act locally.).

Madison Avenue

The advertising industry is continuously on the lookout for social trends that they can incorporate into their campaigns. Agenda 21 was a great provider, offering many hooks, with many people being attracted by the lure of saving the planet.

Just look at the number of products and services that use buzzwords like green and environmentally friendly. If you want to sell something, state that it's green, imply that it is good for the world, and do whatever it takes to inspire people to buy what you're selling.

Vegetarians, PETA, and Animal Rights Activists

Reducing the consumption of animal protein is a common goal.

The Rich and Powerful (and others)

Some people are not especially concerned about either protecting the environment or protecting individual rights.

In this way, the Agenda becomes just another tool for evil, a way of persuading and manipulating people.


Post-truth politics

The Oxford Dictionaries chose post-truth as their 2016 Word of the Year, defining the adjective as

relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

The recent proliferation of biased news reporting, the lack of fact checking in order to be the first to report it, and the massive amount of deliberately false news on social media have made it difficult to know exactly what is or is not true. Many people, especially the young, who never knew anything different, tend to rely more on their personal feelings than on objective research: if something fits one's world view, it likely is true, if it doesn't it likely isn't.

This is not a good situation, but that's the way the world works now, and many people use it to their own advantage.

The Delphi Method

The Delphi Method is a technique for enabling a committee of experts to achieve consensus. A facilitator runs the meeting, collects the anonymous opinions and recommendations of the participants, and organizes and presents the results. The ensuing discussion tends to eliminate the extreme results and the participants tend to modify their views toward a common, and one would hope correct, conclusion. This process is repeated until a consensus is reached.

Delphi has been used successfully by government and military organizations for decision making and future predicting since it was developed by Project RAND in 1959.

It is seldom mentioned, but Delphi provides an excellent opportunity for abuse by the facilitator.

Political cartoon of facilitators sitting around a table being taught the Delphi technique.'
Teaching how to abuse the Delphi Method:
Our objective is to get the answers WE want and make the citizens THINK they're participating in the public process while all the decisions have already been made beforehand!!!
From Understanding Sustainable Development β€” Agenda 21 β€” for the People and their Public Officials.

A skilled facilitator can easily manipulate the proceedings so that the consensus will eventually reach a predetermined outcome. Ideas that go against the target are understated and presented as if few participants had mentioned them. Ideas that match the target are presented strongly, as if most of the participants had suggested them. Most people, especially non-experts, will tend to modify and rationalize their personal views to more closely match what most other people in their group think.

This abuse is especially effective when used in large groups of common people, such as when City Hall solicits suggestions from the public and the meeting eventually achieves a consensus representing the views of the majority of the citizens (which amazingly happens to be exactly what City Hall had already decided).

Interestingly, mention of this very real possibility of abuse remains absent from Wikipedia. For instance, this entire paragraph was removed from their article on the subject:

The Delphi Method is not to be confused with a related technique for manufacturing consent in which an organizing party combines the input in a non-transparent way, giving the organizing party complete but non-obvious control over the outcome. A name often used for this deceptive use of the Delphi Method is the "Delphi Technique". {{citation title=Conspiracy Theory Alert: Agenda 21 …

This editorial change has the misleading comment Removed false distinction between Delphi method and Delphi technique, even though it was actually the entire paragraph that was removed, not only the allegedly false sentence mentioning technique.


The word soviet is Russian for committee. The U.S.S.R. was run by a hierarchy of committees, their members in theory freely elected from below, but in practice only if approved from above.

Many Agenda 21 supporting organizations use similar techniques for their committees. For instance, a regional committee could be made up of representatives of community committees, each made up of representatives of small neighbourhood associations. Any decisions made by those committees can be presented as the views of the neighbourhoods, communities, and the whole region. This unanimous support is despite the fact that the opinions of the representatives may very well not reflect those of their neighbourhoods, or that the committee consensus is arrived at by Delphi abuse.

The route for a planned bicycle path for instance may be chosen by such methods. The government can then promote it, claiming that the people of the region and all of its communities support it, without there ever having been an opportunity to consider not having the bicycle path in the first place.


Most conspiracy theorists have jumped on Agenda 21 and everything associated with it as being one huge conspiracy to take over the world.

But that would be far too huge an undertaking, involving an incredibly large number of people at all levels of government and society, to be a simple conspiracy. There is no single goal that could motivate so many people, nor would a small group of elite insiders be able to manipulate them all.

Rather, it is more realistic to look at Agenda 21 as a sincere attempt by the United Nations to do something about the world's problems. As is normal for anything associated with the UN, that attempt is of course mostly superficial and highly biased by the political motives of the participants; it ignores many obvious realities and incorporates many subjective goals.

But that doesn't mean that there is no conspiracy, nor that Agenda 21 isn't evil.

It appears that there are in fact many conspiracies, in most cases with each one perhaps unintentionally helping the others and creating a synergy that makes the entire thing look like one huge conspiracy.

Agenda 21 provides motives and justifications, inspiration and manipulation, goals and methods. Each of these can be interpreted and abused in different ways by different groups and individuals.

Communists and Socialists

The communist ideals of equality for women (by free abortions, the elimination of marriage and family, and making child raising and domestic work community activities), and of social and economic equality (by the elimination of private property (property is theft)), fit very well into the Agenda 21 model.

Both groups would welcome a world in which everything is a service or a consumable and nothing is a commodity, a world in which family farms and small businesses don't exist, a world in which interchangable people are packed and stacked along transit corridors, a world in which all individuals rely on the government for their existence.

The original experiment in the Soviet Union failed mostly because it was blatantly and forcefully imposed from above. The citizens could accept that the world might be a better place to live in without religion, family, or property, but those citizens were already used to their current lifestyle and didn't want to give it up.

Today though, the world, especially the western world, is becoming more and more of a social welfare state. Marriage and organized religion are becoming obsolete, while more and more people are relying on the government for welfare and social assistance. People are demanding government supported day-care, an end to all forms of discrimination against sexual orientation, minimum guaranteed incomes, and so on. Many are rejecting the idea of local police, and want policing and enforcement at the national level (something that goes very much against the basic principles of the American constitution). Private property too is becoming less and less important; people collect things on their phones and other devices, they don't care so much about physical possessions.

Even the concept of what rights are has changed completely, from The government shall pass no law restricting citizens from … to The government shall provide each citizen with …. Everyone's freedom from government intervention is rapidly turning into everyone's dependence on entitlements from government intervention.

The Communist conspiracy is real and has been operating for nearly a century. Communists are patient; they know they will eventually win. Agenda 21 provides an excellent tool by which they can change society and win the common people over to their view of the world without ever calling it communism. Instead of having communism forcefully imposed on them from above, as it was a hundred years ago, people will soon be welcoming and even demanding that form of government.

Politicians and Bureaucrats

Most Scout leaders and choir masters are not pedophiles, but many pedophiles are attracted to those positions. Most police and military are not bullies, but many bullies are attracted to those professions. And it's the same with municipal politicians and bureaucrats: many people are attracted by the power it gives them over others and by the opportunity to rise in society.

Even the lowliest civil servants that deal with the public are in positions to help or hinder the people they are dealing with. They can choose to quickly provide a service to someone they like, or they can choose to work slowly, ask for more information, refer them to another agency, and in general delay the process and make it inconvenient for someone they don't like.

For those that enjoy that small amount of power, that is enough. Others see opportunity for money and further power through the potential for bribes or extortion.

The bribes don't have to be literal though, but can be favours both to and from others. There is also much networking with the opportunity to make friends in high places. It's not unusual for retiring mayors, councillors, or department directors to retire from the job and find themselves on the boards of several large organizations. Of course everyone knows that they earned the position strictly due to their valuable experience in running a city. In practice though, that experience might very well be the knowledge of how best to influence government decisions.

Once a municipality has accepted Agenda 21 as part of their official policy, the possibilities are endless. Massive amounts of money can be spent and huge projects undertaken, all in the name of sustainable development. It's all entirely justified by being the way of the future and how this local action is part of a global effort to save the planet.

Large Business

Whenever a city undertakes a project, whether a network of bicycle paths, a transit system, or the redevelopment of a section of the city, two things are created: massive disruption and inconvenience to people and small businesses, and large amounts of money to complete the work. This generates a large feeling of power for the bureaucrats and politicians that hope one day to join the large business world, and wealth for large businesses, such as real estate developers and construction companies. At such times, it's also not bad to be an ICLEI consultant knowledgeable in sustainable development and Agenda 21.

Common citizens are presented with a picture of something great happening to their city. Who doesn't want a city with environmentally friendly bicycle paths (even if they aren't connected to each other, don't go where anyone wants to go, and will seldom be used)? Who doesn't want a city with a modern LRT transit system (even if it doesn't go where anyone wants to go, has stations that don't link to the existing bus system, and cuts existing neighbourhoods off from each other)? Who doesn't want their slums transformed into beautiful neighbourhoods (even if it wasn't really a slum, it destroys small businesses, it displaces residents from their homes, and it moves everyone into densely packed high-rises)?

Sustainable development generates a lot of money for the businesses that provide it.

The Fabulously Rich and Powerful

At a much higher level, very rich and powerful individuals and corporations see sustainable development strictly as a way of generating more power and wealth. These people aren't concerned with the small details of individual neighbourhoods or even cities. They see the big picture and how it can be manipulated to benefit them.

Wars have been the traditional instrument for generating wealth and power; not for those fighting, but for the industries that provide the arms and infrastructure necessary for the war, and for the industries that will later rebuild the destroyed cities. The big industries are huge enough that it doesn't really matter who wins the war; they will survive and prosper (and often have been supplying both sides).

As far as big business is concerned, Agenda 21 behaves just like a war. It provides a powerful disruptive force, pits two (or more) sides against each other, and requires massive expenditure of public funds (i.e. taxpayer's money).

Big business doesn't care about the specific goals of Agenda 21, no more than it cares about who wins a war. It doesn't care about the specific details of how governments and organizations are working toward those goals. If big business can manipulate the highest levels, the lower levels will take care of themselves (much like a feudal system), and they will get bigger and richer and more powerful.


One can (and perhaps should) argue endlessly about whether the United Nations deliberately designed Agenda 21 to enable them to take over the world by tracking and controlling individual citizens.

A simpler but similar question is: were smart meters deliberately designed to allow monitoring of individual activity within each house? With them, the government can record every time you flush the toilet and whether you wash your hands afterward. One might assume that this was not the original intent, but really, it doesn't matter. The important point is that this capability does exist, and it can be abused.

Whether Agenda 21 was from the beginning part of a conspiracy to control the world's citizens is of far less importance to us than whether someone will make use of it, now or in the future.


Agenda 21 isn't simply something of concern for conspiracy theory people. Many citizens, organizations, and even governments are taking its problems seriously.


In the name of Agenda 21, one city almost enacted crippling legislation before concerned citizens were able to stop it. Had it passed, the new laws would have removed many property rights, enabling easy expropriation of land for city purposes, and property seizure by the city for by-law violations. A YouTube video describes how the citizens of Kodiak Alaska defeated Agenda-21 city planning.

State Legislatures

In 2012, Alabama unanimously passed a bill to block

any future effort to deliberately or inadvertently infringe or restrict private property rights without due process, as may be required by policy recommendations originating in, or traceable to Agenda 21

A similar motion was passed in Missouri, but vetoed by the governor.

Anti Agenda 21 bills in Texas and Arizona failed to pass because they were so broadly worded that they could have been used to cut off funding to 4H and Scouting groups and other organizations whose goals happen to overlap with some of Agenda 21's.

Republican National Committee

We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty. β€” Republican National Committee, 2012

Concerned Individuals

Rosa Koire's Democrats Against UN Agenda 21 web site contains much more information about Agenda 21 than is contained here. It begins with:

Sounds like science fiction β€” or some conspiracy theory β€” but it isn't. UN Agenda 21 / Sustainable Development is the action plan implemented worldwide to inventory and control all land, all water, all minerals, all plants, all animals, all construction, all means of production, all energy, all education, all information, and all human beings in the world. Inventory and control.

Rosa Koire is a California real estate appraiser that ran into problems caused by her local municipal government. She and her neighbours fought against what appeared to be completely unreasonable decisions, and eventually discovered that Agenda 21 was the underlying cause of a situation that made no sense.

She wrote a book, Behind The Green Mask (ISBN 978-0-615-49454-8), describing the fight and her discoveries. It's well worth reading. (I'd recommend starting on page 73 and reading the Our Journey To The Truth Begins and the following chapters. It will make the first half of the book a lot easier to understand and empathize with once you go back to it.)


Many other organizations have formed in opposition to Agenda 21. Freedom Advocates for instance has a web site and publishes a book warning about the dangers of Agenda 21. (The Delphi political cartoon above is from that book.)

Extrapolative Fiction

Based on the UN document, Glenn Beck and Harriet Parke wrote Agenda 21 (ISBN 978-1-4767-1669-5), a 2012 novel about a dystopian future.

Just a generation ago, this place was called America. Now, after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as the Republic. There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom. There are only the Authorities.