The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June, 1992 with 172 nations participating in discussions. Primary concerns were the effects on the environment of continued economic development by industrialized nations. The primary outcome from the conference was known as Agenda 21, a unified statement outlining plans and proposals to structure use of resources, treatment of wastes, and alternatives to develop more ecologically sound methods of sustaining economies without destroying the environment.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) took place in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002, ten years after the Earth Summit. In this gathering, the focus was upon the political, economic and geographic realities that were complicating or preventing the adoption and implementation of the plans created at the Earth Summit. It became an opportunity to reaffirm the concerns and needs expressed ten years earlier, but also highlighted the different priorities of varied nations and how those concerns affected actions.
When the World Summit ended, governments congratulated each other for the successful outcome of the summit. Civil Society described the summit as a missed opportunity to come up with a meaningful plan of concrete targets, timeframes and funding for implementation of Agenda 21.
Both conferences attempted to promote ecologically responsible methods of supporting economic development while minimizing destruction of the environment. The Earth Summit created more resolutions for action; the World Summit tried to address reasons why those actions were not being carried out.