|Declaration of the United Nations
Conference on the Human Environment
The United Nations
Conference on the Human Environment,
Having met at Stockholm from 5 to 16 June 1972,
Having considered the need for a common outlook and for common principles to inspire and
guide the peoples of the world in the preservation and enhancement of the human
I. Proclaims that:
1. Man is both creature and moulder of his environment, which gives him physical
sustenance and affords him the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social and spiritual
growth. In the long and tortuous evolution of the human race on this planet a stage has
been reached when, through the rapid acceleration of science and technology, man has
acquired the power to transform his environment in countless ways and on an unprecedented
scale. Both aspects of man's environment, the natural and the man-made,
are essential to his well-being and to the enjoyment of basic human rights--even the right
to life itself.
2. The protection and improvement of the human environment is a major issue which affects
the well-being of peoples and economic development throughout the world; it is the urgent
desire of the peoples of the whole world and the duty of all Governments.
3. Man has constantly to sum up experience and go on discovering, inventing, creating
and advancing. In our time, man's capability to transform his surroundings, if used
wisely, can bring to all peoples the benefits of development and the opportunity to
enhance the quality of life. Wrongly or heedlessly applied, the same power can do
incalculable harm to human beings and the human environment. We see around us growing
evidence of man-made harm in many regions of the earth: dangerous levels of pollution in
water, air, earth and living beings; major and undesirable disturbances to the ecological
balance of the biosphere; destruction and depletion of irreplaceable resources; and gross
deficiencies, harmful to the physical, mental and social health of man, in the man-made
environment, particularly in the living and working environment.
4. In the developing countries most of the environmental problems are caused by
under-development. Millions continue to live far below the minimum levels required for a
decent human existence, deprived of adequate food and clothing, shelter and education,
health and sanitation. Therefore, the developing countries must direct their efforts to
development, bearing in mind their priorities and the need to safeguard and improve the
environment. For the same purpose, the industrialized countries should make efforts to
reduce the gap themselves and the developing countries. In the industrialized countries,
environmental problems are generally related to industrialization and technological
5. The natural growth of population continuously presents problems for the preservation of
the environment, and adequate policies and measures should be adopted, as appropriate, to
face these problems. Of all things in the world, people are the most precious. It is the
people that propel social progress, create social wealth, develop science and technology
and, through their hard work, continuously transform the human environment. Along with
social progress and the advance of production, science and technology, the capability of
man to improve the environment increases with each passing day.
6. A point has been reached in history when we must shape our actions throughout the world
with a more prudent care for their environmental consequences. Through ignorance or
indifference we can do massive and irreversible harm to the earthly environment on which
our life and well-being depend. Conversely, through fuller knowledge and wiser action, we
can achieve for ourselves and our posterity a better life in an environment more in
keeping with human needs and hopes. There are broad vistas for the enhancement of
environmental quality and the creation of a good life. What is needed is an enthusiastic
but calm state of mind and intense but orderly work. For the purpose of attaining freedom
in the world of nature, man must use knowledge to build, in collaboration with nature, a
better environment. To defend and improve the human environment for present and future
generations has become an imperative goal for mankind--a goal to be pursued together with,
and in harmony with, the established and fundamental goals of peace and of worldwide
economic and social development.
7. To achieve this environmental goal will demand the acceptance of responsibility by
citizens and communities and by enterprises and institutions at every level; all sharing
equitably in common efforts. Individuals in all walks of life as well as
organizations in many fields, by their values and the sum of their actions, will shape the
world environment of the future. Local and national governments will bear the greatest
burden for large-scale environmental policy and action within their jurisdictions.
International co-operation is also needed in order to raise resources to support the
developing countries in carrying out
their responsibilities in this field. A growing class of environmental problems, because
they are regional or global in extent or because they affect the common international
realm, will require extensive co-operation among nations and action by international
organizations in the common interest. The Conference calls upon Governments and peoples to
exert common efforts for the preservation and improvement of the human environment, for
the benefit of all the people and for their posterity.
States the common conviction that:
Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life,
in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears
a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future
generations. In this respect, policies promoting or perpetuating apartheid, racial
segregation, discrimination, colonial and other forms of oppression and foreign domination
stand condemned and must be eliminated.
The natural resources of the earth, including the air, water, land, flora and fauna
and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, must be safeguarded for the
benefit of present and future generations through careful planning or management, as
The capacity of the earth to produce vital renewable resources must be maintained
and, wherever practicable, restored or improved.
Man has a special responsibility to safeguard and wisely manage the heritage of
wildlife and its habitat, which are now gravely imperilled by a combination of adverse
factors. Nature conservation, including wildlife, must therefore receive importance in
planning for economic development.
The non-renewable resources of the earth must be employed in such a way as to guard
against the danger of their future exhaustion and to ensure that benefits from such
employment are shared by all mankind.
The discharge of toxic substances or of other substances and the release of heat,
in such quantities or concentrations as to exceed the capacity of the environment to
render them harmless, must be halted in order to ensure that serious or irreversible
damage is not inflicted upon ecosystems. The just struggle of the peoples of all countries
against pollution should be supported.
States shall take all possible steps to prevent pollution of the seas by substances
that are liable to create hazards to human health, to harm living resources and marine
life, to damage amenities or to interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea.
Economic and social development is essential for ensuring a favourable living and
working environment for man and for creating conditions on earth that are necessary for
the improvement of the quality of life.
Environmental deficiencies generated by the conditions of under-development and
natural disasters pose grave problems and can best be remedied by accelerated development
through the transfer of substantial quantities of financial and technological assistance
as a supplement to the domestic effort of the developing countries and such timely
assistance as may be required.
For the developing countries, stability of prices and adequate earnings for primary
commodities and raw materials are essential to environmental management since economic
factors as well as ecological processes must be taken into account.
The environmental policies of all States should enhance and not adversely affect
the present or future development potential of developing countries, nor should they
hamper the attainment of better living conditions for all, and appropriate steps should be
taken by States and international organizations with a view to reaching agreement on
meeting the possible national and international economic consequences resulting from the
application of environmental measures.
Resources should be made available to preserve and improve the environment, taking
into account the circumstances and particular requirements of developing countries and any
costs which may emanate from their incorporating environmental safeguards into their
development planning and the need for making available to them, upon their request,
additional international technical and financial assistance for this purpose.
In order to achieve a more rational management of resources and thus to improve the
environment, States should adopt an integrated and co-ordinated approach to their
development planning so as to ensure that development is compatible with the need to
protect and improve environment for the benefit of their population.
Rational planning constitutes an essential tool for reconciling any conflict
between the needs of development and the need to protect and improve the environment.
Planning must be applied to human settlements and urbanization with a view to
avoiding adverse effects on the environment and obtaining maximum social, economic and
environmental benefits for all. In this respect, projects which are designed for
colonialist and racist domination must be abandoned.
Demographic policies which are without prejudice to basic human rights and which
are deemed appropriate by Governments concerned should be applied in those regions where
the rate of population growth or excessive population concentrations are likely to have
adverse effects on the environment of the human environment and impede development.
Appropriate national institutions must be entrusted with the task of planning,
managing or controlling the environmental resources of States with a view to enhancing
Science and technology, as part of their contribution to economic and social
development, must be applied to the identification, avoidance and control of environmental
risks and the solution of environmental problems and for the common good of mankind.
Education in environmental matters, for the younger generation as well as adults,
giving due consideration to the underprivileged, is essential in order to broaden the
basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and
communities in protecting and improving the environment in its full human dimension. It is
also essential that mass media of communications avoid contributing to the deterioration
of the environment, but, on the contrary, disseminate information of an educational nature
on the need to protect and improve the environment in order to enable man to develop in
Scientific research and development in the context of environmental problems, both
national and multinational, must be promoted in all countries, especially the developing
countries. In this connection, the free flow of up-to-date scientific information and
transfer of experience must be supported and assisted, to facilitate the solution of
environmental problems; environmental technologies should be made available to developing
countries on terms which would encourage their wide dissemination without constituting an
economic burden on the developing countries.
States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the
principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources
pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that
activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of
other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
States shall co-operate to develop further the international law regarding
liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage
caused by activities within the jurisdiction or control of such States to areas beyond
Without prejudice to such criteria as may be agreed upon by the international
community, or to standards which will have to be determined nationally, it will be
essential in all cases to consider the systems of values prevailing in each country, and
the extent of the applicability of standards which are valid for the most advanced
countries but which may
be inappropriate and of unwarranted social cost for the developing countries.
International matters concerning the protection and improvement of the environment
should be handled in a co-operative spirit by all countries, big and small, on an equal
footing. Co-operation through multilateral or bilateral arrangements or other appropriate
means is essential to effectively control, prevent, reduce and eliminate adverse
environmental effects resulting from activities conducted in all spheres, in such a way
that due account is taken of the sovereignty and interests of all States.
States shall ensure that international organizations play a co-ordinated, efficient
and dynamic role for the protection and improvement of the environment.
Man and his environment must be spared the effects of nuclear weapons and all other
means of mass destruction. States must strive to reach prompt agreement, in the relevant
international organs, on the elimination and complete destruction of such weapons.
21st plenary meeting 16 June 1972