Agenda 21, the main document emanating from the Earth Summit, represents the most comprehensive and far reaching plan of action ever agreed upon by governments at the highest level. That is in itself a very impressive achievement. But the real value of any action plan depends upon its implementation. This is precisely where the concerted action of all sectors of society plays a crucial role. Without the full and active participation of civil society, the accords and political commitments reached at Rio will never be implemented satisfactorily.

One of the most striking features of UNCED was the inclusiveness of its official preparatory process and the unprecedented level of NGO participation, far greater than in any previous United Nations Conference. I am pleased to see that this interest of the civil society did not end when UNCED concluded its work on June 14, 1992. In these pages we see examples of new organizations that were formed as a direct result of Rio, as well as existing organizations undertaking concrete projects to implement Agenda 21 or restructuring to better reflect their post- UNCED role.

Many of the most exciting and promising post-Rio developments are occurring outside of governments, where there has been a virtual explosion of activities and initiatives on the part of grassroots organizations, citizen groups and key sectors of society. It is evident that people returning from or inspired by Rio are determined to translate its basic themes into their own responses to Agenda 21. After all, the real test of sustainable development is its effects on the beliefs and aspirations of people and it cannot be achieved without their full participation. It is heartening to me to find in the contents of this document such varied and interesting illustrations of what people all over the world are doing to turn agreements on paper into real actions towards sustainable development.

The mission of the Earth Council is to support and empower people in carrying forward the spirit of Rio and fulfilling the promise of the Earth Summit, in building pathways to a more ethical, equitable, secure and sustainable future. The Earth Council, which is a direct product of the Earth Summit experience, is taking a lead in effecting constructive alliances amongst the organizations representing the diverse sectors of the civil society to help them bring their special expertise and insights to the common tasks of creating a more sustainable future. It particularly seeks to amplify the voices of those who are too often unheard or unheeded, helping to insure that their interests and insights are brought to bear more fully and fairly in the processes of policy and decision-making that affect them and empowering them as effective agents of peaceful change.

I hope that by informing governments, NGOs, financial institutions and other actors in sustainable development about exciting and innovative initiatives taking place all over the world, we can inspire still greater efforts to ensure that the Earth remain a secure and hospitable home for present and future generations.

                                   Maurice F. Strong
                                   Earth Council