By Arpit Panda

Published On: 08 December, 2022 at 22:59 IST


The Stockholm Conference, the very first conference conducted by the United Nations Conference on Human Environment focused on Environmental Issues at the International level.

This conference, held in Stockholm (Sweden) from the 5th to the 16th of June 1972, was the first to bring environmental issues to the attention of the international community and to try to find a way to combat air, land and water pollution by collaborating to protect the human environment for the future generation.

The Stockholm Declaration and Action Plan for the Human Environment, as well as many resolutions, were signed by the participants as guiding principles for sustainable environmental management.

One of them was the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established on the December 1972, as a result of the Stockholm Conference to coordinate worldwide efforts to protect our natural human environment.

In 1968, the idea of the Stockholm Conference was presented in Sweden, and it suggested that the United Nations should conduct an international conference to address environmental concerns that required international collaboration to overcome challenges pertaining to environmental pollution.

The United Nations General Assembly then decided to hold the Stockholm Conference in 1972, accepting Sweden’s offer to host it.

UN Secretary-General U Thant invited Maurice Strong to serve as the Conference’s Secretary – General, as the Canadian diplomat (under Pierre Trudeau) had already undertaken and worked on the environmental pollution subject for a period of two years.

114  government delegations were part of  the Stockholm Conference. The Stockholm Declaration outlined 26 broad principles to describe human impact on the environment or the human carbon footprint, and it was the first time in history that environmental challenges were openly acknowledged on a worldwide basis.

The Action Plan was divided into three sections:

  • the Global Environmental Assessment Programme (watch plan);
  • environmental management activities; and
  • international measures to assist national and international assessment and management operations. These categories were further subdivided into 109 suggestions.

Stockholm declaration

The Stockholm Declaration of 1972, identified environmental woes faced all over the world and the solutions to these woes. A number of 26 major principles were established along with a fixed guideline urging all the countries in cooperation to tackle these challenges.

The conference gained headlines by   addressing environmental challenges at an international level. The Stockholm Declaration emphasized the need for countries to build development plans that incorporate science and technology in order to reduce pollution of the air, land, and water, as well as human effect on the environment.

The Stockholm Declaration’s principal goal was to protect the world from all of the atrocities that were harming the environment and to safeguard against a variety of other environmental challenges.

In other words, the primary goal was to conserve the planet; in fact, the Stockholm Declaration’s slogan, “Only One Earth” was adopted in 1972.

The Declaration encourages each country to develop legislation to preserve its wildlife and natural resources, and recommends that each country develop its environmental pollution regime.

Environmental protection is a major concern. Protecting and preserving the environment should be the goal of individuals worldwide and an obligation of all the governments.

The declaration consists of two important sections. The first section covers seven principles about man and his relationship with nature. The second section provides twenty six principles that set the foundation for global environmental protection and preservation policy regime.

Principles of the Stockholm Declaration:

  1. Human rights must be asserted, apartheid and colonialism condemned
  2. Natural resources must be protected
  3. Renewable resources must be protected
  4. Wildlife must be safeguarded
  5. Preservation of non-renewable resources
  6. Pollution management
  7. Damaging sea pollution must be prevented
  8. Social and economic development
  9. Environmental deficiencies
  10. Stability of prices and incomes
  11.  Environment policy must not hamper development
  12. Environmental protection education
  13. Rational management of resources
  14. Rational planning
  15. Human settlements must be planned to eliminate environmental problems
  16. Government policies
  17. Setting of national institutions
  18. Science and technology must be used to improve the environment
  19. Education in the environmental matters
  20. Scientific research and development
  21. State’s rights and responsibilities
  22. Development of International Law
  23. Each nation must establish its own standards
  24. International co-operation
  25. International co-ordination
  26. Ban on Nuclear weapons

Principles in detail:-

  • Human rights must be asserted, apartheid and colonialism condemned:

Every human being has the fundamental right to life, freedom, equality and to live with dignity. These fundamental rights have been protected under the article 14, 19 and 21 of The Constitution of India.

The right to life includes the right to live in a clean and healthy environment. And such policies which promote discrimination, colonization or other forms of oppression must be eliminated.

  • Natural Resources must be protected:

The natural resources of the Earth like air, water, land, plant and animal ecosystem must be protected. The benefits of these resources are to enjoyed by the present as well as the future generation.

  • Renewable resources must be protected:

Renewal resources of the Earth must be maintained and protected. Vital renewal resources should not misused.

  • Wildlife must be safeguarded:

It is the responsibility of human being to protect the heritage of wildlife and their habitat. The environmental and ecological changes along with the adverse actions of Human beings have led to the downfall of wildlife resources.

Hence, for economic development it is important to conserve and safeguard the wildlife and their habitat.

  • Preservation of non-renewable resources:

Non-renewable resources must be shared and not exhausted. Non-renewable resources are limited, hence, we must contribute to the preservation of the earth’s non-renewable resources, employing them in such a way as to avoid the risk of future exhaustion, and ensuring that their benefits are shared by all generation.

  • Pollution management:

Pollution must not exceed the environment’s capacity to clean itself. The toxicity of released chemicals or substances must not damage the environment to such an extent that it cannot be recovered back or permanently harm the ecosystem.

  • Damaging sea pollution must be prevented:

The states shall take all the necessary actions that will prevent pollution of the sea and any hazardous substance that causes harm to human beings, living resources or marine life.

  • Social and economic environment:

For a better living and working environment, it is vital to enhance social and economic conditions. Such improvements in the quality of life of a human being should not have any negative impact on the environment.

  • Environmental deficiencies:

The environmental shortcomings aggravated by the conditions of under-development and natural disasters can be developed through substantial improvement and investment in financial and technological assistance.

  • Stability of prices and incomes:

Developing countries need reasonable prices for exports to carry out environmental management. Economic factors are an important function of the environmental process.

  • Environment policy must not hamper development:

The government should implement environmental measures to reduce pollution and promote country development so that pollution does not harm current and future generations.

  • Environmental protection education:

Environmental protection is critically needed. The necessity of environmental conservation should be acknowledged by all citizens. Adoption of a proper medium, such as social media, print media, or other forms of media, is critical for spreading environmental awareness.

  • Rational management of resources:

States should adopt an integrated and co-ordinated approach to development planning so as to achieve a more rational management of resources, hence, protecting and improving the environment for the benefit of the population.

  • Rational planning:

Rational planning can resolve any conflicts between the needs of development and the need to protect and improve the environment.

  • Human settlement and urbanization:

Human settlement and urbanization should be planned and the environment should not be harmed in order to achieve the maximum social, economic and environmental benefits for humans.

  • Population control:

Governments should plan their own appropriate population policies to control the growth of the population. It is important to note that these policies should not violate the fundamental rights of the people.

In the current world’s scenario, excessive population leads to major adverse effects on the environment and the development of the nation suffers. Hence, it is important to keep the population under control.

  • Setting up of national institutions:

National institutions set up by the state must plan, manage or control the development of natural resources in order to improve the environmental quality.

  • Science and technology must be used to improve the environment:

For the identification, avoidance and control of risks pertaining to the environment and for the solutions of such risks, science and technology must be applied. The application of science and technology would enhance the economic and social development as well as help in the development of the society.

  • Education in the environmental matters:

Environmental education for the younger generation and the adults is absolutely essential to broaden the mind and spread awareness about the environmental issues. It is necessary to spread awareness among the public, so that people together can solve the larger concerns pertaining to the environment.

  • Scientific research and development:

Scientific research and development pertaining to environmental issues must be promoted nationally and internationally in all countries, especially in developing countries.

  • State’s rights and responsibilities:

The states have the sovereign right to exploit their own natural resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, but it is also the state’s responsibility to ensure that such policies do not violate the international law, have a negative impact on the environment in their jurisdiction or shall not cause any damage to the environment of other states beyond the limits of their national jurisdiction.

  • Development of International Law:

The States should co-operate to expand the scope of international law for determining who is responsible for environmental damage. States should also work together to establish liability and compensation for victims of pollution or harm to the environment.

  • Each nation must establish its own standards:

The state’s may identify certain international laws which do not correspond with the country’s value system, hence, it is not mandatory for the state to follow such legislations. States are also excluded if the processes result in unjustified societal costs.

  • International co-operation:

International concerns relating to environmental protection and improvement should be resolved in co-operation with all countries.

  • International co-ordination:

For the current situation to be improved, nations must work together. The states can work together to coordinate measures and strategies to improve the current state of the environment.

  • Ban on Nuclear weapons:

Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction and cause severe damage to the environment. As a result, governments should come to an agreement and ban nuclear weapons.


The Stockholm Declaration was the first global conference  on the Human environment. A total of 114 countries took part in the conference. The objective was to develop environmental law’s throughout the world.

The proclamation centered on pollution control and worked as a deterrent to potential environmental harm. The declaration states that people are both the creature and the molder of the environment, and that are solely to blame for the current condition.

Every individual should be aware of their duties and must take steps to safeguard the environment and the world in order to ensure a better tomorrow. In the declaration, 26 principles were stated to the nations, these principles acted as a guidelines to the states’ and the citizen of such states, in order to protect the environment from any further damage.

The conference raised awareness about the environment and the need of protecting it, around the world.  Due to its lack of impact and the absence of emerging types of pollution, the announcement was heavily criticized.

Nonetheless, the conference was a success since it lay the groundwork for a number of later environmental initiatives by the United Nations and other organizations.

By: Arpit Panda- BBA, LLB. IFIM Law School, Bangalore.

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