The GEO-1 Report shows that significant progress has been made in the last decade in confronting environmental challenges in both developing and industrial regions. World-wide, the greatest progress has been in the realm of institutional developments, international co-operation, public participation, and the emergence of private-sector action. Legal frameworks, economic instruments, environmentally sound technologies, and cleaner production processes have been developed and applied. Environmental impact assessments have become standard tools for the initiation, implementation, and evaluation of major development and investment projects in many countries around the world.
As a result, several countries report marked progress in curbing environmental pollution and slowing the rate of resource degradation as well as reducing the intensity of resource use. The rate of environmental degradation in several developing countries has been slower than that experienced by industrial countries when they were at a similar stage of economic development.
Internationally, Agenda 21 - the plan of action adopted by Governments in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro- provides the global consensus on the road map towards sustainable development. The Commission on Sustainable Development offers an intergovernmental forum to co-ordinate and monitor progress on the plan's implementation. A financial mechanism, the Global Environment Facility, addresses the incremental costs that developing countries face in responding to selected global environmental problems. UNEP continues to be the environmental voice of the United Nations, responsible for environmental policy development, scientific analysis, monitoring, and assessment. Increasingly, United Nations organizations, the World Bank, and Regional Banks are "greening" their programmes. Recently signed international agreements are entering into force, older treaties are being improved, and new approaches to international policy are being developed, tested, and implemented.