The description of sustainable development in Agenda 21 called for a total shift in the status quo of prevalent value systems and institutional processes. Such global change could never have occurred over night. When progress was assessed at Rio+5 (New York, 1997) a number of gaps were identified, particularly with regards to social equity and poverty.

This was largely reflected by falling levels of official development assistance (ODA) and growing international debt along with failures to improve technology transfer, capacity building for participation and development, institutional coordination, and reduce excessive levels of production and consumption. The review meeting called for the ratification, reinforcement and stronger implementation of the growing number of international agreements and conventions which refer to environment and development.

 In the prepartory process in the lead up to the conferece a  multi-stakeholder consultation took place 'Towards Earth Summit +5'