You’d be forgiven for having not heard of Agenda 21. Developed at a summit in Brazil in 1992 with support from President George H.W. Bush, Agenda 21 is a series of non-binding UN recommendations for ensuring that economic growth does not undermine the environment. The agreement aims to encourage “international cooperation to accelerate sustainable development in developing countries” through voluntary actions by UN member-states. You can read the full, innocuous text here.
But right-wing Republicans have somehow come to believe that Agenda 21 contains a secret, nefarious plot to destroy American life and society as we know it, birthing a cottage industry devoted to spreading misinformation about the UN proposal. The most recent evidence of this movement’s reach is a proposal by two Indiana lawmakers to ban the implementation of any Agenda 21-inspired initiatives in the state. The Republican state legislators, Rep. Tim Neese and Sen. Dennis Kruse, proposed laws prohibiting the implementation of Agenda-21 inside Indiana. Neese worried that the document — which has no legal power to reshape American law — was a “mandate” that threatened his freedom:
I don’t see it as a battle with environmentalists, as long as people have the ability to choose. So when any type of special interest tries to — through a policy whether it be a legislative body or local or state official — to mandate that a specific type of material has to be used. That’s where I think the Agenda 21 policy is going beyond what is neutral.
As far as Agenda 21 fearmongering goes, however, Neese is on the moderate side. Last October, Georgia Republicans fretted that President Obama was using CIA-developed mind-control to implement Agenda 21’s plot to establish a dictatorship and ban suburbs. Sen. Ten Cruz (R-TX) deemed the it to be a paramount threat to America’s golf courses. The Republican National Committee called Agenda 21 “destructive and insidious,” and the 2012 party platform condemned it as “erosive of American sovereignty.” And this isn’t just idle talk — Alabama and Tennessee have already passed bans on Agenda 21 implementation, and five states (including Indiana) will consider them this legislative term.
Sadly, GOP paranoia about the United Nations isn’t limited to fear of Agenda 21. During the campaign, former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested the United Nations was planning to force American parents to raise their children according to UN guidelines and override the Second Amendment. The latter fear is widespread among Republicans — Senate Republicans spiked the UN Arms Trade Treaty, a convention regulating the international arms trade with no effect on domestic law. Senate Republicans did the same thing, on similarly paranoid grounds, to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability and the Law of the Sea treaty.