PAPERS PRESENTED AT THE
8TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
(Thessaloniki, Greece, 15-17 October 2004)
8th Conference of the International Environment Forum
Arthur Dahl, President, International Environment Forum
On behalf of the International Environment Forum, I should like to express our appreciation to all the organizations represented here today that have joined with us in co-sponsoring this international conference on "Cultivating Sustainable Lifestyles". After addressing the roles of knowledge, values and education for sustainable development at our conference in the Czech Republic in 2001, the broader international dimensions in our side events at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, and the role of national and local communities at our conference last year in Florida, this 8th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum will focus on the role of the individual in leading the transition towards sustainability through changing lifestyles.
I know many have asked what is the International Environment Forum. We are a small Bahá'í-inspired organization of specialists in environment and sustainable development with members in some 50 countries. We are a virtual organization that can exist only because of the Internet. We have no budget and collect no funds, but we network among our members by e-mail and through our web site, and hold annual conferences in different parts of the world on themes of interest to us that we believe will contribute to progress in the international community. For our members and friends who cannot travel to our conferences, we always organize a parallel electronic conference by e-mail, so that all have an opportunity to participate regardless of where they are in the world. The content of these sessions is going to these participants around the world.
We were accredited by the United Nations to the Summit in Johannesburg as a scientific and technological organization, where we organized an event in the official Science Forum, among others, and we have also participated in the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in New York. We have now applied for accreditation in consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Council.
When we say we are Bahá'í-inspired, we mean only that we are a professional association that tries to be of service to the international community by applying our scientific and technical competence within a framework of universal ethical, moral and spiritual values. This is what has allowed us to have an impact far beyond our numbers. We try to think creatively about the problems the world faces, and to propose solutions based on spiritual principles in harmony with science. In this we follow the same model as the Orthodox Church with its excellent series of Symposia on Religion, Science and the Environment. I was a rapporteur for the 1997 Symposium on the Black Sea in Crisis, whose conclusions were presented here in Thessaloniki.
We have focussed on the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development because it is close to our own values, and helps to address the root causes of many environment and development problems. We hope that the collaboration started and the networks created here among all of you in government, non-governmental organizations, the academic community and the private sector will continue in the future and lead to action to transform your people and society in the interests of our common future. Thank you for coming and joining with us. We hope you enjoy and benefit from this conference. May you all be successful in your efforts to ensure that our future is sustainable.