Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 18, Number 2 --- 15 February 2016
Article submission: firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline next issue 13 March 2016
Secretariat Email: email@example.com General Secretary Emily Firth
Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland
Download the pdf version
From the Editor, Request for information for upcoming newsletters
This newsletter is an opportunity for IEF members to share their experiences, activities, and initiatives that are taking place at the community level on environment, climate change and sustainability. All members are welcome to contribute information about related activities, upcoming conferences, news from like-minded organizations, recommended websites, book reviews, etc. Please send information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please share the Leaves newsletter and IEF membership information with family, friends and associates, and encourage interested persons to consider becoming a member of the IEF.
A Social Contract to Transform Our World by 2030
Webcast of the special session hosted by the United Nations at the Open Forum. Learn about the historic 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which outlines common action on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted by over 150 world leaders in September 2015. [follow on line or 13 Mb download]
Post Davos Talks Highlight Urgency of Climate Change, Conflict and Migration
15 February 2016: Participants at the Post Davos Nordic Summit highlighted the role of the private sector and civil society in addressing sustainable development and geopolitical crises. They also discussed implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change, and noted the importance of progress on sustainable development and climate change to achieve peace and security.
Over 100 CEOs, chairs and senior politicians attended the Summit, which was organized by PwC in association with the World Economic Forum (WEF), and held in Stockholm, Sweden, on 15 February 2016.
Addressing climate change, environmental catastrophes and inequality is critical for tackling geopolitical instability, said UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Mogens Lykketoft said in his remarks at the Summit. He identified climate change as “the most urgent challenge,” and stressed the need for integrated action on climate change, environmental degradation and poverty to minimize geopolitical instability, human suffering and uncontrolled migration.
Lykketoft identified two main priorities for the UN in 2016: helping to end armed conflicts and the associated humanitarian catastrophes; and implementing the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, including by tackling inequality between and within countries. He also highlighted the need to mobilize investment in renewable energy and green technologies, emphasizing the importance of private sector financing, honoring development assistance commitments and reforming tax systems.
Summit discussions also addressed: the role of partnerships among business, civil society and governments to address migration crises; inequality, unemployment and protectionism as risks to economic growth; and the importance of innovation and transparency.
Geneva Engage 2-Day Conference
On 27-28 January 2016, IEF was represented by its President at Geneva Engage, a two-day conference about e-participation in Geneva, Switzerland. It was part of a process of research and innovation aimed at increasing the engagement of International Geneva with communities worldwide. For more about the project see: http://genevaengage.diplomacy.edu/
The conference was cosponsored by the Swiss and Geneva governments, the Geneva Internet Platform, and ICANN, and involved experts from governments, UN organizations, academia and civil society organizations interested in involving larger participation than is possible in traditional meetings. It explored and demonstrated the many techniques for combining a physical meeting and e-participation from around the world, a topic of great interest to IEF as a virtual organization. Various formats were used combining local and remote participants and workshop leaders, one even taking part through a robot presence who not only contributed to a session but shuttled around to join in the conversations during the coffee break. There were even games and riddles with hints tweeted so everyone around the world could participate. IEF experience over nearly two decades in functioning and involving a world-wide membership in its activities using the Internet was shared and appreciated.
Most of the demonstrations were successful, with the help of a significant technical staff, but it was clear that even the experts who design and run the Internet can have the same technical difficulties as the rest of us, and always have back-up plans in case something goes wrong. A summary document from the conference - "A Menu for Innovative E-participation" - that illustrates the many techniques used, is available at http://genevaengage.diplomacy.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/GE-report…
2016 Justice Conference in the Netherlands
Several IEF members will be participating in the 2016 Justice Conference at the de Poort Conference Centre in the Netherlands on 25-27 March. The theme of the conference is "Justice in Action - From Local to Global".
Confirmed speakers include:
• Arthur Dahl, Switzerland, former-UNEP, Using the New Sustainable Development Goals to Work for Justice at the Local Level
• Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuysen, Sweden/Netherlands, with a First-hand Account of the Paris Climate Agreement Negotiations
• Ismael Valesco, U.K./Mexico/Greenland, on Radical Technological Change and the Social Transformation of Justice
Those who want to attend should register now before the conference fills up via the De Poort website: https://depoort.org/index.php?url=/content/en/course_detail_new.html&pa….
News from ebbf - Ethical Business Building the Future
IEF's partner Baha'i-inspired organization, ebbf, is holding its first conference of 2016 on 12-15 May in Milan, Italy, on the theme "Consultation, beyond decision-making a tool for learning". ebbf defines itself as a Baha'i-inspired global learning community that accompanies mindful individuals and groups through daily work and discourse to transform business and the economy, thereby contributing to a prosperous, just and sustainable civilisation. It is now drawing on the recent guidance from the Universal House of Justice in its message of 29 December 2015, and recent statements of the Baha'i International Community, to explore more deeply what it means to be a learning community in its own activities, which are involving more and more active members.
UNESCO Chair for Education about Sustainable Lifestyles
From the PERL-UNITWIN NEWSLETTER, JANUARY 2016
The PERL-UNITWIN office has moved to a new location on the Hamar campus of Hedmark University of Applied Sciences (previously called Hedmark University College). Now on the third floor of the Midtbyen School building, the office will further develop the work of the PERL network. It will coordinate the activities of the UNESCO Chair and UNITWIN network for Education about Sustainable Lifestyles, the activities connected to the UNESCO Global Action Program and the activities related to the 10-Year Framework of Program on Sustainable Lifestyles and Education. IEF is a partner in PERL and UNITWIN.
The purpose of the PERL-UNITWIN collaboration is to contribute to empowering individuals to become active, responsible citizens and conscious consumers who can stimulate change through the choices they make every day. The work focuses on research and education for behavior and policy change towards more sustainable living. The objectives are to:
• develop the transfer of knowledge to provide adequate, relevant information;
• strengthen individual awareness and the ability to deal critically with information;
• stimulate learning processes and build capacity amongst teachers;
• contribute to public and scientific discourse on responsible living;
• foster future skills and cultivate multi-stakeholder collaboration.
As agreed upon previously, the goals of the PERL-UNITWIN cooperation are to:
1. promote reflection on the principles and values which constitute the foundation of the lifestyle choices people make;
2. contribute to the development and implementation of policy for education and research about sustainable lifestyles and responsible living;
3. demonstrate the scale and nature of initiatives dealing with the challenges resulting from our current patterns of consumption;
4. encourage development of projects about social innovation and education and research about responsible, sustainable living;
5. urge education institutions to reflect in their daily management the priorities given to responsible, sustainable development;
6. assist in the inclusion of themes, topics, modules, courses and degrees about education for responsible living in established curriculum;
7. promote and coordinate research on sustainable lifestyles and education for sustainable consumption-related areas;
8. strengthen connections between researchers, lecturers, teacher trainers and socio-economic actors and stakeholder;
9. enhance cooperation between professionals from diverse disciplines in order to develop integrated approaches to education for sustainable consumption;
10. facilitate teaching and teacher-training which strengthens global, future-oriented, constructive perspectives within education for responsible living;
11. reward creative, critical, innovative thinking related to education for sustainable consumption;
12. ensure that education for sustainable consumption respects the importance of indigenous knowledge and recognizes alternative lifestyles;
13. foster intergenerational learning as an integrated aspect of education for sustainable consumption;
14. provide opportunities for practical application of theoretical study through social involvement and community service;
15. increase synergy between existing partnerships, networks and projects dealing with sustainable production and consumption in order to stimulate the transition from micro initiatives to macro.
An international advisory board has been chosen to assist in the planning and monitoring of the initiatives of the PERL-UNITWIN network. The PERL website (http://www.livingresponsibly.org) is being updated to reflect the work of the PERL-UNITWIN network. One of the immediate tasks of the Center is to disseminate the PERL research and learning materials. Other planned activities are described in the PERL-UNITWIN action plan for 2016. The core team of the Center for 2016 include: Victoria W. Thoresen (holder of the UNESCO Chair on Education for Sustainable Lifestyles)[and IEF board member], Sacha de Raaf (executive secretary) and Camilla Tømta (accountant).
International strategy workshop on Research and Education for Sustainable Lifestyles
November 20, 2015, 22 people from Africa, Japan, Europe, and North America gathered at the RCE (Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development) of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. They discussed a program on research and education for sustainable lifestyles; as part of the UN 10YFP (10 year Framework of Programs on Sustainable Consumption and Production) Program on Sustainable Lifestyles and Education. The aim of this workshop was to develop concrete action plans and collaborative research projects; to explore knowledge gaps; and how to communicate existing knowledge and insights with practitioners (ranging from policy makers to grassroots innovators and educators). Working groups were formed: on education, communication, local governance for sustainable lifestyles; and scenarios as engagement tools. The education group developed an action plan to promote education for sustainable lifestyles, consulted on improvements in the SLE TRANSFORM project proposal, and collected best practice case studies about education for sustainable lifestyles.
The group is part of a larger group of about 45 people and institutions representing a broad coalition of global research and education institutions; and which is led by the Global Research Forum on Sustainable Production and Consumption (GRF-SPaC) http://grf-spc.weebly.com/ and PERL-UNITWIN (The Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living) http://www.living-responsibly.org . Its aim is to develop a portfolio of projects as well as numerous activities around the globe to support the 10YFP SLE program and to change towards sustainable lifestyles. Mid 2017 a global conference is envisaged to take stock and map progress.
PERL is a Partner Network for GAP (UNESCO’s Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development)
Selected by UNESCO, GAP Partner Networks drive implementation of the Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The Partner Networks consist of 80 major ESD stakeholders from all regions of the world with extensive outreach capacity and the ability to innovate and have major impact on ESD. UNESCO selects the members of the Partner Networks based on the GAP Launch Commitments received from stakeholders.
The GAP Partner Networks serve as a global community of practice and exist for each of the five Priority Action Areas of the GAP: 1) advancing policy; 2) transforming learning and training environments; 3) building capacities of educators and trainers; 4) empowering and mobilizing youth; and 5) accelerating sustainable solutions at local level. Partner Networks intensify synergies between the GAP activities of their members, the Key Partners, and catalyze further action from other ESD stakeholders. All activities focus on scaling up ESD efforts. The first meeting of the GAP Partner Networks was held in June 2015 in Paris.
Resources of interest
Leading Practice Publication
A publication on professional development in Higher education for Sustainable Development:
Universal Basic Skills: What Countries Stand to Gain
OECD has published a report on Universal Skills:
United Nations Global Compact
The world's largest corporate sustainability initiative
A call to companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals.
Nature as the First Line of Defense against Floods
10 February 2016
When it comes to protecting the world’s coasts, the best solutions may depend less on modern infrastructure, and more on rethinking how we value existing natural resources. A new report recommends using engineering and insurance models to re-evaluate the benefits of habitats like mangrove forests and coral reefs, instead of building walls against floods and rising seas.
It is well documented that reefs and mangroves reduce the impact of waves hitting coasts, thus decreasing the risks of flooding and erosion. But until now, the economic argument for investing in such habitats has been less clear. Managing coasts with natural solutions: Guidelines for measuring and valuing the coastal protection services of mangroves and coral reefs seeks to address this evidence gap, and to reorient the cost-benefit analysis between built or “gray infrastructure,” and “green infrastructure” based on environmental processes.
Measuring and valuing services of mangroves and coral reefs
In a ground-breaking approach to measuring the benefits of ecosystem services, Lead Marine Scientist at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Michael Beck - who co-led the report with Glenn-Marie Lange, Technical Advisor for the World Bank Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) Global Partnership, with support from the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, and Resources for the Future – applied assessment techniques commonly used in the engineering and insurance sectors.
Beck explained, “A typical way of valuing the flood protection benefit of coral reefs and mangroves is to ask, ‘If I lose those habitats, what is the cost of replacing them with a seawall or a breakwater?’ But learning from the engineering and insurance sectors, we can do a much better job of directly measuring the flood reduction benefit. By comparing the expected flood damages with the damages that would occur if reefs and mangroves were lost, we obtain a difference that represents the value of having those resources in place. This approach is known as the Expected Damage Function.”
The report demonstrates that mangroves and reefs not only have ecological value, but also social and economic significance. To date, the ecosystem services that have been highly valued for mangroves and coral reefs are provisioning services, such as how much fish production or timber a habitat can provide. This new work on flood reduction value is one of the very first, rigorous valuations of regulating services that can be done at a national and global scale.
A viable solution to an issue of global concern
The combined impacts of population growth, urbanization and climate change continue to make coastal defense more and more challenging. Worldwide, hundreds of millions of people are at risk from floods and extreme weather, and the economic cost of damages is rising steeply. Insurers have paid out more than $300 billion over the last 10 years just for coastal losses from storms.
By showing that the important protection characteristics of mangroves and reefs can be readily incorporated into economic planning tools like Natural Capital Accounting, Beck and the WAVES team hope that policymakers view these habitats as critical for coastal defense, and as cost-effective alternatives to vulnerable gray infrastructure. This will, however, require concerted efforts at a significant scale: by some estimates, 19 percent of mangroves were lost between 1980 and 2005*, and 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs are considered threatened**.
A track record of success
Despite the enormity of the coastal management challenge, momentum is growing in favor of restoring habitats to reduce risks from flooding and erosion. The Guidelines highlight over 20 case studies where the coastal protection roles of mangroves and reefs were reflected in major policy decisions, including:
• In Vietnam, some 9,000 hectares of reforested mangroves were shown to have substantial benefit-cost ratios, from 3:1 in some communes to 28:1 in others.
• In the aftermath of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan of 2013, the Government of the Philippines pledged $8 million for a cash-for-work program to restore mangroves and beach forests along the hardest hit coastlines.
• The Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) found that, in seven out of the eight countries examined, reef and mangrove restoration was one of the most cost-effective approaches to coastal risk reduction and adaptation.
“What we hope,” Beck said, “is that in addition to their intrinsic value, by showing decision-makers how important mangroves and reefs are as a first line of defense, we can really inspire more action, not just from conservationists, but from disaster risk managers, from development planners, and from ministries of finance and development.”
*Spalding et al. 2010
**Burke et al. 2011 Sustainability
Sustainability Quotations – A Baha’i Perspective
IEF members looking for a Baha'i perspective on sustainability might find useful the following selection of quotations from the recent Baha'i International Community statement to COP21 in December 2015: Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing Our Global Future Together.
The current global order has often approached the natural world as a reservoir of material resources to be exploited. The grave consequences of this paradigm have become all too apparent, and more balanced relationships among the peoples of the world and the planet are clearly needed. The question today is how new patterns of action and interaction can best be established, both individually and collectively, through personal choices, social systems, and governing institutions. (§1)
Sustainability is defined as much by human and social factors as ecological ones. Correlation has been found, for example, between inequality and environmental degradation, suggesting that the relationships linking human beings with one another have a direct impact on the physical resources of the planet. The global systems that have left many facing poverty and want, have similarly impoverished the natural environment. (§2)
A more balanced attitude toward the environment must therefore address human conditions as consciously as it does natural ones. It must be embodied in social norms and patterns of action characterized by justice and equity. On this foundation can be built an evolving vision of our common future together. And that vision, in turn, stands as a powerful mechanism for mobilizing action around the world and coordinating numerous efforts into mutually-reinforcing lines of action. (§3)
Setting humanity on a more sustainable path to the future involves transformation in attitudes and actions…. …it is people, whatever their role or place in society, who implement the policies of a central administration or ignore them, who participate in well-conceived programs or continue patterns of life as before. We all have agency and none of our decisions are without consequence. Establishing sustainable patterns of individual and collective life will therefore require not only new technologies, but also a new consciousness in human beings, including a new conception of ourselves and our place in the world. (§4)
Qualities such as the capacity to sacrifice for the well-being of the whole, to trust and be trustworthy, to find contentment, to give freely and generously to others derive not from mere pragmatism or political expediency. Rather they arise from the deepest sources of human inspiration and motivation. In this, faith has shown itself to be key, whether in the efficacy of sustainability efforts or the capacity of the human race. (§5)
Identifying the spiritual principles at the root of ecological challenges can also be key in formulating effective action. Principles – that humanity constitutes but a single people, for example, or that justice demands universal participation in the work of sustainable development – reflect the rich complexity of human nature. Just as importantly, they help foster the will and the aspiration needed to facilitate the implementation of pragmatic measures. Identifying the principles underlying given issues and formulating action in light of their imperatives is therefore a methodology that all can benefit from and contribute to – those in traditionally religious roles, but also leaders of government, the corporate sector, civil society, and others involved in the formulation of public policy. (§8)
Action on issues of sustainability is often grounded in the sentiment that we all live on the same planet…. But truly transforming individual and collective patterns of life will require a much deeper appreciation of the interconnectedness of the planetary biosphere. People and the environment are inter-connected aspects of one organically integrated system. At this point in history, neither can be accurately understood in isolation from the other. (§9)
Implicit in this understanding is the organic oneness of the human race itself. Deceptively simple in popular discourse, the concept that humanity constitutes a single people has numerous implications for the formulation of effective action at all levels…, including the obligation to translate our moral responsibility toward one another and the natural world into tangible agreements, approaches, and plans of action. (§10)
A rich and deepening consciousness of the oneness of humankind is the only way that the obstacles inherent in dichotomies like rich/poor, north/south, developed/developing can be overcome…. But while such realities are not to be denied, neither should they be allowed to paralyze constructive action. Rather, they should be incorporated into the perspective that an integrated, sustainable and prosperous world will not be built by “us” working together with “them”, but by all of us working on behalf of everyone. (§11)
The principle of the oneness of humankind highlights the powerful connections found between raising the well-being of people and reversing environmental degradation. It is true that the ecological footprint of certain areas is far larger than that of others. This is a reality that will need to be addressed through both voluntary choice and governmental regulation. But equally important will be lifting billions out of poverty in ways that not only reduce harm to the environment, but actively improve it. (§12)
Efforts of this kind also lay a foundation for valuing people and the planet as explicitly as profit has been. It is widely recognized today that the single-minded pursuit of financial gain has all too often led to the destruction of both natural systems and human lives. This legacy has left deep ambivalence about the role the corporate sector and market forces should play in sustainability efforts. Such questions are complex and not simply answered. But what seems imperative is that good faith efforts be integrated into a just global effort that avoids all forms of exclusion that breeds opposition, hostility, defensiveness, and distrust. (§13)
For ultimately it is individuals who take the initiative to adopt new patterns of action or continue with business as usual. Human behavior and personal decision-making are therefore critical to the success of sustainability efforts, particularly in the sphere of values, ethics, and morals. Such qualities might seem diffuse or somewhat “soft”, but changes in lifestyle will not be sustained if normative drivers of behaviors such as attitudes and beliefs do not shift as well. Consumption habits will not change if acquisition and the ongoing accumulation of luxury goods are seen as powerful symbols of success and importance. Building more sustainable patterns of life will therefore require continuing conversation about human nature and the prerequisites of well-being. (§16)
Source: Baha’i International Community (2015). Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing Our Global Future Together. A statement of the Bahá'í International Community to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France. Paris, 23 November 2015. https://www.bic.org/statements/shared-vision-shared-volition-choosing-o…
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate
Executive Summary of the Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Majority Communities
25th-27th January 2016
WHEREAS, conditions in various parts of the Muslim World have deteriorated dangerously due to the use of violence and armed struggle as a tool for settling conflicts and imposing one's point of view;
WHEREAS, this situation has also weakened the authority of legitimate governments and enabled criminal groups to issue edicts attributed to Islam, but which, in fact, alarmingly distort its fundamental principles and goals in ways that have seriously harmed the population as a whole;
WHEREAS, this year marks the 1,400th anniversary of the Charter of Medina, a constitutional contract between the Prophet Muhammad, God's peace and blessings be upon him, and the people of Medina, which guaranteed the religious liberty of all, regardless of faith;
WHEREAS, hundreds of Muslim scholars and intellectuals from over 120 countries, along with representatives of Islamic and international organizations, as well as leaders from diverse religious groups and nationalities, gathered in Marrakesh on this date to reaffirm the principles of the Charter of Medina at a major conference;
WHEREAS, this conference was held under the auspices of His Majesty, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and organized jointly by the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs in the Kingdom of Morocco and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies based in the United Arab Emirates;
AND NOTING the gravity of this situation afflicting Muslims as well as peoples of other faiths throughout the world, and after thorough deliberation and discussion, the convened Muslim scholars and intellectuals:
DECLARE HEREBY our firm commitment to the principles articulated in the Charter of Medina,
whose provisions contained a number of the principles of constitutional contractual citizenship, such
as freedom of movement, property ownership, mutual solidarity and defense, as well as principles of
justice and equality before the law; and that,
The objectives of the Charter of Medina provide a suitable framework for national constitutions in countries with Muslim majorities, and the United Nations Charter and related documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are in harmony with the Charter of Medina, including consideration for public order.
NOTING FURTHER that deep reflection upon the various crises afflicting humanity underscores the inevitable and urgent need for cooperation among all religious groups, we
AFFIRM HEREBY that such cooperation must be based on a "Common Word," requiring that such cooperation must go beyond mutual tolerance and respect, to providing full protection for the rights and liberties to all religious groups in a civilized manner that eschews coercion, bias, and arrogance.
BASED ON ALL OF THE ABOVE, we hereby:
Call upon Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world to develop a jurisprudence of the concept of "citizenship" which is inclusive of diverse groups. Such jurisprudence shall be rooted in Islamic tradition and principles and mindful of global changes.
Urge Muslim educational institutions and authorities to conduct a courageous review of educational curricula that addesses honestly and effectively any material that instigates aggression and extremism, leads to war and chaos, and results in the destruction of our shared societies;
Call upon politicians and decision makers to take the political and legal steps necessary to establish a constitutional contractual relationship among its citizens, and to support all formulations and initiatives that aim to fortify relations and understanding among the various religious groups in the Muslim World;
Call upon the educated, artistic, and creative members of our societies, as well as organizations of civil society, to establish a broad movement for the just treatment of religious minorites in Muslim countries and to raise awareness as to their rights, and to work together to ensure the success of these efforts.
Call upon the various religious groups bound by the same national fabric to address their mutual state of selective amnesia that blocks memories of centuries of joint and shared living on the same land; we call upon them to rebuild the past by reviving this tradition of conviviality, and restoring our shared trust that has been eroded by extremists using acts of terror and aggression;
Call upon representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, villification, and denegration of what people hold sacred, as well as all speech that promote hatred and bigotry; AND FINALLY,
AFFIRM that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.
Marrakesh, 27 January 2016
Updated 18 February 2016