THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
26 October 1997-6 November 1998
This annual report was presented at the 2nd General Assembly of the International Environment Forum at de Poort, The Netherlands, on 7 November 1998.
FIRST ANNUAL CONFERENCE AND FORMATION
The first International Bahá'í Environment Conference at de Poort, Netherlands, in October 1997 gathered 20 people from nine countries, who were joined electronically by 58 people from 21 countries participating in the e-mail version of the conference. It consulted on the objectives, activities and structure of the proposed organization and adopted draft statutes. The First General Assembly of the Environment Forum was then held and a governing board of five people was elected, which then elected its own officers. The governing board consists of: Irma Allen, Swaziland; Arthur Dahl, Switzerland (President); Les Gornall, Northern Ireland(Treasurer); Sylvia Karlsson, Sweden (General Secretary); and Michael Richards, United Kingdom.
Meetings: Since the board members reside in countries far apart, all board meetings have been conducted electronically via e-mail. In the first six months, consultations were carried out continuously over e-mail, without specific meeting dates. Then a more organized structure for the consultations started with demarcated meetings lasting 4-10 days to allow ample consultation, where formal minutes were taken. Though such meetings can never fully replace face to face consultations, the board feels that it has been learning to make good use of the situation. The president and the general secretary had several opportunities to meet for informal consultations and planning detailed work. Between meetings, frequent e-mail contact was maintained within the board for issues that needed immediate attention. The board has continuously kept the Office of Social and Economic Development in Haifa, and the Bahá'í International Community's Office of the Environment in New York, informed of its plans and activities. The minutes of all meetings of the board are sent to them directly.
The board has had the following formal meetings in 1998: 1-5 May; 2-7 July; 27-31 August (extended), and 1-10 October.
Meeting attendance: Irma Allen (3 of 4); Arthur Dahl (4 of 4); Les Gornall (2 of 4); Sylvia Karlsson (4 of 4); Michael Richards (3 of 4).
The first concern of the board has been to seek further guidance from the Baha'i World Center on if and how the Environment Forum could be linked to the Bahá'í Administrative Order. After receiving a letter from the Office of Social and Economic Development (dated 23 February 1998) the board worked on a revision of the statutes. This was sent, with a letter asking the Universal House of Justice for advice, on 3 June 1998. Pending further guidance on the appropriate structure and status of the organization, the board decided not to take a final decision on a name for the organization, nor to seek formal registration as an international non-governmental organization. On 15 September 1998, a reply was received from the Universal House of Justice, the supreme body of the Bahá'í Faith. It encouraged the work, and described our decision to set up the organization as a Bahá'í-inspired non-governmental organization as "a wise one". For more detailed guidance on the Statutes, the Office of Social and Economic Development was asked by the House of Justice to provide this.
Incoming letters: (the large majority e-mails) have reached to more than 150.
Outgoing letters: (the large majority e-mails) have reached more than 120. Topics of correspondence with individuals have covered such subjects as: enquiries about the Environment Forum, requests for material on Bahá'í environmental projects to be used in specific public information events, requests for suggestions of speakers for public events, requests that we get in touch with specific prominent persons who are interested in the field, requests for results of the first annual conference, information on the second annual conference.
The board has sent out information to every one who have shown interest in the Environment Forum on the following dates: 18 April, 9 June, 12 August, 20 September, 13 October, 19 October, 25 October and 5 November. The announcement for the 2nd International Conference of the Environment Forum was sent out to all National Spiritual Assemblies, as well as a number of Bahá'í electronic mailing lists.
CONTACT WITH OTHER ORGANISATIONS
One of the major objectives of the Environment Forum is to interact with other non-governmental organizations and so be able to share ideas, etc. Not much has been done by the board in this regard since it was felt that it was essential that our name and administrative structure should be clarified before we reach out for contacts on a broader basis. However, upon recommendation from the European Bahá'í Business Forum's General Secretary, we have established a first contact with the Social Venture Network Europe, which is a network for businesses interested in environment, to be followed-up later. A major effort in this direction is however the invitation of representatives from prominent Dutch NGOs to the 2nd annual conference.
Collaboration with other Bahá'í inspired associations: Frequent communication and exchange of information with the European Bahá'í Business Forum has taken place. Contact has also been established with the International Society for Agriculture and Rural Development. UNIDA, a Bahá'í-inspired association from South America is now on our sendout list, and they have asked for information on how to become members as an organization. Formal membership will be discussed when our administrative structure is definite.
Several requests that we have received from individuals show that there is a definite need for published materials to be produced. A first introductory brochure about the Environment Forum, describing its aims and structure, was prepared for distribution at the ISARD (International Society for Agriculture and Rural Development) and ABS (Association for Baha'i Studies) conference, Oxford (UK), 31 October-1 November 1998.
During the year around 100 people have been on the list of the Environment Forum. The numbers fluctuate as new people are added and others change their e-mail addresses and we lose contact with them. To prepare for the process of having formal members, identifying voting members for the second annual General Assembly and the election of the governing board, and eventually collecting membership dues, a questionnaire was developed and distributed in August 1998. As of October 4, 37 people from 23(!) countries on five continents (and islands in the Pacific) have submitted completed questionnaires. Out of these 26 wish to be voting members.
The Environment Forum is still in a formative period, but is poised to move ahead as soon as its statutes are finalized. The international electronic networking that it is establishing among its members shows considerable potential to strengthen our actions for the environment and sustainable development around the world. There is also considerable potential to use the Forum to bring Baha'i approaches and concepts to a wider circle of organizations and people of capacity. This can only happen if more people are willing to commit some time to the development of the Environment Forum as an instrument for service, as encouraged by the Universal House of Justice.
Last updated 4 December 2004