INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
7 November 1998 - 16 August 1999
This annual report was presented at the Third IEF General Assembly at Sidcot, England, on 17 August 1999.
SECOND ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
The Second Conference of the International Environment Forum took place on 6-8 November 1998 at de Poort, The Netherlands. Altogether there were 16 conference participants at de Poort, from Australia, China, France, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA as well as from the host country the Netherlands. There were also 31 electronic participants from 18 countries on all continents who received regular reports by e-mail and in turn provided their inputs. A report from the conference and pictures as requested were sent to the editor of One Country. The first theme of the conference was Sustainable Consumption and two guest speakers from well-known Dutch NGOs contributed to this. The second theme of the conference revolved around the latest draft of the Earth Charter being prepared by non-governmental organizations to express the basic values and principles necessary to protect the Earth. The draft was discussed in detail during the conference and the comments were later compiled and edited by Mr. Peter Adriance, and submitted to the Earth Charter Drafting Committee. Two papers from the conference are to be published in "Herald of the South".
The Second General Assembly of the International Environment Forum was held on 7 November 1998 with 11 participants present and another 31 that could take part via e-mail. Of these 30 people were voting members, and 16 of these cast votes for the new board. The governing board elected for 1998-99 (with the officers elected by the board at its first meeting) consisted of Irma Allen (Swaziland); Arthur Dahl (Switzerland - President); Les Gornall (Northern Ireland - Treasurer); Sylvia Karlsson (Sweden - General Secretary); and Tahereh Nadarajah (Mongolia).
Meetings: Since the board members reside in countries far apart, all board meetings have been conducted electronically via e-mail. Between meetings, e-mail contact was maintained within the board, especially between the secretary and the president for issues that needed immediate attention. The board has kept the Office of Social and Economic Development in Haifa, and the Bahá'í International Community's Office of the Environment in New York, regularly informed of its plans and activities through copies of the minutes of all board meetings.
The board has had the following formal meetings over e-mail in 1998 and 1999: 24 Dec. 1998-10 January 1999; 13-21 March 1999; 7-18 May 1999; and 2-6 August 1999.
Meeting attendance: Irma Allen (4 of 4); Arthur Dahl (4 of 4); Les Gornall,(0 of 4); Sylvia Karlsson (4 of 4); Tahereh Nadarajah (3 of 4).
The board decided last year not to take any action to register the IEF legally as an international non-governmental organization until questions about our statutes were clarified with the Office of Social and Economic Development at the Bahá'í World Centre, as indicated in the letter last year from the Universal House of Justice. A reminder was sent to OSED, and they have replied on 5 August. The IEF is thus still functioning entirely on an informal basis but should now with the final guidance be able to formalize its structure.
Before the 2nd IEF conference there were 26 voting members and 11 non-voting members. In August 1999 there are 53 members 37 voting members and 16 non-voting members.
There has come in over 230 letters (the large majority mails) and over 140 outgoing letters have been sent (many of them to multiple recipients). Topics of correspondence with individuals have included inquiries about the International Environment Forum, proposals that the IEF should participate in specific public information events, contributions to the newsletter, reports of environmental initiatives, conference announcements and calls for papers, requests for results of the second annual conference, and registration for the electronic version of the third annual conference.
The board has sent out information to everyone who has shown interest in the Environment Forum on the following dates: 20 January (conference report included), 5 April (Conference announcement), and 14 April (LEAVES no. 1). All voting members also received the report of the 2nd General Assembly. With the launching of the first issue of our newsletter LEAVES, the board decided that subsequent issues would only be sent to members. In the newsletter everyone was encouraged therefore to become members. The announcement for the third annual conference was sent out to most National Spiritual Assemblies (those who had access to e-mail received it in electronic format) as well as a number of Bahá'í electronic mailing lists.
In April the IEF launched the first issue of its newsletter called LEAVES. It is hoped that this will issued 3 times a year to begin with and provide ample opportunity for members to interact, share experiences, give information on upcoming events such as seminars and conferences, etc. LEAVES will only be distributed to members but everyone can access it on the IEF web site.
IEF WEB SITE
The Bahá'í Computer and Communication Association (BCCA) generously offered to host our home page which was launched in March 1999 at the address www.bcca.org/ief/home.htm. In the following months the site has been considerably developed and expanded to include the brochure and other information on the IEF, the newsletter LEAVES, a directory of members, the conference announcement, reports and papers from previous conferences, relevant statements of the Bahá'í International Community, resource materials and papers by members, selections from the writings, and links to other relevant web sites. We have added a home page and some material in French, and plans are made to translate material into Spanish.
An editorial group was appointed by the board, consisting of Peter Adriance (USA), Charles Boyle (Australia), Arthur Dahl (Switzerland), Nigel Jollands (New Zealand) and Roxanne Lalonde (Canada). The group has begun to organize itself with a rich exchange of views on its terms of reference, the purposes and target audiences for IEF publications, and elements for editorial guidelines. It has begun reviewing the papers presented at the second conference, and will also consider other papers that might make useful IEF publications.
WORKING GROUP ON EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS
A working group on education materials has been formed with Irma Allen (Swaziland), Eva Hildorsson (Sweden), Tomas Linsel (Slovakia), Molly McMakin (Israel), Tahereh Nadarajah (Mongolia) and Jan Quik (Suriname). There has been some initial electronic communication between some of the members and suggestions have been made for materials which could be considered for use/distribution. The members of the working group who will be present at the Third Annual Conference will be holding a workshop to identify more closely the target groups and needs in this area. They welcome the participation and assistance of anybody else who is interested in this topic.
PLANNING FOR THIRD ANNUAL CONFERENCE
In 1998 the IEF board received a proposal from BASED-UK (Bahá'í Agency for Social and Economic Development - United Kingdom) to arrange a joint conference. The board saw this as a wonderful opportunity to start working with other Bahá'í agencies and to interact with more people. The plans for the joint conference have been elaborated since November 1998, all via e-mail between the two agencies. The conference was arranged immediately following the British summer school to facilitate participation of larger numbers. With practical arrangements for the conference venue resting with BASED, the IEF took the main responsibility for the electronic version of the conference.
CONTACT WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
One of the major objectives of the International 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 the last conference, as it was felt that it was essential that our administrative status should be clarified before we reach out for contacts on a broader basis.
The International Environment Forum has made significant progress despite its continuing informal status and resulting lack of financial resources. It is providing a channel of communications and networking between people with environmental interests who are widely scattered around the world, and is collecting and making available useful materials on the environment and sustainable development from a Bahá'í perspective. Its annual conferences are growing in impact. With the formation of its first working groups, the potential for active involvement from a wider range of members will grow, making it possible to respond more effectively to the needs in this area.
The IEF is taking advantage of the Internet to pioneer the means to create a Bahá'í-inspired "virtual" organization, operating on Bahá'í principles, that is as international as the Bahá'í community itself. It is demonstrating the practicality of drawing on the growing but widely dispersed pool of competent experts in its field of interest, supporting their efforts and amplifying their impact. It is still embryonic in form, but the potential before it is exciting.
Last updated 4 December 2004