INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
21 September 2008 – 14 August 2009
The 13th Annual Report of the IEF summarizes the events and activities of 2008-2009. It was presented at the 13th General Assembly of IEF in Washington, D.C., USA on 14 August 2009.
TWELFTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
The 12th Annual Conference of the IEF was organised in partnership with the European Baha’i Business Forum (EBBF) at de Poort in the Netherlands 18-21 September 2008. Over 160 participants took part while 39 others from around the world took part through the e-conference, received reports of the sessions and access to video clips of the main presentations at http://www.youtube.com/EBBFvideo and participated using a web-blog facilitated again by Judith Golova. The videoclips are still available online and have been viewed between 20-60 times. The theme was “Growth or Sustainability? Defining, Measuring and Achieving Prosperity” and presentations followed a sub-theme per day, first identifying the sustainability challenges linked to economic growth, then looking at alternative ideals of human prosperity and finally discussing possible pathways towards those ideals. CEOs, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, scientists and citizens learned from each other, while keynoters and panellists provided food for thought and offered a new way forward towards the broader vision of "enhancing the well-being and prosperity of humankind". The keynotes were balanced with consultation and workshops dedicated to addressing participants own issues, questions and ideas, to bridge the gap between world views and what happens on Monday morning at work. The program also included a nature walk with quiz questions for participants to both enjoy the beautiful Dutch woodlands and get challenged on their knowledge about how to make sustainable choices in everyday life.
12TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The 12th General Assembly was held on 20 September 2008. The General Assembly was attended by 15 members and four guests. After a round of introductions of all present, two tellers were appointed. Officers of the General Assembly were elected by secret ballot, with Arthur Dahl elected as chair and Sylvia Karlsson as secretary. The draft agenda was approved and as first item the annual report was presented, discussed and approved. There were 20 votes cast for the IEF Board: 6 via email and 14 in person and the following governing board members were elected: Arthur Dahl, Sylvia Karlsson, Victoria Thoresen, Irma Allen, Peter Adriance, Duncan Hanks and Charles Boyle. In the ensuing consultation concrete proposals were given such as: creating a calendar of events that IEF members are taking part in on the IEF website; setting up a project site on the IEF website which could mirror the EBBF blog with projects which members are doing; the idea of regional issue monitors; and finding ways to have interns helping to support the IEF Secretariat. Possibilities to engage with the UN climate negotiations were also explored.
The Board has had two electronic meetings during the year: 14 November -25 December 2008 and 28 June -1 August 2009, but also a number of between meeting consultations on urgent issues such as conference planning etc. All Board members participated in both meetings. At its first electronic meeting the Board elected Arthur Dahl as President and Sylvia Karlsson as General-Secretary.
No specific activity has been reported to the Board on mentoring younger members with their career choices during this year, although this continues on an informal basis.
There have been about 100 incoming emails during the year and about 100 outgoing. This does not include correspondence on specific issues such as planning the conference and the internal emails among the Board members. Problems with IEF email host bcca may unfortunately have led to many emails not reaching the General Secretary and the Board has decided to move to another provider as soon as possible. The Secretary has also been quite behind in handling correspondence particularly the second part of the year.
The Board has during the year taken a decision to move towards legal registration of the IEF and have started to explore the possibilities of doing this in Geneva, Switzerland, where the President resides.
13TH IEF ANNUAL CONFERENCE
During the year the Board members from North America, Peter Adriance and Duncan Hanks, took the lead in planning the 13th annual conference which will be held as part of the annual meeting of the Association for Baha’i Studies - North America on 13-16 August 2009 in Washington D.C. The overarching theme for the conference is “Environments”. It has become a tradition to take turns between North America and Europe for the annual conferences and very preliminary discussions on the possibility of holding the conference in 2010 in Paris have started. The Board would of course welcome having the conference on other continents but it would require building a broader membership base there first or establishing a strong partnership with another local organization.
Issue monitors have been Mark Griffin for water issues and Michael Richards for forests but further appointments await finding a willing member who can serve as coordinator of the issue monitors; help them get started, remind them to send reports and news items to the newsletter and the Board etc.
THE CONSUMER CITIZENSHIP NETWORK AND PERL
Since 2005, the IEF has been a member of the Consumer Citizenship Network (CCN), a thematic network of 124 institutions from 29 countries funded by the European Union in cooperation with UNESCO, UNEP and international citizenship and consumer organizations. It is an interdisciplinary network of educators who have a common interest in consumer citizenship. The Sixth CCN Conference was held in Berlin, Germany, on 23-24 March 2009 with over 200 participants, on the theme "Making a difference: putting consumer citizenship into action". Victoria Thoresen, coordinator of the network, made the opening presentation on "Who dares to differ?" Arthur Dahl spoke on "The financial crisis and consumer citizenship". The CCN will complete its second three-year funding cycle in October 2009. The extensive results of the project are being posted on the CCN web site (http://www.hihm.no/concit/). They will be of great use to teachers, schools and community groups involved in consumer education and education for sustainable development.
The successor to CCN will be international in scope: the Partnership for Education and research for Responsible Living (PERL). UNEP has promised to sponsor PERL in part; UNESCO and OECD have endorsed the project and the European Union has again granted significant funding. It is still early enough in the formation of the project to include a sub-project that IEF might suggest. Since PERL will be more global than CCN, there is an opportunity for the IEF to come with suggestions of more international scope. PERL will also be building up resources in Africa and South America and any IEF members in those areas who might be interested in being a part of PERL should notify the board.
UNIVERSITY OF GENEVA
The Advanced Studies course in Sustainable Development at the University of Geneva, of which IEF is a co-sponsor, continues to be held each year between October and June (http://www.unige.ch/ecohum/formcont/CertFCDD09.html). Arthur Dahl is on the scientific committee and teaches in several modules. The IEF web site and materials are also used in the UNEP/University of Geneva/Graduate Institute Certificate of Advanced Studies in Environmental Diplomacy coordinated by Arthur Dahl. (http://www.unige.ch/formcont/environmentaldiplomacy/).
The collaboration with the European Baha’i Business Forum (EBBF) reached its highest level yet with the 12th Annual Conference being organized jointly with them. This has subsequently led to further interaction between the two organizations.
VALUES-BASED INDICATORS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Values based indicators was a theme for the joint EBBF/IEF conference in 2008, with a preconference workshop on values-based indicators of education for sustainable development. The EBBF is a partner in a European research project on this theme (http://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/esdinds/), and Arthur Dahl is a senior advisor. Another workshop is planned back-to-back with the 2009 Annual Conference. The IEF could be interested in testing some of the indicators later in the project.
ORLANDO SEMINAR 2008
At the Baha'i Conference on Social and Economic Development in the Americas, in Orlando, Florida, in December 2008, the preconference seminar organized by Peter Adriance and Steve Karnik was all open space in format and very effective. The plenary full-morning panel on Climate Change, chaired by an IEF board member (Peter Adriance) and including three IEF members (Arthur Dahl, Halldor Thorgeirsson and Duncan Hanks) and Tahirih Naylor-Thimm of the Baha'i International Community presenting the science, the politics, the BIC response and the national-local response to the IEF conference in Ottawa, was extremely well received. It was all recorded, and mp3 audio recordings and presentations are available on the IEF web site (https://iefworld.org/elpresent.htm#ClimateChange).
Several members and two Board members of the International Environment Forum attended the sixteenth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-16).
The Wilmette Institute e-learning course on Sustainable Development co-sponsored by IEF will be held again from October 2009 until January 2010.
ACTIVITIES RELATED TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change has now reached the top of the international agenda, so the IEF is giving this issue special attention, building on its activities over several years (https://iefworld.org/climate.htm). The Baha'i International Community has been active on climate ethics at the United Nations, and issued a paper on "Seizing the Opportunity: Redefining the Challenge of Climate Change" in December 2008 (https://iefworld.org/biccc08.htm). The BIC is participating with other major religions in drafting 7-year plans of action on climate change, to be launched in November 2009. The IEF has helped to contribute to the process, and is preparing supporting materials.
Two IEF members presented papers at the Sixth International Conference on Ethics and Environmental Policies, Padova, Italy, 23-25 October 2008, on the theme Ethics and Climate Change: Scenarios for Justice and Sustainability. Joachim Monkelbaan gave a paper on "Promoting a Discourse on How Values Drive the Transition to a Sustainable Economy in China, Europe and Elsewhere". Arthur Dahl's paper was on "Science and Religion in the Climate Change Debate: Case Study of the Baha'i Community". The case study included a description of IEF activities on this topic (https://iefworld.org/ddahl08c.htm). Over a hundred participants took part in the discussions and workshops, and a final document was prepared summarizing the conclusions of the conference.
The Archbishop of Sweden convened an Interfaith Climate Summit in Uppsala, Sweden, on 28-29 November 2008. IEF member Paul Ojermark and our General-Secretary Sylvia Karlsson led a seminar/workshop during the summit. More information is available at the summit web site: http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/default.aspx?di=143415.
At the 14th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change held in early December 2008 a number of IEF members attended (at least eight), most of them in their professional capacity and two as members of the delegation of the BIC. It shows that we have quite some knowledge among IEF members on the climate process which can be tapped into in coming years.
Sylvia Karlsson and Arthur Dahl attended the International Climate Change Science Conference in Copenhagen 10-12 March 2009 (http://www.climatecongress.ku.dk). Sylvia spoke on "Transforming institutions that do not exist -the (im)possible task for global energy governance?", highlighting the difficulty of managing climate change without simultaneously managing energy issues, and the lack of global mechanisms for energy governance. Arthur Dahl's poster was on "The response to climate change from the Baha'i community", presenting the results of IEF and BIC conferences and events on climate change (https://iefworld.org/ddahl09a.htm). The congress brought together 2,200 scientists to provide the latest scientific background for the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009. There is a short report with pictures on the News of Members section of the IEF web site.
Three IEF members, Nigel Jollands, Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen and Larry Staudt, having shared an interest in energy issues and the contributing to the climate change discussions made an initial attempt to write a scientific paper together. The paper, with the title “Global Energy Policy: Transforming Governance for the Transition to a Sustainable Energy Future” was presented at the 2009 International Energy Workshop in Venice in mid June and received a positive response. They will continue to improve it and present in other fora. Members who are interested in the topic are welcome to ask for a copy to provide feedback, just contact the IEF secretariat.
There are plans for the IEF to be strongly represented at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen in December 2009. A number of members, just as in Poznan, will be there in their professional capacity, but have also made links to NGO platforms where opportunities may arise for giving talks and extensive networking. Several members will again be part of the BIC delegation. The Board will continue to consult on the possible type and content of the contributions we can give. The process will also not end in Copenhagen, rather that is the start of quite a long journey of further negotiations and particularly living up to the commitments at home where all of us can play constructive roles.
IEF REPRESENTATION AT OTHER EVENTS
RECONCILIATION AND RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE IN THE BALKANS
Montenegro, 30 October-1 November 2008
The European Center for Peace and Development, affiliated with the UN University for Peace and based in Belgrade, organized a conference on peace and reconciliation in the Balkans in Milocer, Montenegro, 30 October-1 November 2008. The conference was opened by the Prime Minister of Montenegro and was attended by political, religious and academic personalities from all the Balkan countries including the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church and senior mullahs. IEF President Arthur Dahl spoke on the environment as a force for peace.
INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP IN SARAJEVO MAY 2009
Laurent Mesbah took part in the International Workshop on Integrated Transboundary Water Resources Management in Southeastern Europe in Sarajevo, 18-20 May 2009: http://www.unece.org/env/water/meetings/Sarajevo_workshop.htm. He went on behalf of IEF since he could not represent the organization he works for, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The conference sponsored by UNECE and RCC was promoting cross border cooperation in South Eastern Europe on water resources management in line with the analysis and recommendations of the thesis Laurent had recently completed for the University of Geneva Certificate of Advanced Studies in Environmental Diplomacy.
Victoria Thoresen has been involved as speaker and workshop coordinator in the following events: The OECD international conference 24 October 2008 on sustainable consumption; the UNESCO Conference in Bordeaux, France on Education for Sustainable Development for francophile regions (including French speaking Africa and Asia); and the UNEP Mediterranean Roundtable on Sustainable Production and Consumption in Barcelona. She has also coordinated a workshop at the UNESCO "World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development Moving into the second half of the UN Decade" in Bonn, Germany, on 31 March-2 April 2009.
In September 2008 there were 215 members from 57 countries and territories. On 2 August 2009 there were 230 members from 54 countries and territories The number of members thus increased this year by 7 percent. Below is a list of membership by country.
The database is continuously handled very efficiently by Judith Golova.
MEMBER WINS INTERFAITH AWARD
IEF board member, Peter Adriance, was awarded the Fifth Annual Bridge Builders’ Award by the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (D.C.) on 1 June 2009 for his ‘passionate commitment to inter-religious care of the earth’. Prior to the award ceremony, he participated in a round-table discussion with three other awardees of Buddhist, Jewish and Christian affiliations discussing the fundamental values and scriptures that inspire the environmental ideals of their respective faiths. Adriance has served as the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States’ NGO Liaison for Sustainable Development since 1990. Read more at: http://www.ifcmw.org/Default.asp?page=bridgebuilder5.
Taking up a suggestion from the 2008 General Assembly the Board has started to develop a framework for inviting interns for a few months each to support the IEF and particularly its Secretariat with expanding its activities. The BIC has generously offered to host interns in their premises in New York, and it is also possible for interns to work from home, wherever they live in the world, as long as they have good internet access. The Board has developed a list of action items which interns could work on and the General Secretary will in most cases be the liaison and supervisor. One of our IEF members residing in Albania, Jeff Timms, has become our first part-time intern and is e.g. helping with the preparations for the 2009 IEF conference in Washington D.C.
LEAVES is only distributed to members and associates but everyone can access it on the IEF web site. Unfortunately there has not been a single issue distributed during this year, members have instead received direct emails with conference announcements etc. The website is also continuously updated with these and news from members etc. A new format and working team is needed for the newsletter and the search for volunteers and interns is ongoing.
IEF WEB SITE
The IEF web site (https://iefworld.org) is a major resource both for IEF members and many outside IEF. Updates on IEF activities are posted regularly, and recordings and other materials from the IEF conferences are always available through the site. More educational materials on environment and sustainability are being added all the time. During the year the work has started to reformat the website and move it to another host since we need more space and functions on it. Members are welcome to submit material for possible publication on the website.
The IEF is slowly but steadily building a reputation for professional competence at the interface between science and ethics that is increasing its impact in the international discourse on the directions for future society. It collaborates closely with the Baha'i International Community and other partners in its work to improve environmental management and sustainability based on spiritual principles, and this will bring increasing responsibilities in the years ahead. The main challenge now is for more of its members to support IEF with their time and experience in service to humanity so that it can extend its reach and activities even further in response to the critical needs of humanity.
DISTRIBUTION OF MEMBERS
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
As of 2 August 2009
(not specified) 1
Barbados, West Indies 2
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1
Cook Islands 1
Czech Republic 3
East Timor 1
Fiji Islands 1
Guyana , S America 1
New Zealand 5
Republic of Ireland 1
South Africa 4
The Netherlands 3
United Kingdom 26
Number of countries: 54 Number of members: 230
Czech Republic 1
The Netherlands 2
United Kingdom 5
Number of countries: 12 - Number of members: 28