INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
15 August 2009-16 December 2010
The 14th Annual Report of the International Environment Forum summarizes the events and activities of 2009-2010. It was presented at the 14th General Assembly of the IEF in Brighton, U.K., on 16 December 2010.
THIRTEENTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
The 13th IEF Annual Conference was fully integrated into the 33rd Annual Conference of the Association for Bahá'í Studies -North America in Washington, D.C., USA, on 13-16 August 2009, on the theme "Environments". This was the first time the ABS-NA had partnered in its conference with an outside organization. The IEF contribution included plenary speakers and six breakout sessions for contributed papers. The IEF President, Dr. Arthur Dahl, gave the opening plenary on "Transforming Environments from the Inside Out", and Professor Peter G. Brown was a featured outside lecturer at the IEF-organized plenary session on "Collective Consciousness, Human Maturity and the Challenge of Sustainability". Brown spoke on the theme of his book, "Right Relationship: Fostering a Whole Earth Economy". Peter Adriance shared the platform and spoke on "The Essential Role of Religion in Fostering a Sustainable World." The conference attracted nearly a thousand participants from 20 countries, with many parallel sessions. IEF also ran a conference blog for those who could not attend in person. The full conference report with photos and audio recordings is on the IEF web site at http://iefworld.org/conf13.htm.
13TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The 13th IEF General Assembly was held in Washington, D.C., USA, on 14 August 2009, with 16 members and 12 guests in attendance. After the presentation of the Annual Report, the governing board was elected, consisting of Peter Adriance, Diana Cartwright, Arthur Dahl, Emily Firth, Duncan Hanks, Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, and Victoria Thoresen. The General Assembly then consulted on activities and priorities for the coming year. Among the issues raised were improving communications among members, perhaps through forums or wikis on the web site or email discussions. There were opportunities to provide tools or materials to help integrate environment into local activities at the grassroots. The report of the General Assembly is on line at http://iefworld.org/genass13.htm.
The IEF Governing Board elected Arthur Dahl as President and Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen as General Secretary. The Board had six meetings during the year, including two face-to-face meetings on 16 August 2009 during the IEF conference in Washington, D.C., and on 7 December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark during the UN Climate Change Conference, as well as four electronic meetings: 12 September-26 October 2009, 16 January-7 April 2010, 20 June-21 September 2010, and 1-12? December 2010. Electronic meetings tend to be long because board members travel frequently. All board members participated in the electronic meetings, while 4 and 5 members were able to attend the meetings in person.
The board decided to combine the 14th Annual Conference with the international conference "Making the Invisible Visible: An Emerging Community of Practice in Indicators, Sustainability and Values" in Brighton, U.K. on 16.18 December 2010. The conference is organized by the ESDinds project on values-based indicators (see below). Arthur Dahl and Jason Maude are the main IEF contributors to the conference organization. Plans are developing to hold the 2011 conference in Australia and the 2012 conference in Rio de Janeiro in association with the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).
ACTIVITIES RELATED TO CLIMATE CHANGE
The IEF collaborated with the Bahá'í International Community in the response to the request from the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and UNDP to all the religions for long-term action plans on climate change and environment. The result was the Bahá'í International Community's Seven Year Plan of Action on Climate Change, which IEF President Arthur Dahl helped to launch along with other action plans from major religions at a celebration at Windsor Castle on 2-4 November 2009 co-hosted by HRH The Prince Philip and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (see the report at http://iefworld.org/WindsorARC.html.
The United Nations International Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, Denmark on 7-18 December 2009 was another major effort for IEF. At least 14 International Environment Forum members attended the conference in one delegation or another, including with the Bahá'í International Community, and a few informal meetings and an IEF Governing Board meeting were held during the conference. The IEF, represented by four members, Victoria Thoresen, Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Onno Vinkhuyzen and Arthur Dahl, participated in the Climate Sustainability Platform at the pre-conference Climate Expo on 3-6 December 2009 and contributed with presentations and workshops. This involved about 40 people of diverse backgrounds from all parts of the world. Arthur Dahl and Peter Adriance joined the activities of the Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change, including an all-day seminar and a press briefing in the conference centre presided over by Peter Adriance. The Bahá'í International Community organized an event on the "Moral and Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change" at the Klimaforum, with IEF member Irma Allen of Swaziland as chairperson and Arthur Dahl as one of the speakers. IEF members Victoria Thoresen, Peter Adriance, Minu Hemmati, Irma Allen and Arthur Dahl also gave evening talks at the Bahá'í National Centre in Copenhagen during the conference. A full illustrated report is at http://iefworld.org/COP15.html.
OTHER ACTIVITIES AT THE UNITED NATIONS
IEF members contributed to the drafting of a Bahá'í International Community statement on "Rethinking Prosperity: Forging Alternatives to a Culture of Consumerism" which was presented to the 18th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development in New York in May 2010. IEF Board member Duncan Hanks moderated and Victoria Thoresen presented at a side event by the same title at the Baha'i International Community offices. The panel included four speakers, among them Tim Jackson, well known British economist and author of "Prosperity Without Growth." Addressing a theme of central interest at the CSD, the event drew a "standing room only" crowd.
The IEF participated in the Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 4-6 October 2010 on the subject of climate change and human rights. The Social Forum is organized each year to facilitate a dialogue with civil society on an important issue for human rights. The IEF presented a statement that was taken into account in the report of the Social Forum. In preparation for the Social Forum, the Interfaith Forum on Climate Change and Environment in Geneva, which includes the International Environment Forum, organized a one-day training for Social Forum participants on 1 October 2010 at the Ecumenical Center, Geneva, on "Human Rights? An approach to respond to the challenges of climate change", co-sponsored by IEF, the Catholic International Centre of Geneva, WaterLex, and the World Council of Churches.
In October 2010, IEF President Arthur Dahl was one of 15 international experts named to a UNEP Major Groups and Stakeholders Advisory Group on International Environmental Governance intended to provide civil society inputs to a ministerial consultative process, the UNEP Governing Council and preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012. He was then elected co-coordinator of the Advisory Group.
PARTNERSHIPS AND COLLABORATION
The Consumer Citizenship Network (CCN) and the Partnership for Education and research about Responsible Living (PERL)
The IEF was a member of the European Union-funded Consumer Citizenship Network (CCN) from 2005 until the end of its funding cycle in October 2009 (http://www.hihm.no/concit/). IEF then joined its successor, the Partnership for Education and research about Responsible Living (PERL) of over a hundred organizations, which has expanded to global scope (http://www.perlprojects.org). IEF board member Victoria Thoresen has managed both networks. IEF representatives Arthur Dahl and Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen participated in PERL collective working group meetings in Rome in January 2010 and the Netherlands in September 2010. Former IEF board member Irma Allen hosted the PERL Africa regional meeting in Swaziland in November 2010.
Bahá'í International Community
IEF's close collaboration with the Bahá'í International Community continued throughout the year. The IEF web site was twice cited in BIC statements (the Action Plan on Climate Change and the statement to CSD18) as a source for further information. IEF members reinforced the BIC delegations to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference and CSD18. During consultations at the Bahá'í World Center, IEF was encouraged to continue assisting its members to apply spiritual principles to the practical problems of the world.
European Center for Peace and Development
Each year the ECPD organizes an International Conference on National and Inter-ethnic Reconciliation, Religious Tolerance and Human Security in the Balkans, in which IEF is invited to participate. The 5th conference was held in Croatia on the Brioni Islands on 29-30 October 2009. Arthur Dahl gave a talk on "Human Security and Climate Change: the ethical challenge" which is available on the IEF web site and published in the conference proceedings. At the 6th conference, again on Brioni Island on 28-29 October 2010 on the theme "Implementing Human Security", Arthur Dahl co-chaired one session and gave a paper on "Interstate Collaboration for Human Security: The Lessons from Copenhagen". Participants in the conference include former Ministers and Presidents, religious leaders, government officials and academics from across the western Balkans. A declaration on human security was issued at the end of the 2010 conference.
Values-based Indicators of Education for Sustainable Development (ESDinds)
IEF has continued to follow closely the work on values-based indicators of education for sustainable development through Arthur Dahl, who is senior advisor to the project. The ESDinds project (http://www.esdinds.eu/) has succeeded in developing indicators to measure trust, integrity, justice, empowerment, unity in diversity, and care and respect for the community of life in businesses and civil society organizations. It has found processes to help organizations crystallize their understanding of their values, identify general indicators that express those values, define specific indicators or proxy measures that represent the implementation of those values, and measure those indicators quantitatively or qualitatively. This can be done in ways that are internally consistent, and produce useful results in evaluating the impact of projects on values. The methodology has already been used successfully with an Earth Charter project for indigenous school children in Mexico, a Red Cross project for former child soldiers in Sierra Leone, a Mexican university sustainability programme, the Lush cosmetics company in Italy, Peoples Theater in Germany, and a financial services company in Luxembourg, A web site for the new methodologies was launched at http://www.wevalue.org, and IEF signed up to work with the resulting indicators. As indicated above, the 14th IEF Conference has been combined with the International Conference organized by the ESDinds project.
The IEF continues to co-sponsor the University of Geneva course of Advanced Studies in Sustainable Development, held each year between October and June. Arthur Dahl is on the scientific committee and teaches in several modules.
The Wilmette Institute e-learning course on Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind, which IEF co-sponsors and provides most of the faculty, was held from October 2009 to January 2010, and is scheduled again in September-December 2011.
IEF also launched a successful 9 module interfaith course on Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change (http://iefworld.org/ssdcc0.html) prepared by Christine Muller which has been used in local communities around the world.
IEF REPRESENTATION AT OTHER EVENTS
IEF members have contributed to many relevant activities at the national level, including multi-faith activities on Environmental Decline and Climate Change as Moral Issues in Canada, and weekend institutes on Environmental Stewardship and Justice in the United States. IEF co-sponsored a Bahá'í stand on Transformation and Ecology/Environment and an event at the Literary Café at the Geneva International Book Fair, Switzerland, in April 2010, and an IEF member gave a talk at the Swedish Book Fair in September 2010. IEF was represented at a conference on Knowledge Collaboration & Learning for Sustainable Innovation at the Technical University of Delft, The Netherlands, where they presented a paper.
Emily Firth as issue monitor for climate change joined the two present issue monitors: Mark Griffin for water issues and Michael Richards for forests.
In August 2009, there were 230 members from 54 countries. In December 2010, this had increased to 271 members from 57 countries. This is an impressive increase of 18%. The roster of members is managed very efficiently by Judith Golova.
The IEF newsletter LEAVES was resuscitated in October 2010 with the arrival of Cynthia Diessner as editor. It should now appear more frequently.
IEF WEB SITE
The IEF web site (http://iefworld.org) has continued to serve as the public face of IEF and has become an important resource for many, often appearing at or near the top in Google searches. New materials are added all the time. In November 2010, after more than a year of preparation, the IEF web site finally migrated from bcca.org to a Drupal content management system on a new server. The new site will allow many new features like blogs (each IEF member can have one) and forums for discussions on particular topics like those for which IEF has issue managers. The site is completely searchable. Each member can have a user page and can update her/his own directory entry. New applications for membership can also be made through the site. It is possible to reserve parts of the site for members only, so it can become a platform for joint work by IEF members.
This has been another busy year for the International Environment Forum, with increasing opportunities to contribute to the global dialogue on environment and sustainability. IEF's efforts to build the capacity of its members to apply ethical and spiritual principles in their professional fields have produced a pool of talent and experience that is increasingly drawn on by the Baha'i International Community and appreciated by many outside organizations. The fact that the IEF was twice mentioned by name and its web site cited in BIC statements is a sign of this acceptance. With an improved web site to facilitate members' work and outreach, IEF hopes to engage more members to extend its reach and impact in the years ahead.
Membership statistics, update: 5 December 2010
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
Republic of Macedonia 1
South Africa 4
The Netherlands 6
United Kingdom 31
Number of countries 57
Number of members 271
Czech Republic 1
The Netherlands 4
United Kingdom 5
Number of countries 12
Number of associates 36
Last updated 15 January 2011