IEF Nine Year Strategic Plan

IEF Nine Year Strategic Plan

Approved 16 February 2022


The International Environment Forum (IEF) purpose is to work for the betterment of the world, living together in concord and in harmony with our planetary environment. We aim to build a society that consciously pursues this collective purpose, working with all who labour in this undertaking, raising up vibrant communities learning how to bring about spiritual and material progress within their society and environment and to contribute to the discourses that influence the direction of that progress. We aim to build upon the most foundational qualities in humanity, ones for which the world stands in great need: unity, trustworthiness, mutual support, collaboration, fellow feeling, selflessness, commitment to truth, a sense of responsibility, a thirst to learn, the love of an all-embracing heart.

This strategic plan has been developed by the IEF board, inspired by the 30 December 2021 letter of the Universal House of Justice, and taking into consideration direct guidance by the Bahá'í International Development Organization and suggestions from members. The plan is a working document and is expected to be revised periodically.

This IEF strategic plan has two focus areas: A) contributing to public discourse on concepts relevant to the environment and sustainability, and B) empowering individuals to engage in discourse and social action. Within the first, this would include 1) discourse in the global political space and in the science-religion dialogue, 2) reconceptualizing concepts in light of with Bahá’í principles and teachings, and 3) scholarship, writing and communication.

Among our more immediate priorities are:
• to use the current situation with the pandemic to identify roadblocks, reset priorities and enable the necessary transition to environmental and social sustainability;
• to infuse conversations about environmental issues with spiritual principles;
• to assist our members and associates in their efforts to act locally and to educate others on environmental sustainability, for example by providing ideas, materials and case studies;
• to engage more young people and give them hope in the future and the motivation to work for positive change despite the difficulties;
• to support our members in their efforts to build resilience in all systems and communities and to reduce vulnerabilities in our food and water systems, our energy supplies and communications, our local economies and institutions; and
• to ensure that IEF continues long into the future.

A. Contributing to Public Discourse

In a world overwhelmed with negative messages and attitudes, and facing tumultuous years in the life of humanity, our discourse should emphasize the positive. While endeavouring to diagnose the roots of humanity’s problems, we need to highlight positive actions for the environment and sustainability across different cultures and social environments, drawing on science and building trust. We can help all to identify common goals that build unity; to put the equality of women and men into practice and overcome prejudices of all kinds; to guard against any tendency to view matters with cynicism or an eye for faults, and instead sustain a constructive outlook; to put the need for collective action before feelings of personal preference; to balance the power of modern technologies with wisdom and responsibility for all life; to prize the joy of serving humankind above worldly interests; to reject the opiate of consumerism; to turn away from materialist ideologies and the worldviews they aggressively promote, and to apply science combined with spiritual principles.

1. Global Discourse

The IEF is acknowledged as a Bahá’í-inspired professional organization in the Scientific and Technological Major Group of civil society at the United Nations. This gives us unique opportunities at the interface of science and religion with both the scientific community and faith-based organizations. The quality of our membership and their avenues of service give us credibility.

In our global discourse, we can:
• present the environmental challenges facing the planet and society and the needs for action going forward informed by science and by the ethical principles, values and spiritual world-views that can motivate the necessary efforts for implementation;
• find points of unity that can bring together the many diverse perspectives across the world, particularly across the science-religion interface, as we explore directions towards a more just and sustainable future;
• explain the society-building power of the Bahá’í Faith for a more sustainable society, both in developing individual spiritual qualities, and in foundational qualities in the community;
• present the Bahá’í concept of social transformation, in which a population becomes the protagonist of its own development, becoming conscious of barriers, drawing on relevant science, learning through small actions, and developing institutions for community support and up-scaling;
• share the Bahá’í-inspired effort at community building as a model for a future strategy of environmental restoration and sustainability - reading the local reality, consulting on needs and deciding actions, in an ongoing organic process of concord and harmony, cooperation and mutual assistance; and
• engage the international community in an exploration of improved concepts of governance, to address planetary environmental problems and boundaries, to ensure national autonomy in implementation, and to apply the principle of subsidiarity in empowering local communities.

a. Conferences and Events

We should maintain a calendar of coming processes and events where we want to have a presence:
• Stockholm+50 1-3 June 2022, where we are already planning our annual conference
• the process associated with the UN Our Common Agenda on UN reform, including a World Social Summit on the future in 2023
• the preparatory negotiations on the Global Biodiversity Framework for the CBD COP15 in China which will take place sometime in 2022
• UNFCCC COPs every year if possible.

We should continue to develop our capacity for virtual IEF meetings. They could spread out over several days, at different times and in additional languages, so that more might participate, and offer key discussions of relevance, so that people can better participate and use the sessions for inspiration and learning.

b. Organizations

We shall continue to support the efforts of the Bahá’í International Community and, when requested, national Offices of External Affairs, and to collaborate closely with relevant Bahá’í-inspired organizations.

We are already collaborating with like-minded organizations such as:
• the Stimson Center
• The Coalition for the UN We Need (C4UN)
• International Council for Science
• UNEP Montevideo Process for the review of environmental law
• Global Governance Forum
• Climate Governance Commission
• ebbf – Ethical Business Building the Future

We should look for new models of NGOs, organizations, and companies that are participatory and less top-down, which can provide lessons in governance, management, and implementation.

2. Reconceptualizing Concepts with Baha’i Principles

Beyond the study of the Bahá’í texts themselves, the implications that the teachings hold for countless fields of human endeavour are of great importance. The IEF should respond to the growing need to explicate the principles in the Bahá’í Faith, and to demonstrate their applicability to the environmental and sustainability issues facing humanity. We need to provide, in the world of ideas, the intellectual rigour and clarity of thought so badly needed today to achieve spiritual and material progress.

Our topical focus has been on sustainable development and on the major global environmental crises:
• climate change
• loss of biodiversity
• pollution (chemicals, plastic, air including indoor air pollution, and water pollution)

Additional issues are:
• regeneration and restoration of damaged environments
• a new social contract
• sustainable lifestyles and consumption
• measuring and valuing what matters to people and the planet
• global commons and public goods
• global environmental governance

In our primary areas of discourse, we should help to develop consciousness of prevailing social and environmental problems and aspirations to overcome them, using Bahá’í perspectives.

We could start with a list of core concepts and develop our own definitions that can be expanded into 'talking points'. We could invite some specific members to help with this effort.

Ultimately our message should be that all these problems are interrelated, and are symptoms of the materialistic economy and consumer society which must be transformed with new values of justice, respect and moderation.

3. Scholarship, Writing and Communication

We should encourage members to work together on scientific research and writing incorporating Bahá’í-inspired perspectives.

There are different venues for scholarship and writing: our conference and webinars, scientific papers by IEF members, IEF statements on issues such as biodiversity, and participation in the activities and conferences of like-minded organizations. We should consider how to improve each one of these contributions, and look for other venues. Science sometimes comes across as arrogant, so we should explore how to present it with more humility. We can share short reports on positive initiatives that give hope from around the world.

The IEF, accredited in the UN scientific and technological organization major group, is pioneering in interacting with the wider scientific and conservation world, and needs to explore the best approaches for teaching scientists and conservationists, including ways to teach by example versus more direct approaches. There is also the need to accompany those seeking careers in modern academia, suffering from toxic science, arrogance, intimidation, competition, and internal politics. We need to share Baha'i perspectives on how to cope, and if possible to facilitate change by creating new models and influencing the old. In a world plagued by climate change denial, fake news and conspiracies in general, we need to educate society and help guide those who are unable to judge facts from fiction. Less educated people all over the world now have access to the internet and are vulnerable to misinformation and easily swayed.

B. Empowering Members in Public Discourse, the Promotion of Knowledge, and Environmental Action

The long-term development of a community and, ultimately, of a nation, from generation to generation, depends to a large degree on the effort made to invest in those who will assume responsibility for collective social progress. We must therefore focus on building the capacity of our members, associates and the wider public, both in their individual development and in their service to their communities and society at large.

As a Bahá’í-inspired organization, we aim to assist our members and others to gain an ever more profound understanding of the Bahá’í teachings relevant to the environment and sustainability and to apply them to the needs of their society.

Specifically, we can encourage and empower IEF members to engage actively in three areas: public discourse, promotion of knowledge about environmental issues and relevant spiritual principles, and social action toward sustainable practices. We aim to inspire local action with a global vision and with shared local experiences.

1. Public Discourse

We aim to build individual capacity to contribute to the discourses of society, participating in a conversation about a matter that affects people’s lives and offering a perspective grounded in Bahá’í principles and experience. This can be practised almost daily, for instance in studies or occupations. As individuals and communities become increasingly conscious of an area’s prevailing social and environmental problems, as well as of the aspirations of its people to overcome them, we can provide resources sharing perspectives on obstacles to social progress and on environmental issues.

To encourage qualified IEF members to engage in public discourse from the local to the international level, we can connect them with global discourses and organizations. Special webinars geared to young people should build capacity to have hope in the future and the motivation to work for positive change despite the difficulties they face.

We can help our members to learn from the example of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who used the language of His audience. He first defined an issue before discussing it. He demonstrated that public discourse requires a humble posture of learning without any trace of arrogance.

2. Promoting Knowledge

Transformation requires learning, both of the science and rationality that are important for sustainability, and of the ethical and spiritual dimensions that are essential to motivate change. The focus of IEF should be to encourage and share systematic learning from real-world experience to accelerate progress. We should continue to share ownership and avoid "branding" things as IEF, and not promote educational materials or courses that might be confused with the Bahá'í Institute materials.

IEF members and associates could develop environment project modules combining science and spiritual principles that might be relevant for children's classes, junior youth, youth and communities in general, drawing on local experience. These could complement case studies of community projects and sustainability activities contributed by our members, and could give ideas to those looking for ways to address their local social and environmental reality. Certain concepts of social action could be applied to environmental case studies, and to examples of how individuals can act in their own professional context. Some members may already have capacities to participate in discourses developed in materials using the environment as an example.

In local communities where a majority of adults are illiterate but with deep local or indigenous knowledge and an understanding of the spiritual dimension, the need is for better access to complementary scientific information and education.

Those from different continents could report about their specific environmental problems, how they approached them, what they learned, and what the challenges and successes were. We could ask them about the scientific, practical, and spiritual aspects of their projects. Such reports of experiences and case studies of local actions could be put on the website and/or into the newsletter. For people who cannot write so easily, a young enthusiastic member could interview them either in writing or via skype/zoom and encourage them to share their story.

We already have a collection of case studies on the website: We could develop a section of the website more explicitly addressed to ideas for community social action, present the Baha'i approach based on reading the local reality and consultation, and invite more submissions. As a science-based organization, we could look for ways other than courses to promote learning.

3. Individual Contributions to Social Action

We should focus on building capacity for service in an approach founded on faith in the ability of a population to become the protagonists of their own development. Such local social action can address a number of important fields, including the environment, agriculture, health, the arts, and education.

Our members are already striving to contribute to society’s progress in ways available to them, as a personal response to their desire to work for the betterment of the world. They may choose to adopt certain vocations and seek out opportunities to support the activities of like-minded groups and organizations. They may start projects, both large and small, in order to respond to a range of environmental and social issues, remembering that their emphasis should be on the ability of a population to become the protagonists of their own development. One challenge is to transform from a one-person effort into a team effort, broadening initiatives first initiated by individuals of vision and capacity, while maintaining the vision. The informational resources that IEF provides on its website, in its newsletter, etc. can serve to encourage and inform such individual initiatives and provide a platform to share experiences more widely as an inspiration for others.

Last updated 20 February 2022