Community Conversations - Background

Submitted by admin on 19. August 2022 - 17:21

Community Conversations for Global Solidarity

Christine Muller, 3 November 2022

The idea for Community Conversations for Global Solidarity is informed by and in support of a paper by Arthur Dahl on Global Solidarity Accounting which proposes an alternative accounting to GDP where people and planet matter over profit and the economy.

ebbf (Ethical Business Building the Future), supported by the International Environment Forum (IEF), coordinated working groups that further explored the nine dimensions of Dr. Dahl’s paper as outlined on the IEF website: carbon, biodiversity, pollution, minimum living standard (poverty), food, health, work and service, knowledge and education, and spiritual capital.

These consultations, particularly those by the working groups on Health and Pollution, as well as those held in the project’s plenary sessions and in a discussion at the May 2022 ebbf conference in Lisbon, sparked the interest in evolving the concept further. It became clear that assessing conditions alone would not be sufficient for social change, and that it would be necessary to initiate a process of moving toward human solidarity.

The words of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres further encouraged this concept of global solidarity: In his speech at an event that launched Our Common Agenda, Antonio Guterres said: “… it is an agenda driven by solidarity – the principle of working together, recognizing that we are bound to each other and that no community or country, however powerful, can solve its challenges alone.”

In terms of accounting for human and environmental well-being, several useful systems have already been developed:

  • The Recoupling Dashboard provides a picture of wellbeing beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 35 countries with an Agency Index and a Solidarity Index. This work is based on the paper Recoupling Economic and Social Progress, “which explores a new theoretical and empirical approach of assessment of human wellbeing, relevant to current challenges of social fragmentation in the presence of globalization and technological advances.” 
  • The Environmental Performance Index 2022 ranks country performance on sustainability issues:
  • The Bhutan Gross National Happiness Index has been a pioneer in that field for decades. It measures people’s well-being in nine areas: psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, living standards. These indicators have been used to improve the internal conditions of Bhutan. This has contributed much to global thinking about replacing GDP and has certainly contributed to improving the lives of the people in Bhutan. Nevertheless, in the Environmental Performance Index 2022, Bhutan ranks 85 (out of 180 countries) and the country is suffering from huge social problems.
  • More recently, the United Nations Statistical Commission adopted the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) which constitutes an integrated and comprehensive statistical framework for organizing data about habitats and landscapes, measuring the ecosystem services, tracking changes in ecosystem assets, and linking this information to economic and other human activity.

All these initiatives have much value. In addition, much scientific research has been done in the assessment of human health by the WHO, of global food security by FAO, and of environmental pollution and degradation by IPCC and IPBES, and countries are continually tracking their progress in the Sustainable Development Goals. Much data is already available. 

However, accounting for human and environmental well-being and a lack thereof by itself does not seem to lead to meaningful action. This lack of political will has also been shown in the weak implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement despite international consensus about the existential threat of climate change.

Therefore, a major problem we are facing today is the gap between knowledge and action, between international agreements and implementation as emphasized by the Baha’i International Community in their statement One Plane One Habitation: A Baha'i Perspective on Recasting Humanity's Relationship with the Natural World:

The gulf between intention and action is one of the central challenges facing humanity today. This gap can be bridged; individuals, communities, and nations are contributing their share toward this goal every day. Yet for action to rise to the scales required, far stronger consensus and collective will among the nations is needed around the values demanded by the current stage of humanity’s development. It also calls for much greater resolve in putting those values into practice, recommitting to that which is beneficial to the common good and discarding whatever stands in the way of answering the moral and practical call of the present hour.

Bridging the gap between knowledge and action is the mission of the community conversations for global solidarity. These conversations aim to bring people together, to gather resolve, and to serve as an inspiration and focus for meaningful actions that are adequate to the existential threats to human well-being and the natural world. The process is intended to foster mutual understanding, social cohesion, and to result in actions toward greater solidarity. In this spirit they are also supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Link to Community Conversations: Introduction for the Public

Introduction for Baha'i-inspired Public Discourse and Social Action

Link to Community Conversations Part 1: Assessment of Reality - Questions for Local Community Assessment

Link to Community Conversations Part 2: Consulting and Deciding about Actions

Our Prosperous World is also developing beautiful materials for Local Action inspired by this approach, including a Community Wealth Inventory (also now in French) and a module on Food Wealth, with others planned.


Last updated 3 November 2022