27th IEF Annual Conference

Submitted by admin on 27. July 2023 - 16:52
2023 September 16-22

27th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum        
Implementing Solidarity – Global to Local

Virtual Conference of online events       
16 – 22 September 2023

The 27th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum (IEF) coincided with three United Nations milestones in New York in September 2023 shaping the future of our planet:

- the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in New York, 18-19 September        
- the Climate Ambition Summit, 20 September        
- and the Preparatory Ministerial Meeting for the Summit of the Future, 21 September 2023

The IEF conference contributed to these processes by sharing what has been learned and by discussing action on next steps.

The International Environment Forum thanks its conference co-sponsors, the Wilmette Institute, the Baha'i International Community and ebbf-Ethical Business Building the Future.

Video recordings of the events are being made available on our YouTube play list        
You can download a conference flyer (pdf) here.


16 September

What have we learned? – Sharing Local Experiences and Case Studies

From hands-in-the-dirt projects to devotionals and new business ventures, IEF members and friends share their experiences of grass-roots environmental efforts in rural and urban communities across the globe.

View a video recording of the event here     
Detailed report on What have we learned?

18 September

Trust and Accountability: Bringing Values into our Future

Trust in decisions on global governance requires mechanisms for accountability based on agreed values.

View a video recording of the event here     
Detailed report on Trust and Accountability: Bringing Values into our Future

19 September

Community Engagement and Diverse Representation for Social Transformation

Sharing experiences of how underrepresented groups at the local level have been the protagonists of social change in their community, and the potential this has for future transformation.

View a video recording of the event here     
Detailed report on Community Engagement and Diverse Representation for Social Transformation

20 September

Global Environmental Governance

The crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, can only be solved with more effective global environmental governance. IEF members share their contributions to the global discourse on environmental governance in preparation for the 2024 Summit of the Future on UN reform.

View a video recording of the event here.   
Detailed report on Global Environmental Governance

21 September

Global Solidarity Accountability: Values for Well-being

Co-sponsored by ebbf - Ethical Business Building the Future: A contribution to the discourse on ways of measuring progress beyond GDP by exploring dimensions of human and environmental well-being using non-financial measures that can support global solidarity and local action.

The video recording will become available soon. 
Detailed report on Global Solidarity Accountability: Values for Well-being

22 September

Where Do We Go from Here?

An interactive discussion to review the results of the UN meetings and explore what they mean for our action in support of the preparations for the Summit of the Future in 2024.

The video recording will become available soon.

Scroll down for more information about each event.


We have still failed to turn the corner on the environmental crises threatening the collapse of the Earth System on which we all depend. At this mid-point in the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030, which define the necessary global solidarity to address these issues, we are failing in implementation. But the UN is timidly opening the door to possible institutional reform with a Summit of the Future planned for September 2024. This 27th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum has addressed these issues through virtual events during the UN meetings in September, exploring how we can relate the global to the local.

The UN Our Common Agenda outlines a range of options that highlight the imperative of networked and inclusive multi-stakeholder action. Among the recommendations, the report emphasizes the need for a new social contract anchored in human rights, renewed solidarity between peoples and future generations, a new global deal to deliver public goods and address major risks, as well as proposals for a United Nations more suited to the needs of the 21st century.

The Secretary-General has made clear that the SDGs are far off track. While a degree of the shortcomings can be attributed to intervening crises, with appropriate and just systems and structures, crises are avoidable and their most acute effects dampened. The SDG Summit aimed to galvanize Member States and citizens to greater action, recommitment, and new commitments. But new injections of action into a flawed system can only get us so far.

The SDG Summit helped the international community to examine implementation weaknesses in our global, regional, and national governance systems and identify opportunities to bridge the gaps. Once identified, the Summit of the Future is poised to advance a number of initiatives. For example, the SDGs may benefit from a more explicit posture incorporating futures thinking, and a Declaration on Future Generations can assist. Increased digital governance has been identified as a need, so a Global Digital Compact is underway. We now see that the SDGs overemphasized the need for economic growth at the expense of planetary health, so complements to GDP could be helpful. In this way, the two Summits become one interlocking set of intergovernmental processes. The first identifies some ancillary needs of the international order. The second can offer remedies for the international community in order to advance progress for all nations and peoples. (based on Concept Note, Road to the Summit Discussion Series, A Tale of Two Summits, 26 July 2023)

The IEF has co-sponsored the Road to the Summit Discussion Series 2023-2024 organized by the Coalition for the World We Need (C4UN) and the Bahá’í International Community.

For further information on these UN events:        
- The SDG Summit and Summit of the Future: A Tale of Two Major Agendas        

The Events


In this event, IEF members and friends shared and discussed the environmental efforts in their communities. You can hear what your peers have been organizing, and gain insights. From hands-in-the-dirt projects to devotionals to new business ventures, examples included grass-roots projects taking place in rural and urban communities across the globe. This interactive event allowed participants to interact with each other, ask questions, suggest ideas, chime in about how their community has tried something similar, etc.

View a video recording of the event here.     
Detailed report on What have we learned?


Intergenerational Panel Discussion on Climate Change - Elsa Deshmukh from Puerto Rico, a representative of our IEF youth task force reports about an event which took place at the Association for Baha’i Studies conference in August 2023.

Community Gardens as a Path to Service and Community Building - Anthony Vodraska, Maryland, USA shared how he is working to engage children and Junior Youth groups in the area on sustainability and climate change.

Environmental Retrofit Company in the rural Rocky Mountains of Colorado - Khela Baskett shared how she and her husband created an environmental retrofit company with spiritual principles guiding company operations.

Transitioning homes toward higher energy efficiency and away from fossil fuels - Bill and Aaron Kelly, Ottawa, Canada talked about their program to work with local homeowners to assist them in transitioning their homes towards higher energy efficiency and away from the burning of fossil fuels. They also shared their efforts hosting an online environmental cafe that includes education, devotion and discussion.

MODERATOR: Khela Baskett

The Summit of the Future will only succeed if the countries and peoples of the world trust that its decisions will effectively lead the necessary transition to a more just and sustainable future. Reformed global governance with a renewed United Nations could enable true solidarity in the face of the impacts of increasing economic, environmental, social and security crises, and establish mechanisms for accountability for all relevant actors including the UN itself. The foundation should be an agreement on the values underlying global well-being and solidarity: justice, equity, trustworthiness, cooperation, reciprocity, with development that includes everyone, enabling the fulfilment by every person on the planet of their higher human purpose.

View a video recording of the event here.    
Detailed report on Trust and Accountability: Bringing Values into our Future


Vision and Values: Laying a Foundation for a Functioning International System       
Presented by Daniel Perell, Representative to the UN for the Baha'i International Community       
We can all agree that global governance is not at the apex of its evolution - there will, of necessity, be further iteration. But what are we evolving towards? Without a vision of, at the very least, the principles which must underlie a functioning international order, it is difficult to imagine how we would get there. This talk aims to outline some of the characteristics necessary for a functioning international system - solidarity beyond borders, selfless service, consideration of future generations. With these in mind, certain assumptions of what exists today can be questioned and, more importantly, new approaches can be devised which will allow a trustworthy and effective global governance structure to emerge. The 2024 Summit of the Future represents a rare moment to explore these themes with ever wider audiences.

Truthfulness and Trustworthiness as foundations for trust and accountability in global governance       
Presented by Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Associate Professor with the Public Administration and Policy Group of Wageningen University, the Netherlands       
Truthfulness and trustworthiness are two of the values that need to form the foundation for an international system that can effectively address the challenges of humanity. Sylvia reflected on why these values are so important linked to their role for building trust and accountability. Trust and accountability are both hailed as desirable features of governance at all levels, including the global level. Multilateral collaboration, however, is currently plagued by distrust, and the lack of accountability of particularly the most powerful actors in global governance is glaring. At the same time, the building of accountable institutions at all levels is one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. Thus a Summit of the Future needs to reflect on strategies to strengthen trust, accountability and the values they build on.

MODERATOR: David Menham, graduate of the Bradford University School of Peace Studies


Sharing experiences of how underrepresented groups at the local level have been the protagonists of social change in their community, and the potential this has for future transformation.

View a video recording of the event here.   
Detailed report on Community Engagement and Diverse Representation for Social Transformation


The Combili Urban Garden initiative in Yerevan, Armenia - Alda Aflatuni       
Alda’s project attempts to address one of the biggest problems of our time: by 2050 air pollution will be the leading cause of deaths worldwide. The Combili Urban Garden -initiative started from a realization that millions of people suffer from a simple fault in our behavior. We dump our kitchen bio waste into landfills and it turns into toxic gasses. By creating a model that has technological and educational components, all this could be changed. How to bring the children and youth into the forefront? How to influence habits on a community level? How to inspire decision makers to take part? These are some of the questions addressed in Alda’s presentation.

Coral Reef Restoration and Youth Empowerment in Fiji - Austin Bowden-Kerby       
Dr Austin shared with us a bit of his work over the last few decades in the Pacific and Caribbean with establishing coral nurseries and restoration sites and especially the engagement and role of the youth and indigenous communities in this. He shared about the further plans to put these groups at the forefront of the restoration work.

The transforming power of education, a story from Uganda - Emmanuel Weere       
Emmanuel shared the story of Sylvia who participated in the Preparation for Social Action program which is based around the concept of creating “promoters of community well-being” through material that explores the areas of language, mathematics, science, and processes of community life including education, agriculture, health, and environmental conservation. Her acquired knowledge in planting crops and in Math helped her to create a business which allowed her to stay in her community. She is an example of how the program is empowering women to become active agents of change in their communities.

The contribution of women to sustainable agriculture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo - Christian Lupemba

The Power of Hope: Peer Education for Suicide Prevention among Inuit Youth In Greenland - Ismael Velasco       
Due to the scars of colonialism, forced displacement in the name of modernisation, systemic discrimination, and destructive globalisation, Greenland faces the highest rates of suicide in the world. Climate change, global mineral exploration and the imposition of a party political system, create instability and profound social, economic and psychological challenges. This is the story of how a small group of Inuit youth in Greenland’s capital responded to a theatre performance by mobilising 1 in 10 youth in Greenland‘s capital in a movement for hope, psychological resilience and integration of both their indigenous heritage and identity, and their sense of global citizenship.

MODERATOR: Kiara Ehsani

Despite more than half a century of international conferences, conventions, action plans and other efforts to prevent the destruction of the planetary environment, its decline is accelerating, with climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and waste becoming existential threats to our future, and raising issues of social justice and eco-anxiety. Voluntary agreements depending on the good will of countries have not worked to protect the global commons. Only a global environmental institution with a mandate to adopt binding legislation based on the best scientific advice, to negotiate the equitable sharing of responsibilities to remain with planetary boundaries, and to enforce its decisions, might have a chance to save us in time from an eco-catastrophe.

Global environmental governance will certainly be an issue at the Summit of the Future (SOTF) in 2024, so this panel showed its importance as critical to addressing these existential environmental threats. The Climate Governance Commission requested IEF members Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen and Arthur Dahl to prepare proposals for a Global Environment Agency. This report has been cited by the UN High Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism as the source for its proposals on environmental governance. We are collaborating with the Climate Governance Commission, which issued a statement on 18 September for the UN meetings. The panel summarised this work and suggested how global environmental governance may be the opportunity for a breakthrough towards binding global legislation because the science is so clear and the need so urgent.

View a video recording of the event here.  
Detailed report on Global Environmental Governance


Global Environmental Governance: Towards a Global Environment Agency       
Presented by Arthur Lyon Dahl, President, International Environment Forum, and steering committee member and expert for the Climate Governance Commission       
We are facing multiple environmental crises that can only be resolved at the planetary level using a systems perspective, ending what the Secretary-General has called a "war on nature". There is a larger global governance problem than just the environment, requiring UN reform. The many steps towards environmental governance since 1972 are not sufficient. A global environment agency is necessary to address interconnected global environmental challenges and protect the global common good, with a proposal prepared by IEF members now accepted by the UN HLAB. Further proposals are coming from the Climate Governance Commission. Global environmental governance may be the opportunity for a breakthrough towards binding global legislation because the science is so clear and the need so urgent.

Megatrends, global risks, and the call for new understandings of governance       
Presented by Joachim Monkelbaan, Lead, Climate Trade, World Economic Forum       
The interaction between megatrends like environmental deterioration, climate change, geopolitical tensions, the erosion of social cohesion, and the rise of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming clearer by the day. The WEF's Global Risks Report recognizes these simultaneous developments as "polycrises'. At the same time, we can see that extant governance systems struggle to address global challenges. This presentation offers a number of fresh perspectives on governance that can be applied in practice by various stakeholders.

Ethical and environmental justice considerations underpinned by global environmental governance within the context of gendered vulnerabilities to climate change       
Presented by Tahirih Matthee, Interfaith Liaison for the Baha'i Office of Public Affairs, South Africa        
The IPCC fifth assessment report has acknowledged the overlapping and intersecting nature of risks viz. geophysical, agro-ecological and socio-economic and highlights that differences in vulnerability and exposure related to non-climatic factors shape differential risks to climate change. Although some policy approaches aim at strengthening local communities’ adaptive capacity, significant aspects such as unpacking relations of power, inclusion in decision-making, and the need to change cultural habits that have denied the rights and opportunities of the marginalized and poor are lacking or missing from the critical discourse on climate change. In addition, research to date indicates that vulnerabilities to impacts of climate change are gendered. The time may be opportune to consider the needs of humanity and the planet within the framework of global environmental governance with effective measures, taking into account all aspects of climate change and sustainable development.

MODERATOR: Frederick Ming

Event in collaboration with ebbf-Ethical Business Building the Future

As a contribution to the discourse on ways of measuring progress beyond GDP, ebbf-Ethical Business Building the Future and the International Environment Forum have led a project to explore dimensions of well-being that could be measured in non-financial ways. These include the environmental dimensions of energy and climate change, biodiversity, and pollution and waste; basic human needs to eliminate poverty, provide adequate food, and ensure good health; and social dimensions including work and service, knowledge and education, and ethical and spiritual values. The results can be useful both to contribute to the beyond GDP discourse at the UN Summit of the Future in 2024, and for community conversations to read the local reality and undertake social actions. This event included a panel discussing lessons learned in the project, case studies of applications to discourse and social action in local communities, and open consultation on ways going forward.

The recording will become available soon. 
Detailed report on Global Solidarity Accountability: Values for Well-being


Overview of the Global Solidarity Accounting Project       
Presented by Dr. Arthur Dahl, President of the International Environment Forum, and a retired senior official of UNEP, with extensive experience in the development of indicators of sustainability and values-based indicators. He originated the GSA project, and lives in Geneva, Switzerland.       
The environment continues to degrade through failures in political will for implementation, requiring new approaches to accountability. There have been many calls for measures of progress beyond GDP, which measures the flow of money, profit and return on investment based on materialistic assumptions, not well-being, ethics, morality or spirituality, and thus encourages selfishness and greed. We need to value people and the planet, redefining notions of progress, civilisation and development. There are an increasing number of international and national efforts to develop indicators of well-being beyond GDP. IEF and ebbf have developed a new concept of global solidarity accounts relevant to human and natural well-being, using relevant science-based non-financial units of account. Nine initial indicator forms of capital are identified to respect both the planetary environmental boundaries of the global commons and the minimum social and economic standards for the common wellbeing of all humanity. These include:       
- Environmental accounts: Carbon (energy), biodiversity, pollution       
- Individual basic needs accounts(eliminating poverty): minimum needs for shelter, security, water and sanitation, energy; food; health       
- Social accounts: work/employment; knowledge and education; spiritual capital and values       
This conceptual framework for human and environmental well-being can help individuals, communities, governments, businesses and other institutions, and global inequality. The approach scaled down to the community level can encourage conversations on global solidarity for sustainability, as the following case studies demonstrate.

Environmental Aspects of Global Solidarity Accountability       
Presented by Dr. Laurent Mesbah, from Sarajevo, is an international consultant on sustainable development, teaches in various university programmes, and is a governing board member of the International Environment Forum.        
Global human solidarity is very dependent on the planet on which we all live. We need to consider how resources and services provided by planet Earth with all its various ecosystems and diversity of life can serve all of humankind for these and generations to come.


Community Conversations for Global Solidarity - Sara DeHoff       
As we explored ways of measuring progress beyond GDP, it became increasingly clear that there was tremendous potential for action at the grassroots. How do we generate a discussion at the neighborhood level to explore these various dimensions of well-being? How do we inspire neighbors to work together and take action to steward their collective wealth?

Ontario Social Action project - Nola Marion, Canada       
This initiative started in rural Ontario by examining how we could invite people to gather, assess their reality, engage in elevated conversations and ultimately determine actions that would benefit their community. A methodology was established to stimulate consultation; it was practiced within our group and shared within ‘safe’ spaces. It became clear that 2 issues were resonating with people - housing and food insecurity. We discovered initiatives already happening around these issues and decided to join our efforts with like-minded groups.

Community consultations on well-being in Champel, Geneva - Victoria Visser, Switzerland       
Victoria Visser and Danièle Bianchi started activities around the subject of ‘wellbeing’ in Champel, Switzerland, that bring together people in their neighborhood on a variety of topics related to sustainable development and wellbeing. The joy of learning from each other and doing things together is building bridges, enhancing tolerance, understanding and an overall spiritual attitude towards life.

Well-being as Wealth in the Eindhoven Region - Jan de Jongh, the Netherlands       
Early this year a “study/action circle” was started in Eindhoven. The intention was to introduce the concept of Well-being as Wealth and to learn how to read reality in our own broad communities, which hopefully will lead to contribution to discourse and social action. One of the group members already initiated a local social action project. She started a Well-being Group in the tall living tower where she lives with about 250 people with the aim of establishing more connection among them.

MODERATOR: Philippe Gerling

In this final event of our 2023 conference, volunteers summarized what we’ve learned from the results of the UN meetings and explored what they mean for our future action in support of the preparations for the Summit of the Future in 2024. Participants discussed how to implement this in our daily lives. Learn about activities and concrete steps you can take home to your communities, family, and friends.

MODERATOR: Khela Baskett

The Speakers

What Have We Learned?

Trust and Accountability: Bringing Values into our Future


Community engagement and diverse representation for social transformation


Global Environmental Governance


Global Solidarity Accountability: Values for Well-being



Where Do We Go from Here?

MODERATOR: Khela Baskett (see bio above)

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Last updated 23 September 2023