IEF submission to the Bureau of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)


by the
25 October 2011…

The International Environment Forum (, a Bahá'í-inspired professional organization for environment and sustainability with members in over 50 countries, accredited to WSSD in the science and technology major group, offers the following specific elements for the compilation of the zero draft outcome document for UNCSD next year.

a) Objective of the Conference - sectoral priorities: natural disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation


Basis for action
With accelerating climate change, sea level rise, resource degradation and water shortages, the projected scale of forced environmental migration in coming decades will exceed anything previously experienced, with estimates of 100-500 million people or more permanently displaced. This will be traumatic for those displaced, and represents an enormous challenge for the receiving countries and communities where immigration is presently a major source of tension and human rights violations.

To organize an appropriate international response to forced environmental migration with institutional, financial and humanitarian dimensions in a proactive response to prevent crises, widespread human suffering and environmental impact.

1. Undertake scientific assessments of the human carrying capacity of different regions of the world and anticipated changes with climate change to determine which regions and countries will be unable to support their present or projected populations and which areas have the space and resources to receive environmental migrants.

2. Create an international legal framework for environmental migrants comparable to that already functioning for political refugees, to recognize their status as displaced persons with no possibility of return, and to protect their human rights as far as possible. Provision could be included for migration in groups or as whole communities to assist in preserving social relationships, community structures and cultures.

3. Establish a mechanism under the United Nations, similar in function to the World Trade Organization, to negotiate a lowering of barriers to immigration and to allocate environmental migrants equitably among countries able to receive them. This could include a financial mechanism to ensure that the costs of resettlement are equitably shared by the international community.

4. Initiate wide public discussion of environmental migration, the imperative of showing solidarity with victims of climate change and other environmental changes based on underlying ethical principles, the advantages of immigration for receiving communities, and the means to build unity in diversity among peoples of diverse origins and cultures.

b. Green Economy


Basis for action
The controversy surrounding proposals for the green economy reflects fears that a superficial response will not address fundamental concerns about justice, equity, and social and environmental responsibility. Some relevant principles have already been adopted in the Rio Declaration and elsewhere. To achieve consensus, an explicit statement is needed of the principles underlying the green economy, recalling previous principles and extending them where necessary. The following are some suggestions to be elaborated further.

To develop a clear declaration of the principles underlying the green economy for a sustainable society.

The green economy should:
- further a dynamic and thriving social order that is just, fair and equitable to all;
- be strongly altruistic and cooperative in nature;
- provide meaningful employment;
- help to eradicate poverty in the world while reducing extremes of wealth;
- ensure sustainable environmental management;
- provide the peoples and institutions of the world with the means to achieve the real purpose of development: that is, the cultivation of the limitless potentialities latent in human consciousness for the betterment of the world.


Basis for action
The dominant economic indicators such as GDP do not provide signals for sustainability, and even sustainable development indicators miss some of the most important driving forces necessary to move on a trajectory towards sustainability. In particular, the underlying materialistic assumptions of most economic thinking do not reflect the views of a majority of the peoples of the world. The development in Bhutan of a Gross National Happiness measure is an example of what can be done at the national level. Recent research has shown the practicality of values-based indicators at the project or group level (

Develop indicators reflecting the values and ethics underlying individual and collective choices and behaviour necessary to achieve sustainability, while incorporating and adapting to the diverse cultural, ethnic and spiritual traditions of nations and peoples, to express a more complete vision of the goals and purpose of a sustainable and ever-advancing civilization and of desires for happiness and prosperity.

1. Encourage research and public debate on rethinking prosperity and happiness in the context of human well-being and community development in a sustainable society, as the basis for developing national indicators of progress towards these goals.

2. Add values-based and ethical indicators to the indicators of sustainable development prepared under the Commission on Sustainable Development.

3. Stimulate and encourage work on values-based indicators of education for sustainable development for use at all levels in organizations, communities, projects, governments and businesses.

c. Institutional framework for sustainable development


Basis for action
The UN has adopted ethical principles in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Rio Declaration and other instruments, but too often they remain as generalities and their implications are not sufficiently considered in policy and decision-making. Paragraph 6 of the WSSD Plan of Implementation on the importance of ethics for sustainable development requires further action to be effective. Civil society has also completed the Earth Charter after Rio.

Ensure that both recognized international ethical principles and the ethical concerns of civil society are available to UN bodies and decision-makers when adopting policies, programmes and actions.

1. Establish a UN Permanent Forum on Ethics and Religion, patterned after the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, where faith-based organizations and those addressing ethical issues, that accept the principles of the UN Charter, declarations and covenants, can consider the ethical and spiritual implications of UN policies, activities and proposals and make submissions to ECOSOC and other relevant UN bodies.

2. Create within the UN Secretariat an Office of Ethical Assessment to prepare reports, at its own initiative or on request for the General Assembly, the Security Council, ECOSOC and other UN bodies, programmes and agencies, on the ethical implications of issues, policies and programmes, with reference to the ethical principles in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Rio Declaration and other instruments and covenants, and to the world's spiritual, philosophical and cultural traditions.


Basis for action
The foundation of human development is our inherent capacity to learn. Science and technology should be accessible to everyone in accordance with their capacity, but they remain largely the preserve of an educated elite with a top-down process of delivery. Most technological development today is driven by market forces that neither reflect nor respond to the basic needs of the world’s peoples. To achieve sustainability, everyone should be empowered with the tools and approaches of science: evidence based reasoning, understanding cause and effect, experimentation, thinking in terms of systems in a long-term perspective, and learning adaptive management in a time of dynamic change. The natural and social sciences, crafts, and local and indigenous knowledge based on similar processes of observation and experimentation, can all contribute to sustainable community development. Institutional capacity and learning processes should be developed within local populations to create and apply knowledge in ways that address the specific needs of that population.

Build a base for the universal extension of natural and social sciences and technology through educational programmes and regional centres of research and training accessible to everyone and allowing widespread participation in the generation and application of knowledge.

1. Support the development and implementation of curriculum materials that introduce scientific thinking and methods into all levels of education, with particular attention to developing countries.

2. Encourage the efforts of civil society organizations in community and neighbourhood education and consultation on the science and ethics of environmental responsibility, climate change, moderation in consumption, sustainable use of energy and resources, environmental migration, and local environmental management.

3. Facilitate the integration of natural and social sciences and indigenous knowledge systems in defining sustainable environmental management adapted to local conditions and cultures and to community needs.

4. Adapt methodologies for environmental impact assessment and monitoring to make them accessible to local communities and resource users regardless of their educational level, supported by extension programmes in their use to support local sustainability.

5. Establish regional centers of research and training for sustainable development empowered to create technologies addressing locally defined needs and priorities that take into account both the material and moral prosperity of society as a whole.

Last updated 1 November 2011