Leaves 19(6) - June 2017


Newsletter of the
Volume 19, Number 6 --- 15 June 2017



Website: iefworld.org
Article submission: newsletter@iefworld.org Deadline next issue 13 July 2017
Secretariat Email: ief@iefworld.org General Secretary Emily Firth
Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland

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From the Editor, Request for information for upcoming newsletters

This newsletter is an opportunity for IEF members to share their experiences, activities, and initiatives that are taking place at the community level on environment, climate change and sustainability. All members are welcome to contribute information about related activities, upcoming conferences, news from like-minded organizations, recommended websites, book reviews, etc. Please send information to newsletter@iefworld.org.

Please share the Leaves newsletter and IEF membership information with family, friends and associates, and encourage interested persons to consider becoming a member of the IEF.


Toolkit on the Sustainable Development Goals

The IEF has launched a new toolkit on the Sustainable Development Goals, bringing together several ways of looking at the goals from the bottom up. For communities, there is a list of SDG targets that can be implemented at the community level, that could be used to prepare a local programme of SDGs. For individuals and community groups, the SDGs have been rewritten to make them relevant to what an individual can do as personal SDGs. Another list is of all the SDG targets that businesses can contribute to or implement within their own activities. Finally, there is a short compilation of Bahá'í texts for each SDG, for individual meditation and group study. The toolkit is on the IEF web site at https://iefworld.org/node/882.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted at a United Nations General Assembly Summit in September 2015 (UN 2015), are widely accepted as the latest definition of sustainable development and how to achieve it by 2030. The 17 Goals include 169 targets, and over 240 indicators have been identified to monitor progress towards those targets. Governments are now determining their share of the global goals, and setting their own national goals, targets and indicators. This is by definition a top-down process, and provides an essential global framework, but action by governments will not be sufficient in itself to achieve the SDGs. They are goals for everyone, and everyone needs to be involved, but they need to be simplified for use at other levels.

To help this process, the International Environment Forum has contributed to various discourses on the SDGs and their relevance to businesses, communities and individuals, and how they reflect Baha'i principles in practice. This has included translating the global goals for governments into forms more relevant at the local and organizational levels. These versions are collected here as a toolkit from which you can take or adapt the SDGs for discussion and action within your organization, community or family.


Request for contributions to new learning materials from PERL/UNITWIN

PERL/UNITWIN is preparing two new learning materials: 1) Learning to Know: Education for Responsible Living (a set of examples of education for sustainable development from around the world). 2) Active Learning Toolkit about Alternative Sustainable Lifestyles. Contributions of examples from IEF members would be appreciated. Examples should be short (1/2 a page and include a photo with credits, and contact info-either webpage or name. Send them to Victoria Thoresen (vwt999@gmail.com). PERL/UNITWIN's learning resources are used by teachers and learners in many countries and are available online (http://www.livingresponsibly.org)


Upcoming Wilmette Institute courses

For further information, see http://wilmetteinstitute.org/.

Baha'i Perspectives on Agriculture and Food - 10 July 2017 to 27 August 2017

Bahá'u'lláh described agriculture as "a vital and import matter" that was foremost among the principles for "the advancement of mankind and the reconstruction of the world.” Yet current agricultural policy often prioritizes yield and profit over health and sustainability, while the poor struggle to feed themselves, and climate change makes farming increasingly unpredictable. These and other factors threaten food security. The course on Bahá'í Perspectives on Agriculture and Food will examine the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith on agriculture, food, and rural development; relate these teachings to contemporary public discourse on these issues; and suggest ways in which agricultural activities can be incorporated into core activities, community-building, and emerging social action.

Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind - 10 September to 28 October 2017 The course on Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind addresses the urgent need to make a fundamental transition away from a consumer society and materialist economy that threaten our planetary security. It starts with a general introduction to sustainability from a Baha’i perspective and its profound implications in achieving the prosperity of humankind. Its objectives include learning to explain the basic issues of sustainable development, why it is important, and how it affects people today and in the future; relating sustainability to the issues of economic development, wealth and poverty, social development, and the environment in a systems perspective; helping you to make enlightened decisions about ways you can live more sustainably that are consistent with your own spiritual and ethical values, and to explain your choices to others; and learning ways to educate others about the material and spiritual dimensions of sustainable development and developing plans to do so.

After studying the origins and definition of sustainable development endorsed by world leaders, the course will review the economic, social, and environmental issues that humanity faces in achieving sustainability and discuss the spiritual principles that can help us find solutions. It will then examine perspectives for the future, both those that show the unsustainability of the present system and the need for fundamental change--as contrasted with the Baha’i vision of a new world order leading to the prosperity of humankind. It will explore the implications of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for our community action, reflection, and consultation. Finally, it will look at the importance of education for sustainable development, reinforced with spiritual values, as the basis for helping each of us detach ourselves from Western materialistic civilization, reexamine our present lifestyles, and begin to live more sustainably in accordance with the Baha’i teachings.


UN Ocean Conference


New York 11 June 2017: The UN Ocean Conference concluded with a 14-point ‘Call for Action’ to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. Focused on efforts to achieve targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 14 on life below water, it garnered 1,328 voluntary commitments towards ocean conservation and raised awareness at the highest political level about the importance of the ocean to human survival. The main points from the Call for Action and Conference discussions will be shared at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July 2017.

The Conference was largely considered a success in building momentum for the implementation of SDG 14 as a central, rather than isolated, component of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It produced three outcomes: an intergovernmentally-agreed Call for Action; a registry of voluntary commitments; and key messages from its partnership dialogues. The Call for Action reconfirms the commitment of UN Member States to the implementation of SDG 14 within the context of the 2030 Agenda as well as to mobilize resources in line with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. In addition, the registration of 1328 voluntary commitments by governments and other stakeholders was celebrated as a major achievement. The voluntary commitments cover a wide range of topics, from the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) and action on plastic and other marine debris to funding for scientific research and capacity-building activities. Finally, the partnership dialogues facilitated knowledge and experience sharing between participants and clarified interlinkages between SDG 14 and the other goals. The closing plenary adopted the 14-point Call for Action as agreed during intergovernmental consultations (https://oceanconference.un.org/callforaction). The Conference’s Call for Action provides examples of strategies that can advance implementation toward individual targets. It was not expected to make any new commitments, but to inspire action under existing frameworks.

During closing statements, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Peter Thomson affirmed that the conference generated broad momentum for implementing all the SDGs and showed that ocean and climate health are “two sides of the same coin.” He further observed that the conference spurred WTO negotiators to address harmful subsidies and emphasized the role of small-scale fisheries in sustainable blue economy, concluding he was “confident the transformation of our world for the better is now well and truly under way.” Co-President Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Fiji, noted that voluntary commitments doubled during the week and highlighted commitments from governments (44%), NGOs (19%), the UN (9%) and the private sector (9%), with the highest number of commitments in the North Atlantic and South Pacific, relating to marine ecosystems, pollution and science. Co-President Isabella Lövin, Sweden, congratulated delegates, in particular Fiji, for placing the ocean at the center of the political agenda as a matter of human survival, in light of the combined pressures of marine litter, ocean acidification and overfishing. She welcomed Kenya and Portugal’s offers to host the next conference in 2020, and called for a “strong home for the ocean at the UN” and leadership by the UN Secretary-General to drive SDG 14 forward. Conference Secretary-General Wu Hongbo called for followup action on marine litter, marine ecosystem restoration, ocean acidification, sustainable fisheries, and scientific knowledge and encouraged registering further commitments after the conference.

The UN Ocean Conference convened at UN Headquarters in New York, US, from 5-9 June 2017. Approximately 4,000 delegates attended the conference, including 16 Heads of State or Government, two deputy Prime Ministers, 86 Ministers, 16 Vice Ministers, and other government representatives; and participants from the UN system, other intergovernmental organizations, international and regional financial institutions, civil society, academic and research institutions, indigenous peoples and local communities, and the private sector. In addition to the Conference’s plenary sessions and partnership dialogues, the Conference included 150 side events, 41 exhibitions and interviews at the SDG Media Zone.


Embracing the benefits of “green” tea: Farmers call time on unsustainable practices


June 12, 2017
Tea farmers in China, India, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam are discovering that using fewer herbicides and adopting more sustainable farming practices can yield some surprising benefits.

Sri Lankan tea farmer Saman Udayakumara, a community leader in Sri Lanka’s Central Mountains, used to get rid of the weeds on his small tea farm by spraying them with herbicides. He also used a lot of chemical fertilizer. But he was puzzled. Despite his hard work and good rainfall, his tea yields were declining each year. Then, a few years ago, the Rainforest Alliance introduced him to the idea that indiscriminately dousing weeds with expensive herbicide was good neither for his profits nor his tea crop.

“We have completely stopped using herbicides for the past two years, and reduced chemical fertilizers from 15,650 kg in 2013 to just 4,400 kg in 2016,” says Udayakumara. “This has benefited tea production and reduced my costs by 30 per cent. It has also been a strong incentive to start improving the quality of life in our village.” He and his fellow villagers now selectively destroy the most noxious weeds by hand or mechanically, and allow others to thrive.

“Poor farming and land management practices started in colonial times, when the soils of tea estates were initially healthy and productive. But the practice of removing all weeds and natural vegetation to make the plantations clean and sterile had a serious downside,” says UN Environment expert Max Zieren.

The excessive use of herbicides by tea farmers has led to a drop in tea production in the region due to soil degradation, soil compaction and soil erosion: When you remove benign weeds that provide a natural layer of soil protection you also lose an organic fertilizer, as well as beneficial fungi, bacteria and worms. The situation is made worse by the toxic effect of herbicides on soil organisms.

“What we have learned is that, all over Sri Lanka, tea farms and large tea estates with degraded soils appear to be more susceptible to natural and climate change-induced drought, such as we saw in the dry seasons of 2015-2016 and 2016-2017,” says Giri Kadurugamuwa, Director of the Alliance for Sustainable Landscapes Management in Sri Lanka.

“In the days we used chemicals, these tea bushes used to wilt during the drought and there were times we stopped work due to the lack of crop,” says Udayakumara, who has been managing his tea farm for 19 years. “However, our group of farms was able to continue plucking this year during the drought when all in the vicinity had stopped plucking, and amazingly we see [wilting] much less now. This, I believe, is due to the ground cover, healthier soils and productive tea bushes with deep root systems.”

Where’s the money coming from?
Attempting to change mindsets and educate people on sustainable tea production, and land management more generally, costs money.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is helping to fund the Sustainable Tea Landscapes project in China, India, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam to bring about such change. The Rainforest Alliance is leading the $14-million project; other key partners include Tea Technologies Outsourcing (India), the Alliance for Sustainable Landscapes Management (Sri Lanka), Good Wood in Rainforest Consultancy (China), and VECO, an international non-governmental organization in Viet Nam. Key support comes from governments, as well as corporate and civil society partners such as the Sri Lankan Tea Smallholding Development Authority, Unilever, and Kirin Holdings (a Japanese beverage company).

UN Environment’s role is to supervise the project and assist in communicating project results. Following a recent media trip to Sri Lanka, 19 national and international media outlets reported on sustainable tea practices.

The GEF project takes a twin-track approach. First, it aims to reduce land degradation in tea landscapes by building the capacity of 30,000 farmers and catalysing industry and government leaders to adopt or support better farming practices. These include “herbicide-free weed management”, maintaining adequate natural vegetation in and around farms, and protecting water sources.

Second, the project is bringing together local government, villages, tea farmers, estate firms and others to discuss and plan for better land management in a wider landscape context beyond individual tea farms. This “landscape approach” is being introduced in Darjeeling, India and Sri Lanka.

Thanks to the project, trained farmers in Sri Lanka now keep records of their tea crop, fertilizer use, costs and wildlife observed. Over 90 per cent of the 14,000 farmers trained under the project keep good records, says Kadurugamuwa.


Costa Rica expands protected seas and fosters efforts to fight marine pollution on World Oceans Day


Costa Rica, 8 June 2017 - On World Oceans Day, Costa Rica announces a new marine protected area on the country’s Pacific coast, contributing to the global goal of protecting at least 10 per cent of marine zones before the year 2020.

The new protected marine area at Cabo Blanco, with an extension of more than 800 square kilometers in the Nicoya Gulf, expands from 12.7 per cent to 15.7 per cent the share of the country’s seas under conservation. The marine area is home to 37 high-value marine species, three turtlehatching sites, and three areas of importance for dolphins, whales and other aquatic mammals.

“As a nation between two shores, the Caribbean and the Pacific, Costa Rica is conscious of the immeasurable benefits that these bring to life on Earth. With this in mind, we are striving to become a plastic-free zone and to expand marine protected areas, along with models of local governance to manage fisheries and tourism in a sustainable manner,” said Luis Guillermo Solís, President of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is striving to fight plastic marine debris after joining the global UN Clean Seas campaign earlier this year. Around 20 per cent of the four tonnes of waste that the country produces daily ends up in rivers and coastal zones.

The Clean Seas campaign is seeking to eliminate major sources of marine litter: microplastics in cosmetics, and the excessive, wasteful use of single-use plastic, by the year 2022.

Twenty governments have so far joined campaign announcing ambitious plans to reduce marine litter. Brazil joined on 7 June, while several Latin American countries, such as Panama and the Dominican Republic, as well as the Mexican city of Tijuana, have committed to enhance efforts to combat ocean pollution.

Costa Rica is working to replace single-use plastics – which can take hundreds of years to degrade – with renewable materials that can decompose in the ocean in no more than six months. The country also launched a National Wetlands Policy (2017- 2030) and recently outlined a long-term National Sanitation Policy to prevent further water pollution.

Alongside UN Environment, Costa Rica is hosting the Global Dialogue on Oceans (8-9 June), in Puntarenas on the country’s Pacific coast. Highlevel decision makers and stakeholders from around the globe will use the meeting to plan definitive actions aimed at improving the health of the oceans.

The Global Dialogue will also provide input to the third session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, which will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, in December 2017. The UN’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment will gather under the theme “towards a pollution-free planet”. The Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, Dr. Edgar Gutiérrez, is the President of the Assembly.

Healthy oceans - which absorb roughly 25 per cent of human-generated carbon dioxide emissions – are critical to fighting climate change and are essential for life and livelihoods at many levels. They provide wide-ranging social and economic benefits, and are crucial in reducing poverty for millions of people. Thriving oceans can ensure food and energy security, and are closely interlinked with peace and prosperity.

Oceans face unprecedented challenges due to increasing human activities and impacts. Every year, more than 8 million tons of plastic end up in seas and rivers, causing 8 billion dollars in damages. At this pace, by 2050, oceans will have more plastics than fish and approximately 99 per cent of marine birds will swallow plastic.

Links to Video News Release:
YouTube (English): https://youtu.be/sqhin5ryEhs
YouTube (Spanish): https://youtu.be/6AyYFLeJ9oY

About World Oceans Day
World Oceans Day has been celebrated since 2009 globally, to acknowledge the major role oceans have in everyday life. They are the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe. This Day aims to inform public of the impact of human actions on the ocean and mobilize the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world's oceans.


Another Record-Breaking Year for Renewable Energy:
More renewable energy capacity for less money


7 June 2017 – Today, REN21 published its Renewables 2017 Global Status Report, the most comprehensive annual overview of the state of renewable energy.

Additions in installed renewable power capacity set new records in 2016, with 161 gigawatts installed, increasing total global capacity by almost 9 per cent over 2015, to nearly 2,017 gigawatts. Solar photovoltaic accounted for around 47 per cent of the capacity added, followed by wind power at 34 per cent and hydropower at 15.5 per cent.

Renewables are becoming the least costly option. Recent deals in Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates saw renewable electricity being delivered at $0.05 per kilowatt-hour or less. This is well below equivalent costs for fossil fuel and nuclear generating capacity in each of these countries. Winners of two recent auctions for offshore wind in Germany have done so relying only on the wholesale price of power without the need for government support, demonstrating that renewables can be the least costly option.

“We all want a healthy environment and healthy people, and clean energy is a central part of the solution,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “A global transition to renewable energy technologies like solar and wind are also key ingredients of delivering on the Paris Agreement, keeping the global temperature rise below 2°C and avoiding catastrophic climate change. This new report shows where we are on this journey, and the data is clear: we need to move faster.”

“The world is adding more renewable power capacity each year than it adds in new capacity from all fossil fuels combined,” said Arthouros Zervos, Chair of REN21. One of the most important findings of this year’s GSR, is that holistic, systemic approaches are key and should become the rule rather than the exception.

“As the share of renewables grows we will need investment in infrastructure as well as a comprehensive set of tools: integrated and interconnected transmission and distribution networks, measures to balance supply and demand, sector coupling (for example the integration of power and transport networks); and deployment of a wide range of enabling technologies.”

The inherent need for “baseload” is a myth. Integrating large shares of variable renewable generation can be done without fossil fuel and nuclear “baseload” with sufficient flexibility in the power system – through grid interconnections, sector coupling and enabling technologies such as ICT, storage systems electric vehicles and heat pumps.

This sort of flexibility not only balances variable generation, it also optimizes the system and reduces generation costs overall. It comes as no surprise, therefore that the number of countries successfully managing peaks approaching or exceeding 100 per cent electricity generation from renewable sources are on the rise. In 2016, Denmark and Germany, for example, successfully managed peaks of renewables electricity of 140 per cent and 86.3 per cent, respectively.

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry remained stable for a third year in a row despite a 3 per cent growth in the global economy and an increased demand for energy. This can be attributed primarily to the decline of coal, but also to the growth in renewable energy capacity and to improvements in energy efficiency.

Other positive trends include:
Innovations and breakthroughs in storage technology will increasingly provide additional flexibility to the power system. In 2016, approximately 0.8 gigawatts of new advanced energy storage capacity became operational, bringing the year-end total to an estimated 6.4 gigawatts.

Markets for mini-grids and stand-alone systems are evolving rapidly and Pay-As-You-Go business models, supported by mobile technology, are exploding. In 2012, investments in Pay-As-You-Go solar companies amounted to only $3 million; by 2016 that figure had risen to $223 million (up from $158 million in 2015).

But the energy transition is not happening fast enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Investments are down. Although global investment in new renewable power and fuel capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuels, investments in new renewable energy installations were down 23 per cent compared to 2015. Among developing and emerging market countries, renewable energy investment fell 30 per cent, to $116.6 billion, while that of developed countries fell 14 per cent to $125 billion. Investment continues to be heavily focused on wind and solar photovoltaic, however all renewable energy technologies need to be deployed in order to keep global warming well below 2°C.

Transport, heating and cooling sectors continue to lag behind the power sector. The deployment of renewable technologies in the heating and cooling sector remains a challenge in light of the unique and distributed nature of this market. Renewables-based decarbonization of the transport sector is not yet being seriously considered, or seen as a priority. Despite a significant expansion in the sales of electric vehicles, primarily due to the declining cost of battery technology, much more needs to be done to ensure sufficient infrastructure is in place and that they are powered by renewable electricity. While the shipping and aviation sectors present the greatest challenges, government policies or commercial disruption have not sufficiently stimulated the development of solutions.

Fossil fuel subsidies continue to impede progress. Globally, subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power continue to dramatically exceed those for renewable technologies. By the end of 2016 more than 50 countries had committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, and some reforms have occurred, but not enough. In 2014 the ratio of fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy subsidies was 4:1. For every $1 spent on renewables, governments spent $4 perpetuating our dependence on fossil fuels.

“The world is in a race against time,” said Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of REN21. “The single most important thing we could do to reduce CO2 emissions quickly and cost-effectively, is phase-out coal and speed up investments in energy efficiency and renewables. Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement is unfortunate. But the renewables train has already left the station and those who ignore renewables’ central role in climate mitigation risk being left behind.”

About the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report
REN21’s Renewables 2017 Global Status Report presents developments and trends through the end of 2016, as well as observed trends from early 2017 where available. First published in 2005, the annual Renewables Global Status Report is the most comprehensive and timely overview of the status, recent developments and trends in renewable energy markets, industries, investments, and policy developments worldwide. By design, it does not provide analysis or forecast. Data are provided by a network of 800 contributors, researchers, and authors from all over the world. http://www.ren21.net/gsr


Guardians of Creation

June 9, 2017, BBC Heart and Soul

Faith communities say these are critical times for the environment. Their driving force comes from the belief that they are guardians of creation - protectors of the earth. While people of faith the world over are working for change, Ritula Shah asks what special dynamic they bring to the environmental movement and whether they can harness religious conviction to effect global policy.

Pope Francis has joined the voices of Islamic, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu leaders, amongst others, in calling for action on climate change, imbuing the debate with a moral and spiritual imperative. And it is not just religious leaders. People of faith across the religious spectrum and around the world are actively involved in practical projects to protect the environment and raise awareness.

We visit some of these projects and meet the people running them. We attend an environmental workshop for imams, we talk to worshippers in the Punjab celebrating Sikh Environment Day, workers at an Eco Village in Tanzania run by Islamic Help and we have tea with volunteers at a Christian run community allotment in England. What difference can they make?

Dr Mary Evelyn Tucker, expert on Religion and Ecology says there are roughly a billion Hindus, a billion and a half Muslims, a billion Confucians and two billion Christians alone, making quite a moral force. Dr Rajwant Singh from Eco Sikh says these vast faith communities have to work together and if they do, they are better placed than anyone else to influence governments.

Listen to the recording here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p054nkxf


Unprecedented Meeting of World Faith Leaders to take on Global Deforestation
Monday, June 19, at the Nobel Peace Center, Oslo, Norway

Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist, Jewish leaders to join with indigenous forest guardians to express moral commitment, explore faith-based mobilization to end deforestation

June 11, 2017. For the first time, leaders from many of the world’s religions will meet to discuss the spiritual and ethical responsibility they share to protect rainforests, one of the planet’s most vital life-support systems. Besieged by growing global demand for commodities, tropical rainforests are being cleared at a perilous rate, with an area the size of Austria chopped down each year.

The meeting, which will take place in the presence of His Majesty King Harald V of Norway, will discuss how to activate the collective moral influence of religious communities across the planet. Based on sheer numbers, they could prove decisive in protecting the world’s last standing rainforests.

There is growing consensus among the world’s religions that environmental concerns are closely linked to social justice, a position reinforced by Pope Francis’ Laudato si and high-level declarations from many other faiths about the spiritual imperative of protecting the planet and its most vulnerable people.

The multi-faith summit marks the first significant engagement by the world’s religions with an issue that climate scientists and development experts argue is a lynchpin for global efforts to address climate change, poverty, food insecurity and violations of human rights. It also heralds the first time that religious leaders from a broad spectrum of faiths will work hand-in-hand with indigenous peoples, the historical guardians of rainforests, on an action agenda to end deforestation.

Host: His Excellency Vidar Helgesen, Minister of Climate and Environment (Norway)
Partners: The meeting is being convened by Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in cooperation with the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, GreenFaith, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Religions for Peace, REIL Network, and the World Council of Churches.
Where: Nobel Peace Center, Oslo, Norway
When: Monday, 19 June 2017

Indigenous Peoples Leaders
• Sônia Guajajara, National Coordinator, Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil – APIB (Brazil)
• Joseph Itongwa, executive Committee Member, Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee – IPACC (Democratic Republic of Congo)
• Abdon Nababan, Vice Chairperson, National Council, Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, AMAN (Indonesia)
• Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Religious Leaders
• H.E. Metropolitan Emmanuel, Exarch, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Christian)
• Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Founder, The C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation (Hinduism)
• Abbot Phra Paisal Vongvoravisit, Co-Founder, Sekiya Dhamma (Buddhism)
• Sir Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs, American Jewish Committee and Director, Heilbrunn Institute for International Interreligious Understanding (Judaism)
• H.E. Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor, Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (Catholic)
• Bishop Emeritus Gunnar Stålsett, Honorary President, Religions for Peace (Lutheran)
• Dr. Din Syamsuddin, Chairman, Center for Dialogue and Cooperation Among Civilizations (Islam)
• The Right Reverend Bishop Pierre W. Whalon, Bishop-In-Charge, Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe (Episcopal)

Interfaith Leaders
• Reverend Henrik Grape, Coordinator, Working Group on Climate Change, World Council of Churches
• Reverend Fletcher Harper: Executive Director, GreenFaith
• Dr. Kusumita Pedersen, Vice Chair, Parliament of the World’s Religions
• Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker: Director, Forum on Religion and Ecology, Yale University
• Dr. William F. Vendley: Secretary General, Religions for Peace

Academics and Experts
• Lars Løvold, Director, Rainforest Foundation Norway
• Dr. Antonio Donato Nobre, Visiting Scientist at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and Senior Researcher at the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA)
• Frances Seymour, Distinguished Senior Fellow, World Resources Institute

Among the questions to be addressed at the event:
• How do religious and spiritual teachings support the care and protection of rainforests, and how do they relate to environmental, socio-cultural and economic justifications for ending deforestation?
• How can religious and spiritual communities contribute to the battle to protect rainforests and stop deforestation? What are the specific actions on the ground undertaken by spiritual groups and mainstream religions to protect forests?
• Where are forests most under threat and what do spiritual and religious leaders, and their communities and constituencies, propose to do to protect them?
• What can indigenous forest communities teach that can help influence a world that judges the value of forests through the lens of price, utility, or efficiency?
• How does this initiative complement and add to other interfaith efforts?
• Why are the Norwegian government and civil society convening this event? Why now?
• What are the planned next steps for this initiative?

About Norway's International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI)
Since its launch in 2007, the Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) has cooperated with international partners, governments in forest and donor countries and a broad range of non-governmental organizations to reduce tropical deforestation and forest degradation.

About Rainforest Foundation Norway
Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) is one of the world's leading organizations in the field of rights-based rainforest protection. We support Indigenous Peoples and traditional populations in the three main rainforest regions of the world: the Amazon, the Congo basin and Southeast Asia. We work to counter drivers of deforestation, influence political, legal and economic framework conditions for rainforest management, and support rights-based sustainable forest management by forest-dependent local communities.

Learn more about the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative.


Breaking the Cycle of Crisis

From the World Bank http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/immersive-story/2017/06/07/breaking-th…

Thirty years ago, a million people in Ethiopia died in one of the worst famines in modern history – a disaster caused by conflict and drought.

Today, conflict and drought are again contributing to a crisis that has put 20 million people in four countries on the brink of famine. This time, Ethiopia is not among them. The country is still one of the world’s poorest. It is also coping with a devastating drought. But Ethiopia has been able to mute the impact by improving land and water management. It has also built resilience among people through a large safety net program supported by 11 donors including the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA).

Since the safety net was established it 2005, it has allowed Ethiopia to break a cycle of annual appeals for emergency food assistance. Over the past year, the already large program has expanded in response to the drought to provide food, or the cash to buy it, for 18.2 million people.

Such safety net programs are being used in 149 developing and emerging countries to address social and economic inequalities. They are also seen as a way to alleviate temporary hardships or even prevent humanitarian crises – such as those occurring right now in Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and North East Nigeria. These countries are facing famine or the risk of famine over the coming six months, according to the United Nations. An estimated 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from severe malnutrition.

And while famine can occur for numerous reasons, a common factor in the current famine is protracted conflict that has exacerbated vulnerabilities that existed before the crisis.

• In South Sudan, 1.9 million people have been internally displaced since December 2013, and another 1.7 million refugees have taken refuge in neighboring countries.
• In Yemen, conflict has disrupted the banking system and trade. The government has been unable to pay salaries or provide social benefits.
• In Somalia, the drought has worsened insecurity and driven unsafe migration known as ‘Tahrib’.
• In Northeast Nigeria, violence perpetrated by the terror group Boko Haram disrupted the supply of seeds, and unexploded devices in fields have prevented farmers from going back to planting.

What the World Bank is Doing
In response to the deteriorating situation in Sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim called for urgent action in March. “Famine is a stain on our collective conscience. Our first priority is to work with partners to make sure that families have access to food and water,” said Kim. “But we must recognize that famine will have lasting impacts on people’s health, ability to learn, and earn a living. So we will also continue to work with communities to reclaim their livelihoods and build resilience to future shocks. To prevent crises in the future, we must invest in addressing the root causes and drivers of fragility today and help countries build institutional and societal resilience.”

The Bank is mobilizing $1.8 billion to build social protection systems, such as safety nets, and to strengthen community resilience and maintain service delivery to the most vulnerable. More than $870 million from existing projects will be redirected to help communities threatened by famine in Northeast Nigeria and Yemen. In Nigeria, a series of projects is rebuilding institutions, re-establishing services and food supplies to encourage people to return to their homes. About $930 million will be used for emergency food security projects, safety-net programs and agriculture and water programs in South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya.

$283 million in grants from IDA, the Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, will respond to rising food insecurity in Yemen. That includes $125 million from the IDA Crisis Response Window to finance cash transfers to 1.5 million of the poorest households (about 8 million people) to enable them to purchase food, and to provide nutritious supplements to an additional 1 million of the most vulnerable Yemenis.

In Somalia, where over half the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, the World Bank is financing a $50 million emergency project to scale up the drought response and recovery effort in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Today, Bank projects in the poorest countries contain a mechanism to redirect funds for immediate response and recovery. IDA’s “Crisis Response Window” provides additional resources to help countries respond to severe economic stress, major natural disasters, public health emergencies, and epidemics.

Looking ahead, the Bank is working to shift from a focus on response to a culture of prevention by better leveraging its monitoring capacity, operational policies, and financing tools. The Bank is scaling up its work to address fragility, conflict and violence including detecting and preparing for risks before they become crises. The Bank also works with countries to promote climate-smart agricultural practices, which enrich soil and make it more resistant to drought, as well as crop diversification.

Working with Humanitarian and Peace Partners
As the crisis has unfolded, many in the international community have acknowledged that resolving this challenge amid conflict will require close collaboration among humanitarian, development, peacebuilding and security actors, as well as national governments and others.

Violent conflict has spiked dramatically globally since 2010. About 80% of humanitarian needs are now caused by protracted conflict, underscoring the urgent need for global partners to help reduce the occurrence and impact of such shocks.

“Our goal is to do all we can together – using information technology, financial innovations, and creative partnerships —to relegate famines to the history books and leave no one behind,” said Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank Group. Some partners are present in areas that the global community cannot reach. Other partners can play a diplomatic and political role to encourage political leadership to address the root causes of conflict.

“We will also keep the longer term resilience agenda front and center, to protect and stimulate markets and livelihoods as much as possible, even as we address immediate life-saving priorities,” said Georgieva.

To foster a comprehensive response, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and President Kim co-chaired a high-level meeting on famine and fragility in April, at the World Bank Group Spring Meetings in Washington DC. About 50 leaders of multilateral development banks, UN agencies, donor partners, nongovernmental organizations and others discussed ways to strengthen collaboration, especially on access, efficient delivery, and to mitigate and manage longer term risks.

The Bank and the UN also signed an agreement on April 22 to work together more closely to provide lifesaving support and build resilience for the most vulnerable people by reducing poverty, promoting shared prosperity, enhancing food security, and sustaining peace in crisis-affected situations.

“It’s critically important to help countries prepare for these crises,” said Kim. “We’re working with the affected countries and partners to help end the famine – and we will use every tool we have, including financial tools, to prevent famine in the future.”


Greening Africa’s Cities to Protect People and Growth

From the World Bank http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2017/06/01/greening-afri…

DAR ES SALAAM, June 1, 2017—A fast urbanizing Africa is rapidly degrading the environmental assets of its cities. Protecting those assets can increase the productivity and livability of these cities, improve tourism opportunities, and enhance resilience to the impacts of extreme weather events, according to a new World Bank report, released today, Greening Africa’s Cities.

Launched at the “Greening Africa’s Cities Symposium” held in Dar es Salaam, the report points out that unique features of Africa’s urbanization – such as substantially lower per capita incomes, high reliance on biomass fuels, extensive informal settlement with poor service levels, and the exposure of cities to environmental disasters, such as floods, is putting pressure on African cities’ natural environment and eroding the value of environmental assets – their green spaces, forests, and water resources.

“There is a significant risk that Africa’s cities may become locked into a ‘grow dirty now, clean up later’ development path that may be irreversible, costly, inefficient, and welfare-reducing,” said Roland White, Global Lead for City Management, Governance and Financing for the World Bank and lead author of the Greening Africa’s Cities report.

The report points out that there are important opportunities to change the trajectory that African cities are on to ensure those areas that will eventually be covered by the built environment are developed with a comprehensive green urban development strategy – one that tackles the core problems of pollution and waste, overconsumption of natural resources and eradication of ecosystems, and the diminishment of biodiversity. This agenda for action includes:
• Addressing the “Brown Agenda”, or providing basic sanitation and waste removal services in African cities to under-served populations
• Managing natural resource use
• Controlling traffic and vehicle emissions
• Controlling specific sources of pollution through prohibitions and incentives
• Protecting and restoring the natural environment within and around cities
• Combining engineering, spatial planning, environmental management and other interventions to produce greener outcomes for particular urban development interventions
• Investing in a greening program
• Strengthening institutions to manage green urban development
• Introducing financing instruments targeted at addressing environmental impacts at significant scale

“The degradation of natural assets and ecosystems within African cities carries tangible economic, fiscal, and social costs, including, increasing costs of water production, deteriorating human health, damaged infrastructure, reduced property values, and a loss of recreation and tourism value,” said Sanjay Srivastava, Lead Environment Specialist at the World Bank, and contributor to the report. “Fortunately, there are important opportunities to change the trajectory of African cities towards a more harmonious relationship between their natural and built environments. However, focused action is needed to make this to happen.” Bella Bird, World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Malawi, Burundi, and Somalia, pointed out that, “Green urban development approaches are a win-win for the environment and the people of cities. Using this approach African cities can be more cost-effective, while conserving natural capital. We can see in Tanzania, for example, that restoring forest areas and rehabilitating river systems could alleviate urban flooding problems, while also generating other economic and social benefits from reversing environmental degradation, and making cities more pleasant and productive places to live.”

The World Bank Group is working with countries around the world to help build resilience to the growing economic, environmental, and social challenges they face today. The Bank is working in partnership with the private sector, governments, and civil society in developing urban development strategies to build clean and efficient cities and communities that are resilient to natural disasters, and to create competitive economies that provide new kinds of jobs for people and ensure that everyone, especially the poorest, can benefit.


As Natural Disasters Rise, Countries Call for Action on
Resilient Crisis Recovery Planning

From the World Bank http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2017/06/06/as-natural-disaster…

June 6, 2017 Twenty million people across Africa and the Middle East are currently facing famine from a prolonged drought. Some affected countries, including Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, have more in common than vulnerability to recurring natural disasters and a changing climate – they also struggle with fragile political systems ravaged by conflict.

Disasters like this can cripple any country and erase hard-fought development gains. To prevent such devastation, whether social or economic, an effective framework for recovery must be in place before a disaster strikes. Such provisions are even more important in conflict-affected states, and are the focus of the third edition of the World Reconstruction Conference (WRC3) starting today and running through June 8, taking place in Brussels in conjunction with European Development Days 2017.

“For the World Bank, preparing countries to ably address risk and ‘build back better’ from disasters and conflict is central to our goal of sustainable development,” said Cyril Muller, Vice President of the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Region. “The World Reconstruction Conference is an important event for the World Bank to help further cement this shift toward planning for crisis situations and strengthening recovery systems in advance of a disaster.”

Ethiopia is an example of resilient crisis recovery planning. A country no stranger to drought, Ethiopia is acknowledging the importance of preparation and has a plan to fight famine before it starts. Armed with hard-learned lessons from previous droughts, the government, with World Bank support, has established one of the world’s largest safety-net programs, alongside other mechanisms, and can quickly expand coverage in times of crisis, protecting even its poorest residents.

Committed to action on disaster and conflict recovery, development partners including the World Bank-managed Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the European Union (EU), and the United Nations (UN) established the World Reconstruction Conference (WRC) in 2011.

Since the forum was first established, there has been a shift in how the international community, including GFDRR and the World Bank, approaches recovery. Rather than focusing on reconstruction alone, governments now integrate reducing disaster risk into long-term planning.

Furthering this work, the second WRC helped bring sharper focus on resilient recovery and "building back better" of the Sendai Framework to reduce vulnerabilities.

“The fragility situation in many parts of the world is becoming seriously exacerbated, and the impact of disasters due to natural hazards is increasing in magnitude and severity,” said Sameh Wahba, World Bank Director of Urban and Territorial Development, Disaster Risk Management, and Resilience. “From 2012 to 2014, 994 disasters affected more than 326 million people across the globe. Costs of physical damage caused by disasters are rising – from an estimated US$20 billion on average per year in the 1990s to about US$100 billion per year in the first decade of this century.”

Wahba added that “The World Reconstruction Conference is a call for action to prepare in advance for better disaster and crisis recovery, especially in fragile countries, and to up our game given the high stakes in terms of saving lives, livelihoods, and reducing economic impact. The World Bank and GFDRR are committed to supporting countries in focusing on this agenda.”

Alongside partners like the EU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank has performed post-disaster needs assessments in more than 40 countries, 26 of them fragile – an important first step in understanding how to implement recovery programs. Last year alone, GFDRR supported 17 fragile and conflictaffected countries’ resilience efforts through 35 grants worth $29 million.

Efforts like these are at the heart of WRC3, which convenes more than 500 practitioners from around the world to promote the resilience of countries when faced with disasters. As in previous years, it aims to ensure lessons from the field yesterday are applied to the recovery work of tomorrow. This year, many of those lessons are being shared on the online Recovery Hub platform, launched at the conference. This interactive online tool hosts knowledge documents from across five sectors, sharing insights from past recovery operations.

In addition, WRC3 provides an opportunity to discuss the initial version of a new Local Disaster Recovery Framework (LDRF) Guide, which aims to help local governments set up frameworks for recovery before a disaster strikes. The Guide, which draws on past examples from countries like Colombia, India, and Serbia, will be further refined based on input from WRC3 participants.

These tools serve as important repositories of knowledge, especially as the international community is still looking at how recovery can be implemented most successfully, and how disasters large and small affect countries in the long term.

“A disaster of any size is devastating for the people affected,” emphasized Muller, “but it is also a moment to correct processes that have created vulnerabilities, to ‘build back better’, and, ultimately, to ensure a more resilient future.”

Updated 17 June 2017