Social Change toward Universal Solidarity with a System of Accountability
By Christine Muller
For more than a year, several groups coordinated by ebbf (Ethical Business Building the Future) and IEF (International Environment Forum) have been brainstorming, researching, and consulting about finding alternative ways of accounting beyond GDP, searching for a system that would measure what really matters - human and environmental well-being. I have personally struggled hard to find a path forward. Here I will briefly share my process of thinking and where it is now, namely with an "accountability system for global solidarity", not an accounting system.
The conversations we have had with the ebbf/IEF groups were meaningful and often profound. The field is immensely vast and there are qualified scientists and other experts who are already collecting data on quantifiable dimensions from child mortality to the abundance - and lack of it - of plant and animal species. Moreover, there are already many different alternative systems that account for different aspects of human happiness and environmental health. We were thinking very hard about how to incorporate spiritual principles, ethical values, and qualitative aspects of human and environmental well-being such as social cohesion, trust between people and between people and government, and the protection of the commons such as the Earth’s climate and oceans. However, it seemed to me to be impossible to convert these important qualitative aspects into measurable entities and to bring them all under one hat - one accounting system. We honestly tried!
I came to the conclusion that everything converges to this teaching of Baha'u'llah: "Let your vision be world-embracing rather than confined to your own self." In secular terms, this concept is often expressed as solidarity. We could call it global solidarity because it must encompass all of humankind. We could also call it universal solidarity which more easily encompasses all life forms.
This teaching of a world-embracing vision, of global solidarity, can guide an individual’s approach to life; it is a prerequisite for spiritual progress. But more importantly, it must become the foundation for a healthy society. It must become the guiding principle of governance from the local to the international level.
We can ask the following questions:
- To what extent does a government on any level care about the well-being of present and future generations?
- To what extent do nation states care about global well-being?
- To what extent do people care about others, be they in their neighborhood, state, or in a different country?
- To what extent do people and planet come before profit and economic considerations?
With the implementation of solidarity, the following objectives could be achieved:
- The basic needs of everyone would be met, and all people would have access to education and the opportunity to develop their potential to serve the common good.
- The protection of the commons and environmental sustainability in all aspects would be assured.
- People would become more willing to sacrifice for others such as by living more simply and consuming less.
All of this is not easily measurable. So, my thinking now is that it may be more important and effective to address universal education for global solidarity than an accounting system. Such education needs to happen both from the grassroots up by teachers, as well as from the top down, by United Nations Agencies, political leaders, and by a deliberate effort by the media everywhere, as if our life depends on it because it really does.
The big question remains - how could this idea be implemented?
Could an accountability system be developed that would report on a nation's state of universal solidarity? It would include the evaluation of practices in the past and the present regarding global solidarity and would report about efforts for improvement toward more solidarity. Such reports would include the state of solidarity in all the important dimensions of human and environmental well-being. Reporting about the extent to which global solidarity is considered in political and business decisions, and about how much solidarity has become part of a society’s culture, could not only contribute to the educational efforts and motivate change, but more importantly, it could help accountability across the world. This might even result in a positive peer pressure among nations to strive for more global solidarity.
A cultural orientation toward universal solidarity is also a prerequisite for the proper implementation of any accounting system that measures human and environmental well-being with concrete indicators, if such a system can be developed.