Leaves 21(7) - July 2019


Newsletter of the
 Volume 21, Number 7 --- 15 July 2019




Website: iefworld.org
Article submission: newsletter@iefworld.org Deadline next issue 13 August 13 2019
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Unity in Action: Reclaiming the Spirit of the Sustainable Development Agenda

A statement of the Baha’i International Community to the 2019 ECOSOC High Level Segment
NEW YORK—2 July 2019

More apparent today than ever before in human history is one simple truth: that the peoples of the world constitute a single human race living in a common global homeland. The interconnection inherent in this reality is evident on all sides. The lives of multitudes around the world are impacted by agreements reached in far-off capitals and centers of commerce. So too, even the greatest beneficiaries of the current global order find their personal circumstances increasingly influenced by the hopes and aspirations—all too often frustrated—of the masses of humanity. The welfare of any one segment of humankind, it becomes clear, is inextricably bound up with the welfare of the whole. This is the foundation for progress and lasting development today. 

Such interdependence, or what we refer to as the oneness of humankind, calls for conscious expansion of the bounds of empathy and concern. Yet dominant currents everywhere are pushing people apart, not drawing them together. Competing ideologies and struggles for power proliferate as various groups strive to define themselves, their place in the world, and how they should act. And rival conceptions about the primacy of particular peoples are advanced to the exclusion of the truth that humanity is on a common journey in which all are protagonists. 

Despite these trends, the international community has achieved commendable consensus around the form of the Sustainable Development Goals as articulated in their various targets and indicators. Yet translating those aspirations into lived reality will require a tremendous expansion of Agenda 2030’s “spirit of strengthened global solidarity”. Crucial in this regard will be ensuring that recognition of the interconnected nature of humanity is a principal consideration in both policy-making and action. 

Agenda 2030 provides useful guidance on how this can be achieved. Calling for “collaborative partnership” among all stakeholders, it commits signatories to “inter-cultural understanding, tolerance, mutual respect and an ethic of global citizenship and shared responsibility.” Yet such ideals must transcend rhetoric and find greater expression in the working processes of global affairs if meaningful change is to be achieved. This requires, for example, the practice of holistic collaboration, inclusive processes, and mutual respect across every race, class, nationality, and religion. Decision-making and planning, execution and assessment—every facet of the global development endeavor—must be organized to reflect the conviction that every people has a unique and vital role to play in the advancement of civilization. This is work that must be carried forward at every level of governance, as well as through the efforts of civil society organizations, local communities, and individuals themselves. In this way can more unified patterns of interaction be built, and Agenda 2030’s “transformational vision” take on greater life and meaning.


Four years into the 2030 Agenda, the world is getting ready to assess efforts to achieve the SDGs

In preparation for the now ongoing 2019 High-level Political Forum (HLPF), ECOSOC prepared this inspiring two minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP6dd6NdJ-o

Quality education, decent work, equality, a livable climate, justice and partnerships - these are the goals under review this year and 47 countries are ready to take the stage to present their efforts. ECOSOC President Inga Rhonda King stressed that the "2019 High-level Political Forum (HLPF) is a milestone as it finishes the first four-year cycle since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda". Expected to gather more than a thousand participants from around the globe, this year's HLPF on Sustainable Development is taking place at UN Headquarters in New York on 9-18 July 2019.


Transforming Our World in Harmony with Nature

Representatives of mainly UN ECOSOC accredited organizations as well as individuals wrote an excellent report on Integrating Nature while Implementing the UN's 2019 Sustainable Development Goals.
Here are some excerpts from the Introduction and Executive Summary:

“Human beings are a part of Nature. Each of us is a tiny node affecting the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere and the geosphere that together constitute the Earth System with every breath we take, everything we consume, the waste we produce and the actions we do—or do not—take. When the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that lie at the heart of Transforming Our World, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN Member States recognized that “The goals are integrated and indivisible and balance the economic, social and environmental.” While the people that make up societies and the goods and services that constitute economies originate with Nature, the forms they take, are created by human beings. Human beings are thus able to stand apart and analyse these to determine what changes to make. But people are a minuscule part of Nature. While we can—and are—affecting the planetary boundaries that can support human life, we are unable to stand apart from the vast mysterious forces that inspire Life and Creation within the Universe we inhabit. Living in harmony with Nature requires a more integrated use of our mental faculties. For this reason, the Partnership on the Rights of Nature: Integrating Nature into the Implementation of the SDGs consists of a range of professionals from quite diverse disciplines: Academics, Indigenous Peoples, people who live from the land and Nature Communicators.

If we truly want to protect, restore, and promote the sustainable use of both natural resources and the natural environment while achieving all of the various SDGs, we will have to shift from the mind-set of controlling Nature to a mind-set of learning from Nature how to sustain existence in cooperation with all life. This will require that we teach and include education for sustainable development in as many schools as possible all over the world, as well as through the use of diverse media. Since the Earth System is one indivisible whole, it will also be necessary to make an assessment of the entire planet including all of its waterways and waterbodies, the terrestrial areas, the desert, and the quality of the air in order to determine where our attention and focus is most urgently needed.

By taking responsibility for the well-being of the entire planet we can join as one global community to own the impact of our activities from the past, understand the challenges we face today, and create a new beginning where together we can solve the challenges and issues which ultimately impact every human being. History has shown that when we come together knowing the issues and take responsibility for the challenges and for resolving them, miraculous changes may occur. Feeling, listening, and considering the planet before taking action will bring clarity and understanding. The result will be a discontinuation of destructive actions and practices, a renewal of vitality of the earth, a thriving diversity of species, and a sense of pride and joy in community.

This is the link to the full report: http://www.allwinnetwork.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Transforming-Ou…;            


Statement delivered by IEF Member Willy Missack on behalf of the NGO Major Group at the UN HLPF, 10 July

Madam chair, distinguished panelists, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to take this opportunity to address two key issues:

  • Responding to the challenges in the current global milieu through a process of empowerment
  • and the importance of education in order to promote inclusive development.

At the heart of everything we are discussing today is local ownership and commitment. If international agendas, such as the SDGs and the SAMOA pathway are to deliver on their promises to the peoples of the world, they must be embraced by those in villages and neighborhoods, and translated by them into reality. How, then is such ownership built?

Experience has demonstrated that this often begins with youth. The qualities at this stage of life are naturally geared towards justice and action. We must channel and learn from this spirit.Empowering young people to create change is key to building ownership. This involves a variety of factors and elements, but one of particular importance is a holistic educational process, process that strengthens human resources with qualities of respect, honesty, service to humanity, humility, and truthfulness — as well as intellectual capacities.

Building these capacities allows a population to make use of external resources in ways that recognize their own abilities and does not create dependency. This is vital. While we know there will need to be a much more equitable distribution of material resources in a more just and equal world, the transfer of resources leads to lasting progress only to the degree that it supports a process of local populations taking ownership of their own path of development.  

One example of such a process that has arisen in the Pacific Islands is that of the Preparation for Social Action program. This program seeks to empower youth by making math, science, language, community development and technology applicable to young people’s everyday lives, in part by integrating those academic skills with the moral and spiritual capabilities needed to live a life of service to the common good. Its curriculum is both conceptual and action-oriented, integrating study with community building activities.

In places where this program has flourished, two populations, so often considered recipients of aid, have shown how they are in reality the drivers of development: the youth, and the islanders ourselves.

While external support is always welcome and indeed vital given the global challenges we face, it must be done in a way that recognizes the inherent capacities of the populations themselves. We have found that when approached in this way, a population can be prepared to address a range of challenges, whether they be unemployment, violence against women, and even natural disasters and the effects of climate change. This is central to truly sustainable development.                                 


Spotlight Report on Sustainable Development 2019

Since 2016, the Civil Society Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has published the yearly Spotlight Report, assessing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the structural obstacles to its realization, with a particular focus on the rich and powerful. In assessing progress, the report not only focuses on policy incoherence, but analyses and assesses the extent to which policies are framed by the ambitious principles of the 2030 Agenda, particularly the human rights framework, and the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.

It offers analysis and recommendations on how to strengthen inclusive and participatory governance and to overcome structural and institutional obstacles and gaps in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. In doing this, it poses a challenge and a call to action to world leaders just in advance of the SDG Summit in September 2019.

The report consists of three parts: The first contains two overview articles, which highlight key insights of the contributions to this report and messages from national ‘spotlight reports’. The second includes five chapters on cross-cutting governance reform areas that demonstrate the interlinkages between various SDGs and the need to ‘de-silo’ current policy approaches. The third comprises 17 brief ‘Spotlights on the SDGs’, highlighting selected examples of good or bad governance regarding specific goals.

What all contributions have in common is their fundamental critique of underlying social structures, power relations and governance arrangements. Thus, meaningfully tackling the obstacles and contradictions in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs requires more holistic and more sweeping shifts in how and where power is vested, including through institutional, legal, social, economic and political commitments to realizing human rights.

The report covers many relevant topics such as

  • Democratic global governance: if it doesn’t challenge power it isn’t democratic
  • Human Rights in the 2030 Agenda: putting justice and accountability at the core of sustainable development governance
  • Initiatives to reduce the production and consumption of plastics
  • Cornerstones of the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework
  • Governing for gender equality and peace? Or perpetual violence and conflict?
This is the link to the full report:


Members Corner

Would you like to support IEF? – It will not take much time!

You have the option to volunteer just once or a few times a year or more regularly, such as every month. There are many opportunities to serve:
IEF is in need of members who contribute to this newsletter. While all members are encouraged to share their stories and experiences in the field of sustainable development in the newsletter, we need some members who would enjoy doing the following specific tasks:

  • Write summaries of relevant articles or books
  • Write reports on events and conferences
  • Edit the newsletter
  • Gather materials of interest
  • Arrange the layout for the pdf edition
  • Convert the newsletter into html
If any of the above interests you, please, contact the IEF secretariat at ief@iefworld.org

Does Humanity Have a Future?

Announcement of Talk by Paul Hanley

IEF member Paul Hanley will be speaking at the Baha'i Center, 3644 Chicago Ave, in Minneapolis MN on 26 July, 7pm.
An IEF review of his book "Eleven" is at https://iefworld.org/index.php/node/854.

His more recent biography of "Man of the Trees: Richard St.Barbe Baker, the first global conservationist" is reviewed at https://iefworld.org/index.php/node/946.                                   


Bringing the Insights of Religion into Development

From the Bahá’í World News Service, 28 June 2019

BRUSSELS — Last week, Europe’s foremost annual conference on social and economic development brought together more than 8,000 participants, among them societal leaders and non-governmental organizations, to tackle the issue of global inequalities.

The conference, called European Development Days (EDD), reflected a shift that is occurring in development thinking. There is a growing recognition that social and economic development should not be viewed as an activity one group carries out for another. Nor is it any more viable to ignore the spiritual aspirations and convictions of a population and the vital contribution religion makes to development.

“It is not acceptable to see the masses of humanity as passive recipients of aid,” explained Rachel Bayani, representative of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) and moderator of one of the EDD panel discussions called “What’s religion got to do with it?”, held on 18 June. “Whatever the nature of the support from outside, development activity should emerge from within a community and belong to the people and institutions that are implementing it.”

Co-organized by World Vision International, ACT Alliance, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Brot für die Welt, EU-CORD Network, and the BIC, the panel explored how religious groups and faith-based organizations constitute a major component of local capacity in many settings.

“Faith and religion are what motivate most people in the world, for good or for ill. It’s hard to see how a development activity can emerge and belong to the people on the ground if those essential elements are not part of the equation,” Mrs. Bayani asserted in her opening remarks.

Six panelists from Europe, South America, and Asia, joined a packed room in a discussion that sought to move beyond simplistic conceptions of religion as either good or bad in the context of development. The discussion conveyed a more nuanced understanding, allowing for a genuine exploration of religion’s potential for constructive transformation. 

Rev. Christo Greyling of World Vision International described the importance of working with local faith communities to create development policies and practices together, taking into consideration the aspirations, hopes, and beliefs of the true stakeholders—local populations. “You need to start specifically with the universal principles of the values that they already agreed on, values such as the dignity of human being, the need to stand up for justice,” Rev. Greyling said.

The importance of empowering local populations was echoed by other panelists, such as Henriette Geiger, with the European Commission's Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development: “Nothing can be imposed from the outside. You can only work with what you have locally.”

Other speakers highlighted the need to decouple religion and tradition and to see that many prevalent beliefs and practices in a population do not originate from religious scripture. “We need to read and understand the texts with more progressive and open minds and think of what is real religion, which is about spiritual things … and not go into the trap of tradition that is presented as religion,” said Mohammad Abou Zeid, a senior judge from the Family Court of Saida, Lebanon.

The space opened a rich discussion between religious actors and policymakers, bridging a historical divide that has proven unproductive and harmful for meaningful progress. More than 70 people attended the event. The panel discussion can be heard here.


Restoring Forests

Summary by Arthur Dahl

Beyond phasing out fossil fuels and halting deforestation, restoring forested land at a global scale could help capture atmospheric carbon and mitigate climate change.

A new study by Bastin et al. from ETH-Zurich and FAO and published in Science on 5 July 2019 calculates the global tree restoration potential to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. They used direct measurements of forest cover to generate a model with spatially explicit maps to show how much additional tree cover could exist outside of existing forests and agricultural and urban land. Such ecosystem restoration on degraded forest lands could support an additional 0.9 billion hectares of continuous forest. This would represent a greater than 25% increase in forested area, including more than 500 billion trees and more than 200 gigatonnes (billion tons) of additional carbon at maturity. Such a change has the potential to cut the atmospheric carbon pool by about 25%. Such efforts to protect and restore native ecosystems would help to counter both climate change and biodiversity loss.

Forest Cover

A map of the potential for tree cover, excluding desert, agricultural and urban areas.

Human activity has left 300 gigatons of extra carbon in the atmosphere, and is adding about 10 gigatons per year that will keep warming the planet even if we halt further emissions. There are no proven technologies to remove this carbon from the atmosphere at the necessary scale, but trees do this naturally and store carbon both above and below ground. Many areas were stripped of their tree cover by logging, or were cleared for agriculture but later abandoned. Areas that are currently used as urban or agricultural land, or that would naturally be grasslands or wetlands, are not included because these ecosystems themselves store carbon and support biodiversity.

Restoring forests on all appropriate land not required for other uses has been estimated in the study to reduce up to two thirds of the excess atmospheric carbon when they reach maturity. At 30 cents a tree, this would cost about $300 billion, much less than alternative approaches. The world's forests would increase by about a third, giving the planet more than a trillion extra trees and 900 million hectares of additional tree canopy, an area about the size of the United States.

Most of the land suitable for restoring forests is in six countries: Russia (151 million hectares), USA (103 million hectares), Canada (78 million), Australia (58 million), Brazil (50 million), and China (40 million). But climate change could reduce the amount of land suitable for supporting new forests by a fifth by 2050. While a warmer climate could increase tree cover in northern areas, such as Siberia, it could shrink denser forests in tropical regions. The models of future tree cover have high uncertainty, and do not consider potential loss of forest for pasture or cattle raising, or tropical deforestation by people and wildfires. Deforestation is currently removing about 15 billion trees each year. Nevertheless, the study shows that tree planting and forest restoration, preferably with diverse native species, are obvious actions everyone can take to combat climate change, even if it will take decades to have a real impact.

Sources: Jean-Francois Bastin, Yelena Finegold, Claude Garcia, Danilo Mollicone, Marcelo Rezende, Devin Routh, Constantin M. Zohner, and Thomas W. Crowther. 2019. The global tree restoration potential. Science 365(6448): 76-79. 5 July 2019. DOI: 10.1126/science.aax0848
Mark Tutton (CNN) 5 July 2019. Restoring forests could capture two-thirds of the carbon humans have added to the atmosphere.


The 10 Green Commandments of Laudato Si'

Recording of Webinar

Pope Francis’ second encyclical, “On Care for Our Common Home,” asks “every person living on this planet” to begin a dialogue about the the future of our world. The discussion will be a multi-faith perspective on how the religious community is responding to the climate crisis. Where is leadership coming from for this movement and how is it advancing? How can it be accelerated?

This series, sponsored by the Hanley Foundation, is led by the Parliament of the World's Religions and co-hosted by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Interfaith Power and Light, and Green Muslims of New Jersey (GMNJ).

The webinar features Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam SDB, author of The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si’. Professor Rachel Mikva, Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Chair & Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, and Senior Faculty Fellow of the InterReligious Institute at the Chicago Theological Seminary, and Saffet Abid Catovic is a United States Muslim Environmental Leader of Bosnian-Anglo descent. He is one of the first GreenFaith Muslim Fellows and is Co-founder and Chair of the Green Muslims of New Jersey (GMNJ).

This is the link to the webinar: https://vimeo.com/343079607


Latest Global Population Trends Revealed

From the Newsletter of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
Volume 23, No.7 - July 2019

The world's population is expected to increase by 2 billion persons in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050, according to the World Population Prospects 2019, which was published by UN DESA's Population Division on 17 June 2019. The report, providing a comprehensive overview of global demographic patterns and prospects, concluded that the world's population could reach its peak around the end of the current century, at a level of nearly 11 billion.

For more information, check out Latest global population trends revealed

Updated 15 July 2019