IEF contributions to UN Post 2015 thematic consultations

Submitted by Arthur Dahl on 28. April 2013 - 14:34

As part of the consultation on the Post-2015 agenda, the United Nations invited on-line comments on three themes related to Environmental Sustainability: Equality; Human Rights, Peace and Security; and Poverty. The IEF submitted comments on each of these themes, adapted from some of the statements it prepared for Rio+20. See


Equality and Youth

International Environment Forum contribution to UN online consultation on Environmental Sustainability

It is increasingly acknowledged today that inequality of opportunity is particularly affecting the young. They are more aware of the rising cost of climate change; the erosion of biodiversity and the wealth of nature; the destruction of soils, forests and water supplies; the contamination of the planet by wastes and pollution; and the profligate wasting of the limited supplies of fossil fuels that created wealth in the immediate past while threatening the future. An emerging generation that sees growing extremes of wealth and poverty and that faces prospects much worse than their parents risks being driven to social unrest. The economic crises and social movements that have shaken many countries in the last few years underlie the desperate search of young people for hope and meaning in the face of environmental threats, lack of employment opportunities, shrinking economies and social disruption.

To resolve the economic inequalities and their consequences in the world today, the younger generations must re-examine certain relationships and fundamental concepts that currently sustain society and its structures, such as the relationships amongst and between nation states and the very concept of sovereignty itself; the true purpose of life; the nature of progress; the meaning of true happiness and well-being; the place that material pursuits should assume in one's individual and family life; and the role of youth as contributors to planetary well-being.

Social justice will be attained only when every member of society enjoys a relative degree of material prosperity and gives due regard to the development of spiritual capabilities. The solution, then, to prevailing economic difficulties is to be sought as much in the application of ethical and spiritual principles as in the implementation of scientific methods and evidence-based approaches that ensure material prosperity.

A host of negative forces, generated by the materialism and corruption so widespread in the world, present a challenge in upholding standards of ethical and moral conduct with respect to financial affairs. Everyone, particularly the youth, would do well to ponder the difference between gaining wealth through earnest effort on the one hand, and, on the other, obtaining it without exertion or through dishonourable means. To counter rampant corruption and deceit, the youth of the world should distinguish themselves through a moral rectitude of conduct so refined that it will radically transform the unjust relationships that perpetuate global poverty and the concentration of wealth by a few. They should explore possibilities for generating income and acquiring wealth that will ensure true happiness through the development of spiritual qualities, such as honesty, trustworthiness, generosity, justice, and consideration for others, and the recognition that material means are to be expended for the betterment of the world.

Today the world is assailed by an array of destructive forces. Materialism has now spread to every corner of the planet, breeding, in the name of a strong global economy and human welfare, a culture of consumerism. It skillfully and ingeniously promotes a habit of consumption that seeks to satisfy the basest and most selfish desires, while encouraging the expenditure of wealth so as to prolong and exacerbate social conflict. One result is a deepening confusion on the part of young people everywhere, a sense of hopelessness in the ranks of those who would drive progress, and the emergence of a myriad social maladies.

The key to resolving these social ills rests in the hands of a youthful generation convinced of the nobility of all human beings; eagerly seeking a deeper understanding of the true purpose of existence; clear in the view of science and religion as two independent yet complementary systems of knowledge that propel human progress; conscious of and drawn to the beauty and power of unity in diversity; secure in the knowledge that real glory is to be found in service to one's country and to the peoples of the world; and mindful that the acquisition of wealth is praiseworthy only insofar as it is attained through just means and expended for benevolent purposes, for the promotion of knowledge and toward the common good. Beyond 2015, the youth of the world should prepare themselves to shoulder the tremendous responsibilities that await them, immune to the atmosphere of greed that surrounds them.

Reference: adapted from "Youth need reasons to hope from Rio+20". International Environment Forum/ebbf joint statement to UNCSD, June 2012,


Environmental migration and resource security

International Environment Forum contribution to UN online consultation on Environmental Sustainability

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. 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 political, economic and social tension and human rights violations.

To prepare the public for this growing challenge, governments and civil society organizations should 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 among peoples of diverse origins and cultures. Faith-based groups should explore the implications of their teachings about welcoming guests and strangers. The aim should be to replace the present rejection of immigrants by solidarity with the victims of climate change and other environmental disasters, and a welcoming of displaced persons as new protagonists in building diverse and sustainable communities.

It is essential to be proactive to prevent increasing humanitarian crises, widespread human suffering and additional environmental impacts. The international community should begin now to organize an appropriate international response to forced environmental migration, including its institutional, financial and humanitarian dimensions.

One priority is to undertake scientific assessments of the human carrying capacity of different regions of the world and anticipated changes in that capacity 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.

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

Ultimately it will be necessary to establish a mechanism under the United Nations to facilitate the free movement of people, similar in function to the World Trade Organization encouraging the free movement of goods in trade. This intergovernmental mechanism would negotiate a lowering of barriers to immigration, and facilitate the settlement of environmental migrants among countries able to receive them. There should be a financial mechanism to ensure that the costs of resettlement are equitably shared by the international community.

Another threat to peace that is widely acknowledged is the increasing risk of conflict as we reach planetary limits to food production, water supplies, essential minerals and energy supplies. Market mechanisms fall short, because rising prices may distribute scarce resources more efficiently, but the poor always lose out. Global mechanisms should be put into place now to ensure the equitable distribution of resources essential to peoples' survival and well-being, before we risk widespread social unrest and mass starvation.

Reference: adapted in part from "Preparing for Environmental Migration", International Environment Forum statement to UNCSD, June 2012,


Community science for the poor

International Environment Forum contribution to UN online consultation on Environmental Sustainability

While international economic imbalances need to be addressed, the focus of poverty alleviation linked to environmental sustainability should be at the local community level. The poor are usually the first victims of environmental mismanagement, whether globally through climate change or in the exploitation of natural resources. The poor should be empowered to address their own priorities in meeting their needs, reducing their vulnerability and managing their environment, rather than building dependence on outside assistance or charity.

The foundation of human development is our inherent capacity to learn, so education is fundamental, starting with mothers who are the first educators of their children, and who are most directly engaged with environmental resources through food production, collecting water and fuel, and waste disposal and sanitation.

Science and technology should be accessible to the poor through appropriate education. Most technological development today is driven by market forces that neither reflect nor respond to the basic needs of the poor. To be able to contribute to sustainability, the poor 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 are based on similar processes of observation and experimentation, so all can contribute to sustainable community development. Institutional capacity and learning processes should be developed within poor communities to create and apply knowledge in ways that address their specific needs.

A new focus is needed on science at the community level where it can reach the poor. Community and neighbourhood educational programmes should stimulate community consultation on the science and ethics of environmental responsibility, local vulnerability to climate change, sustainable use of energy and resources, and local environmental management. Science and indigenous knowledge systems should be integrated in defining sustainable environmental management adapted to local conditions and cultures and to community needs. These community processes should be supported and encouraged by regional centres 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 the community.

Communities should also take a more direct role in preventing poverty by providing for those locally in need, such as through a village storehouse or fund that would receive a graduated percentage of local production surpluses and provide for the poor and those unable to work. This could also compensate farmers whose crops have failed, and cushion the impact of the increased variability caused by climate change.

Reference: adapted in part from "Science and Technology for Community Empowerment", International Environment Forum statement to UNCSD, June 2012,