INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
17 December 2003 – 16 October 2004
SEVENTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
The 7th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum (IEF) was held in Orlando, Florida, USA in conjunction with the 2003 Bahá'í Development Seminar and Conference on Social and Economic Development (SED) for the Americas, organized by the Rabbani Trust (www.rabbanitrust.org). Over 1,000 people participated in the SED conference. The IEF component consisted of four breakout sessions and one plenary lecture during the seminar, an Environmental Interest Group networking session, and two breakout sessions during the conference, each repeated twice to permit maximum participation. With assistance from the NSA of the US and Rabbani Trust, the IEF had brought in a keynote speaker, Gary Gardner of the Worldwatch Institute, who contributed to the plenary session and attended most of the breakout sessions. There were 30-50 participants in most IEF sessions. The IEF Conference this year focused on education for sustainable development and was intended to provide materials and approaches for community involvement in the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development to begin in 2005. The conference was preceded by an IEF electronic conference using e-mail involving 38 participants from 16 countries. The reports are available on the IEF web site at http://www.bcca.org/ief/conf7.htm.
7TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The 7th General Assembly was held on 17 December 2003 in Orlando, Florida. The Board put a proposal to the Assembly to change the By-Laws in order to increase the membership of the Board from five to seven. The purpose of this was to share work-load better. The General Assembly approved this. In the election for the new Board, 23 votes were cast, 6 of which came via email. The following members were elected (with the results of the election of officers within the Board listed): Arthur Dahl (President, Switzerland), Peter Adriance (USA), Sylvia Karlsson (General Secretary, USA), Irma Allen (Swaziland), Roxanne Lalonde (Zambia), Gail Lash (Recording Secretary, USA), and Lloyd Brown (USA). The consultations centred on the implementation of the IEF's five year plan. Specific themes raised were how the educational working group may be regionalized into continental groups, the need for us to do something on trees/tree-planting, whether we should change the organization's name, and the representation of IEF at future United Nations meetings (particularly the Commission on Sustainable Development).
The Board has had the following meetings: a physical meeting in Orlando 21 December 2003, and electronic meetings 10 January - 4 March, and 30 July - 22 September 2004. Meeting participation: Peter Adriance (3 of 3); Irma Allen (3 of 3); Lloyd Brown (3 of 3); Arthur Dahl (3 of 3); Sylvia Karlsson (2 of 3); Roxanne Lalonde (3 of 3) and Gail Lash (2 of 3).
This year's board activities have been limited in number although important and relatively time consuming. The Board prepared the application for ECOSOC accreditation which was submitted at the end of May 2004. It organised the team and activities for CSD 12, the planning for the 8th annual conference in Greece in October 2004, a workshop at the Association for Bahá'í Studies conference in Calgary, and a two day seminar to be held at the Rabbani Trust conference in Orlando in December 2004. It also kept in contact with members and working groups. The Board has suffered from both extensive travel as well as lack of time among its members which has hampered its ability to provide a more proactive role to initiate new activities and delegate tasks. One example is that the work on the IEF book publication has unfortunately been at a virtual standstill for this reason. Another is that the Board simply continued the working groups and did not give them updated mandates even though it has had consultations on their work.
Incoming emails have numbered over 150 during the administrative period, outgoing over 180. This does not include correspondence on specific issues such as conference planning, the newsletter, preparation of CSD attendance and the internal emails among the Board members (around 300).
COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 12
Although the IEF does not yet have ECOSOC accreditation, as an NGO which had been accredited to the WSSD we were allowed to participate in the 12th session of the Commission of Sustainable Development that took place in April 2004. The IEF sent a delegation of four members to the meeting: Elisabeth Bowen, Arthur Dahl, Mark Griffin, and Sylvia Karlsson, where two stayed the whole 2 weeks and two stayed one week. The special themes of CSD 12 were human settlements, water and sanitation and it was a significant advantage to have people in the team who were experts on this.
The IEF co-sponsored a reception with the Baha'i International Community and a range of other NGOs on the theme of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. It was very successful, well attended and provided a very nice atmosphere for networking among the diverse participants. The IEF issued two statements on the themes of the meeting (http://www.bcca.org/ief/iefcsd12.htm). These were given personally to interested people in some meetings, put on some tables and printed in the widely spread newsletter Outlook issued by the Stakeholder Forum for Our Common Future. The IEF took the initiative to request a meeting with the official representatives of the Scientific and Technological Community to talk about how we could support their activities. The meeting was attended by officials of the International Council for Science (ICSU), the World Federation of Engineering Organization, United Nations University, and the CSD Secretariat. The broad competence of the IEF delegation who represented the natural, social, health and engineering sciences was a great asset in the discussions. As a result of the meeting ICSU agreed to put the IEF President on their email list for the Scientific and Technological Major Group.
The IEF delegation members followed a number of the intergovernmental deliberations, took part in a number of caucuses or working groups among NGOs, particularly those on water, education and energy, and attended and spoke in side events.
PARTICIPATION IN THE UN DECADE OF EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (2005-2014)
In anticipation of the approaching UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, many organizations, including the IEF, have begun preparing and organizing within and across sectors. The 7th annual IEF conference was the organization's initial response to the announcement of the Decade and reflected its members' enthusiastic interest in the idea. Four months later, a reception, co-sponsored by IEF during CSD-12, facilitated networking among a range of organizations with interests in the Decade. This summer, the UN Education Caucus recognized the IEF's web pages as an excellent resource for the Decade. And this fall, the seminars in Calgary and Orlando, plus the annual conference in Greece are all tied thematically to the Decade. Plans are now underway for the IEF to support the holding of a Wilmette Institute on-line course, focused on sustainability, in October 2005, the launch year for the Decade. These initial activities reflect IEF's commitment to education for sustainable development and its intention to work with others to leverage the Decade toward that end.
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE UNITED NATIONS
The Board had already the previous year decided to explore the possibility of obtaining consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) and a letter of intent had been submitted to them. This year it was time to finalise the application package, which was done and submitted before the 1 June deadline. The decision will not come before 2005, at the earliest.
The Board decided in the previous year to appoint Issue Monitors -- IEF members who accept the task of following the international discussions and keeping abreast of his/her topic (biodiversity, water, climate etc.). This year the first small steps to implement this were made, appointing the first issue monitor for water and sanitation, Mark Griffin, who could also most appropriately attend the CSD on this theme.
The Consumer Citizenship Network
is a thematic network of 124 institutions from 29 countries funded by the
European Union in cooperation with UNESCO, UNEP and international
citizenship and consumer organizations. It is an interdisciplinary network
of educators who have a common interest in consumer citizenship. IEF was
invited to participate in the Network's first international conference “Using,
choosing or creating the future?” at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on
March 1-2 2004. The 130 participants at conference considered what
consumer citizens need to know to make responsible decisions, and what can
be done to ensure global equity, compatibility and sustainable
consumption, leading to a civilization characterized by qualities of
justice, good governance, generosity and caring.
The conference themes were:
How can the consumer citizen deal with the ethical challenges of prosperity?
How can the media and ICT be constructive tools for the consumer citizen?
What are the consumer citizen's rights and responsibilities as regards food, transport, housing, energy use and personal finances?
What contributions can the European consumer citizen make towards the eradication of poverty in the world?
How can awareness and social involvement be stimulated in the consumer citizen?
The conference aimed to integrate sustainable development into educational systems at all levels in preparation for the International Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
IEF member Victoria Thorensen, conference chair and CCN Project Manager, received the Tower Award as the best European Consumer Educator of the year. In addition to Victoria's opening lecture on "Using, Choosing, or Creating the Future?", there were two opening keynote lectures, first by Prof. Bedrich Moldan (who was a keynote speaker at the 6th IEF Conference and a panelist at an IEF event in our 7th Conference in Johannesburg) on "Rethinking extravagance - consumption patterns in light of global disparities", and a second by Sherif Rushdy of Bangalore, India, on "Revising responsibilities - value-based education as a tool". Sherif Rushdy is a Baha'i who has developed educational materials at the New Era Development Institute, including books on the environment (Pre-primary school teachers guide on environmental education; "The Fruits of One Tree", teachers guide to environmental education for children (5-8 yrs); "Learning About My Tree", an adult training manual on tree planting). IEF was officially represented at the conference by its president, Arthur Dahl, who gave a workshop presentation on "Science and Values as complementary foundations for consumer citizenship". Many other papers were on ethics, and another keynote speaker spoke of justice and love, so there was a strong orientation towards ethics and spirituality throughout the conference.
The IEF received some good publicity at the Parliament of the World's Religions held in Barcelona 7-13 July 2004. The NSA of Spain asked IEF President Arthur Dahl to participate, along with a number of prominent Baha'is. Arthur was a panelist in a special half-day event organized by the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia in the auditorium of Gaudi's La Perdrera, one of the most prestigious buildings in the city, intended as outreach from the Parliament to the Barcelona community. The theme was "Can religions and ecologists understand each other?" Arthur spoke immediately after Professor Mary Evelyn Tucker (organizer of the Harvard series on Religion and Environment), followed by Gary Gardner of the Worldwatch Institute (and keynote speaker at last year's IEF conference) and others. As a result, Arthur was interviewed for the local UNESCO magazine, on a radio programme, and for a major feature on the back page of one of the leading Spanish newspapers. IEF was prominently mentioned. The UNESCO office was very pleased with the results of the event.
In November 2003 there were 133 members from 46 countries and 25
Associates from 12 countries. In October 2004 there were 150 members and
26 Associates from 50 countries. This means the number of members
increased this year by 13%. Below you see a list of Members and where they
|Bosnia and Herzegovina (1)
|Czech Republic (3)
|East Timor (1)
|Fiji Islands (1)
|New Zealand (6)
|Papua New Guinea (1)
|Republic of Ireland (1)
|Russian Federation (1)
|South Africa (3)
|The Netherlands (1)
|United Kingdom (13)
The database has again been handled during the year very efficiently by Judith Fienieg.
LEAVES is only distributed to members and associates but everyone can access it on the IEF web site. There have been two issues during this activity year but they were comparatively short and we do lack material from members to make it more personal and interesting. Bettina Moser, IEF Member in Germany, has continued the responsibility for the newsletter during this year.
IEF WEB SITE
The web site of the IEF is hosted by the Baha'i Computer and Communication Association (BCCA) at www.bcca.org/ief/. The website contents include the announcement and programme for the upcoming annual conference, previous conference reports, information on the IEF, the newsletter LEAVES, a directory of members, reports and papers from previous conferences, relevant statements of the Baha'i International Community, resource materials and papers by members, selections from the Baha'i Sacred Writings, and links to other relevant web sites. Part of the site is in French and Spanish. An important addition during the year was the Spanish translation of our Statutes through the translation by Jose Maldonado reviewed by Yasmina Contreras.
During the year IEF member Paola Posas has worked on editing the IEF brochure to a lighter and more readable format. It is not quite yet ready, and it awaits more consultation by the Board.
THE WORKING GROUPS
The editorial group continued with the membership of the previous year: Peter Adriance (USA), Charles Boyle (Australia), Arthur Dahl (Switzerland), Nigel Jollands (New Zealand) and Roxanne Lalonde (Canada). The education materials working group also had the same membership as the previous year: Jan Quik, Tomas Linsel, Lloyd Brown, Irma Allen, Molly Azami, Steve Worth, Aaron Blomeley (co-ordinator), Fabiana Mendez.
The Board did not give them particular tasks this year. The editorial group finished a set of reviews on the draft chapters for the planned IEF publication but the process then stayed with the editor who has not yet been able to summarize these and send them to the authors. Authors for some chapters are still missing. The educational materials group did not have any activities this year.
The two most important activities this year were the submission of the application for ECOSOC accreditation and the attendance at CSD 12 with such a solid and active delegation. At the same time the 7th Annual conference was a great success particularly in its participatory and action oriented approach. This led the Board to plan for yet another seminar at the same place in Orlando this year which doubles the workload in organization, adding this to the regular annual meeting of the IEF planned for Greece. The focus on these time consuming activities and other circumstances contributed to slower progress in a range of other areas.
The most significant substantive progress was in developing ideas and approaches and building networks for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, and in demonstrating the capacity of IEF as a professional organization to make substantive contributions to international conferences that are widely appreciated. The IEF now needs to build the capacity of a wider range of its membership to participate in these activities which help to put its principles into action.