INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
17 September 2006 – 14 October 2007
This Annual Report of the IEF summarizes its activities and events during 2006-2007. It was presented at the 11th General Assembly of IEF in Ottawa, Canada, on 14 October 2007.
TENTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
The 10th IEF Annual Conference on the topic "Science, Faith and Global Warming" took place in the beautiful setting of Balliol College, Oxford University, England, with 66 participants from 7 countries in person and another 115 from 17 countries following through the e-conference on the Internet. This was the 10th anniversary conference of the IEF, and the second time that it has partnered with the Bahá'í Agency for Social and Economic Development (BASED-UK). The conference programme started with a look at the science of climate change at global level, with all its complexity, uncertainty and controversy, adding the human dimension, particularly the impact on the poor in developing countries. Leading experts then looked at various facets of climate change, including the gender aspects, the response of governments at the international level, the possibility of a north-south climate community, the role of energy use in climate change, the implications for economic systems, and the ethical and spiritual dimensions. The final day was more interactive, with workshops on sustainable living, business and transport, aimed to move participants to action, asking what we can do in our own lives to reduce our impact on climate change. Speakers included Dr. Augusto Lopez-Claros, Chief Economist of the World Economic Forum and Dr. Halldor Thorgeirsson, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Bahá'í World News Service released an article on the conference. A website of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies showcases the work in religion and climate change, and the 10th IEF conference is listed under the Bahá'í Faith.
10TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The 10th General Assembly of the International Environment Forum was held immediately after the closing of the 10th Annual Conference of the IEF in the courtyard of Balliol College, Oxford, United Kingdom. The following members attended: Arthur Dahl, Ineke Gisbjers, Minu Hemmati, Janne Karimaki, Sylvia Karlsson, Michael Richards, Halldor Thorgeirsson, Wendi Momen, Sam Askew and 10 guests. The Assembly decided that the sitting officers of the Board act as officers of the General Assembly, Arthur Dahl as chair and Sylvia Karlsson as secretary. Problems with the IEF email in the week preceding the conference prevented members voting for the Governing Board by e-mail from sending their ballots, so it was decided to extend the voting period for a further two weeks. Since there was a tie for the last place, a runoff election had to be organized, with 26 members voting by e-mail. The tellers sent their final report to the chair and secretary of the Assembly on 13 November. The elected Board members are (in alphabetical order): Peter Adriance (USA), Irma Allen (Swaziland), Charles Boyle (Australia), Arthur Dahl (Switzerland), Sylvia Karlsson (Finland), Roxanne Lalonde (Swaziland), Victoria Thoresen (Norway). The general consultation focused on possible activities for the coming year including the location of future conferences, activities at the UN, collaboration with the European Bahá'í Business Forum (EBBF) and the Consumer Citizenship Network, and developing educational material for children.
The Board has had 2 electronic meetings during the year: 13 January - 26 February 2007 and 10 July - 28 August 2007. Board members have participated as follows: Peter Adriance (2); Irma Allen (2), Charles Boyle (2), Arthur Dahl (2), Sylvia Karlsson (2), Roxanne Lalonde (2), Victoria Thoresen (2). The Board also had its first consultation over skype (with some technical difficulties) during its first meeting of the year. Due to big time zone differences and the technical limitation on the number of participants, it will not be a standard option for future consultations.
This year the Board concentrated on maintaining our key partnerships, and continued its efforts to be engaged with the climate change issue. Some members attended the Commission on Sustainable Development where extensive discussions took place with representatives of the Bahá'í International Community. One concern is how to develop more capacity to attend future meetings using all the expertise available in the membership. Furthermore, discussions started on what added value our expertise could play for developing spiritually based indicators, in partnership with other organizations. Three of the Board members were closely involved in the planning of the 11th annual conference in close collaboration with the Bahá'í Community of Canada. The Board is still struggling to find the time and resources to engage more members in core activities like the newsletter, monitoring important environmental issues, and preparing educational materials.
Several Board members have been had mentoring sessions with young IEF members about their choices of further education and professional direction.
Incoming emails have numbered over 140 during the administrative period, outgoing over 120. This does not include correspondence on specific issues such as planning the conference (around 200) and the internal emails among the Board members (around 200).
FIFTEENTH MEETING OF THE UN COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (CSD-15)
The 15th session of the Commission of Sustainable Development took place May 2007 at the UN Headquarters in New York, with thematic coverage of energy, air pollution, industrial development and climate change. The IEF again had strong representation at the CSD, including Peter Adriance, Beth Bowen, Arthur Dahl, Mark Griffin, and Paula Posas. The Bahá'í International Community (BIC) helped with accreditation and we collaborated closely on BIC and IEF activities. On Monday 30 April there was a side-event with the theme "The Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change" organized by the Bahá'í International Community with the Permanent Missions of Tuvalu and of the Marshall Islands, and co-sponsored by the UN Office of High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing States and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS); the UNEP Interfaith Partnership for the Environment; Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State University; International Environment Forum; and the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development. The event, held in the UN Building, filled the room with over 90 people, There were presentations by H.E. Mr. Enele Sosene Sopoaga, Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Tuvalu to the UN, Mr. Om Pradhan of the UN-OHRLLS, Mr. Tony Barnston of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University; Mr. Don Brown of the Collaborate Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change, Rock Ethics Institute; Dr. Arthur Dahl of IEF; and Rabbi Lawrence Troster, Fellowship Programme Director of GreenFaith. The event was covered in full page articles in the two CSD newsletters, Outreach Issues for Tuesday, May 1, page 6 (download pdf from http://www.anped.org/index.php?part=112) and ENB on the side (http://www.iisd.ca/csd/csd15/enbots/pdf/enbots0511e.pdf) and video recordings of all the speakers were posted on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=martha04032).
Information is also available on the BIC web site (www.bic.org) and the IISD site has more pictures and captions (http://www.iisd.ca/csd/csd15/enbots/30apr2007.html). A White Paper on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change prepared by the Rock Ethics Institute (http://rockethics.psu.edu/climate/whitepaper-intro.htm) was distributed at the event. The IEF members continued their strong engagement with the Science and Technology Major Group and the Education Caucus and networked widely with participants.
Mark Griffin continued to serve as issue monitor for water issues. Michael Richard has agreed to be our issue monitor on forests. Efforts to identify issue monitors for other issues were not pursued actively due to lack of resources.
WILMETTE INSTITUTE COURSE
The Wilmette Institute Course on Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind (by distance learning over the Internet) continued for the second year from October 2006 to January 2007 with 25 enrolments. The course is co-sponsored by IEF and the European Bahá'í Business Forum (EBBF), and all the faculty are IEF members. It is planned to offer the course again in 2008-2009.
THE CONSUMER CITIZENSHIP NETWORK
Since 2005, the IEF has been a member of the Consumer Citizenship Network (CCN), 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. During the year the CCN entered its second three year funding period from the EU and reorganised many of its working groups. IEF member Pavel Hruby from the Czech Republic has joined the group on further development of indicators of responsible consumption. The 2007 CCN conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria on 10-12 May 2007. The theme of the conference was "Building Bridges", encouraging stakeholder involvement and transdisciplinary cooperation in consumer education and was attended by over 100 CCN members from all over Europe. New IEF member Greg Dahl from Bulgaria was invited to give a keynote address on the theme "Globalization: Transforming Our World” where he drew material from his recently-published book, "One World, One People: How Globalization is Shaping Our Future”.
UNESCO INTERFAITH WORKSHOP
Arthur Dahl represented the IEF at the International Experts' Workshop on Faith-based Organizations and Education for Sustainable Development organized for UNESCO by UNESCOcat in Barcelona 22-24 March 2007. The other participants included representatives from academia (Yale University, University for Peace), UNESCO, judaism, islam, christianity, buddhism and hinduism, indigenous peoples and the Alliance for Religion and Conservation. There were detailed discussions and exchanges of experience in formal and informal education, strategies to reach communities, cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, spiritual and ethical values, good practices and procedures and an broad agreement about the need for a great transition away from materialistic society. The IEF was mentioned in the report as an example of the use of the internet for education for sustainable development.
UNEP NORTH AMERICAN CIVIL SOCIETY CONSULTATIONS
IEF member Paula Posas represented the IEF at the UNEP North American Civil Society Consultation in Washington DC, hosted by the United Nations Foundation from 2-3 November 2006. The meeting was one of six regional civil society consultations organized by UNEP to prepare for the Eighth Global Civil Society Forum and 24th UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF). The participants were tasked with writing the North American Civil Society Statement and electing two Global Civil Society Committee representatives and two resource people on globalization and gender to attend the events in Nairobi. The 40-60 people present over the two days primarily represented environmental organizations with a focus on conservation, development, law, ecotourism, gender, water, chemicals management, and conflict resolution.
IEF AT CONFERENCE ON THE REFORM OF INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
IEF President Arthur Dahl, on behalf of the International Environment Forum and the CSD Education Caucus, participated in the International Conference for the Reform of International Institutions: Dialogues Between Different Levels of Governance and Civil Society Actors, held at ILO Headquarters in Geneva on 20-21 November 2006. The conference was organized by the World Forum of Civil Society Networks - UBUNTU and the World Campaign for In-Depth Reform of the System of International Institutions. The conference raised many fundamental structural and functional issues that prevent the international system from operating effectively, such as the primacy given to national sovereignty, the unsustainability of neoliberal globalization, and the lack of international democracy and taxation.
UNIVERSITY OF GENEVA
The IEF continues to co-sponsor a continuing education course at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, offering a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Sustainable Development. IEF President sits on the Scientific Committee of the programme and teaches modules which include the ethical and spiritual dimensions of sustainability. The course is now in its fourth year.
GENEVA ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
Since 2005, the IEF has been a member of the Geneva Environment Network, comprising all the principal intergovernmental, nongovernmental and academic organizations in the Geneva area that are active on environmental issues. The IEF President has attended several of their seminars during the year.
There has been close collaboration between IEF and the European Bahá'í Business Forum (EBBF) with Arthur Dahl and Sylvia Karlsson invited as experts to the EBBF workshop on “The Company of the Future” held in Acuto, Italy, 18-20 May 2007. Discussions are well advance on holding a joint conference in the Netherlands on 18-21 September 2008, which would be the 12th annual conference of the IEF. A planning meeting was held during the EBBF Annual Conference in de Poort, the Netherlands 29-31 September 2007.
VALUE-BASED INDICATORS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
During the year a number of small steps have been taken to use the potential expertise we have in the IEF on indicators explore how we could be engaged in developing more value-based indicators. Several IEF members were involved in the development of an application to EU Commission call for proposals on ‘Earth observation and assessment tools sustainable development’ and the specific activity ‘Engaging civil society in research on sustainable development”. The bid was entitled "The Development of Indicators & Assessment Tools for CSO Projects Promoting Values-based Education for Sustainable Development (ESDinds)". The application was led by the University of Brighton (UK), and partners included Charles University (Czech Republic), the Alliance for Religion and Conservation, Earth Charter International, and several Bahá'í-inspired organisations. The IEF, due to its lack of legal status, could not be a formal partner, but members with expertise will, if the bid is successful, be involved. The proposal received good preliminary evaluations and passed the minimum criteria for being funded, but the final result is not yet known. Furthermore, it has been decided to have this as a theme for the joint EBBF/IEF conference planned for 2008. Initial discussions have started on establishing a consultative group on value-based indicators to exchange experience, brainstorm, and comment on each others' projects, with members from IEF, EBBF and beyond.
Arthur Dahl has been invited to lecture and give courses on themes relevant to the environment and sustainable development on a number of occasions in Belgium, Canada, Monaco, Italy, France, New Caledonia and USA, including at Bahá'í winter and summer schools in Finland, France and Bulgaria. IEF member Nigel Jollands was invited to talk at an interfaith event in Paris. Sylvia Karlsson gave a talk for the Global Discourse Association at the University of Jyväskylä on global energy governance.
The Bahá'í World 2005-2006, the official record of the Bahá'í International Community, included an essay by Arthur Dahl on "Climate Change and its Ethical Challenges". The Coalition for Education in the Outdoors in the USA requested permission to print in their newsletter Taproot the paper by "Invoking the Spirit" by Gary Gardner of Worldwatch Institute, which he presented at the 7th annual conference of the IEF in 2003. The paper is at https://iefworld.org/dgard03.htm.
In August 2006 there were 171 members from 47 countries and 26 Associates from 11 countries. By October 2007 there were 193 members in 52 countries. The number of members thus increased this year by 12 percent. Below is a list of membership by country.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina (1)
|China (Province of Taiwan) (1)
|Cook Islands (1)
|Czech Republic (3)
|Fiji Islands (1)
|The Netherlands (1)
|New Zealand (5)
|Russian Federation (1)
|South Africa (4)
|Trinidad & Tobago (1)
|United Kingdom (24)
|United States of America (61)
The database is continuously handled very efficiently by Judith Fienieg.
LEAVES is only distributed to members and associates but everyone can access it on the IEF web site. There has been one issue during this activity year (in March). The Secretariat is still in need of help with the newsletter to expand the number of issues and the quality of the content.
IEF WEB SITE
The web site of the IEF is hosted by the Bahá'í 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 Bahá'í International Community, resource materials and papers by members, selections from the Bahá'í Sacred Writings, and links to other relevant web sites. Part of the site is in French and Spanish. During this year the site has been regularly updated with reports of IEF activities. The website is managed by Arthur Dahl.
THE WORKING GROUPS
The working groups (e.g. the editorial group, the group on education materials) have not been active this year, and the Board has not had the time to reinstate the groups.
The IEF continues to raise its visibility, credibility and impact through the high quality of its annual conferences and its fruitful partnerships with a variety of other organizations. Its major challenges are to increase the services that it can offer its members scattered around the world, and in turn to involve them more in its own activities. The organization can increase its effectiveness only to the extent that a wider range of members become active participants in producing IEF outputs and representing the IEF at relevant events. Building this human capacity to apply values-based approaches to the environment and sustainable development will continue to be a central focus of IEF activities in the years ahead.
Last updated 13 November 2007