IEF Annual Report 2007-2008

Report Year



15 October 2007 – 20 September 2008

The 12th Annual Report summarized the events and activities of the IEF in 2007-2008. It was presented at the 12th General Assembly in de Poort, The Netherlands, on 20 September 2008.


The 11th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum was co-organized by the Bahá'í Community of Canada, and held in Ottawa, Canada, starting on Friday afternoon 12 October and ending early Sunday afternoon 14 October 2007. A hundred participants from 13 countries of North America, Europe and Africa attended the conference, and another 25 participants from 9 countries followed the electronic conference. The conference allowed professionals concerned with the environment and sustainable development, students and the public to explore the human response to global environmental change, including the likely physical, emotional, mental, social and economic stresses on individuals and communities. Specifically, the conference explored moral capacities and better governance mechanisms that help people to build sustainable and resilient communities equipped to mitigate and adapt to the expected impacts of climate change. Questions of lifestyle, choice and the very nature of 'community' were examined. Reflections on modern science and universal spiritual principles shaped the conference theme, and in recognition of the International Polar Year (2007), specific attention was given to the experience of indigenous and First Nations peoples. The conference was a contribution to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, and built on previous IEF conferences on related themes. This time the electronic version of the conference reached new technical heights as all speeches were filmed and posted on the internet. The organizers received very positive feedback on this feature e.g. from members living in remote areas without access to updated information on climate change but also from participants in the physical conference who could share their experience by suggesting to friends and colleagues to watch the videos online. The statistics from YouTube indicate that the various conference presentations have been viewed between just under 100 to almost 500 times. All the materials for the electronic conference continue to be available from the IEF web site and at the conference web site


The 11th General Assembly was held on 14 October. There were 25 people present, of whom 9 were IEF members and 16 visitors. After introductions the Assembly appointed Arthur Dahl and Sylvia Karlsson as chair and secretary of the meeting. After going through the Annual Report, appointment of tellers, and prayers the election of the new Governing Board was held. There were 9 votes cast at the meeting and 5 electronic votes.  The following members were elected: Arthur Dahl, Sylvia Karlsson, Peter Adriance, Victoria Thoresen, Duncan Hanks, Charles Boyle, and Irma Allen. Consultation on activities and priorities for the coming year included a proposal to put resources such as practical ideas for children's classes and devotionals and other resources for the institute process on the IEF website, a suggestion to establish links with the Association for Baha’i Studies – North America and brainstorming how IEF could support the “will to respond” to climate change.


The Board has had 3 electronic meetings during the year: 10 November-24 December 2007, 24 March - 23 May 2008 and 23 August – 12 September 2008. Board members have participated as follows: Peter Adriance (3); Irma Allen (3), Charles Boyle (3), Arthur Dahl (3), Sylvia Karlsson (3), Duncan Hanks (3), Victoria Thoresen (3).


Mentoring of young members has continued informally throughout the year, including at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.


There have been about 100 incoming emails during the year and about 100 outgoing. This does not include correspondence on specific issues such as planning the conference (around 300) and the internal emails among the Board members (around 100).


Mark Griffin continued to serve as issue monitor for water issues. Michael Richards has agreed to be our issue monitor on forests. The board has taken steps to extend the designation of issue monitors to issues on the CSD agenda such as drylands and desertification, and sustainable agriculture.


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. At the Fifth CCN Conference in Tallinn, Estonia (May 2008), three IEF members were again able to make specific contributions to the work of this network. Victoria Thoresen gave an opening keynote talk on "To know or not to know...that is the question" and Arthur Dahl gave a keynote on "Assessing information at multiple scales - taking some burden off the consumer". He also participated in a symposium on “Indicators for sustainable consumption", and gave a workshop paper on “The ethical challenges of global change as a motivator for consumer citizenship". Sylvia Karlsson gave a paper on "Institutionalized knowledge challenges in pesticide governance: the end of knowledge and the beginning of values in governing globalized environmental issues". Arthur also contributed to the CCN Task Group on indicators which met before the conference.


The Advanced Studies course in Sustainable Development at the University of Geneva, of which IEF is a co-sponsor, continues to be held each year between October and June ( Arthur Dahl is on the scientific committee and teaches in several modules. The IEF web site and materials are also used in the UNEP/University of Geneva/Graduate Institute Certificate of Advanced Studies in Environmental Diplomacy coordinated by Arthur Dahl.  (


The collaboration with the European Baha’i Business Forum (EBBF) has strengthened during the year with the joint planning of the 12th IEF conference in collaboration with EBBF. A joint core planning team with one IEF and two EBBF members has been working throughout the year, with almost weekly skype conferences during the five months prior to the conference. A larger team of IEF and EBBF members shared a wider set of practical tasks. The choice of topic, speakers and workshops are all reflecting a close dialogue and consultation between different perspectives, which hopefully will result in a highly interesting learning environment at the conference.


Value based indicators is a theme for the joint EBBF/IEF conference in 2008. A one day workshop on value based indicators for sustainable development will precede the conference.  During the year a consultative group on value-based indicators has been established to exchange experience, brainstorm, and comment on each others' projects, with members from IEF, EBBF and beyond. Sharing of background material has already started.


For the past two years the Development practitioners Seminar at the Bahá'í Conference on Social and Economic Development (Orlando, Florida) has concentrated on learning about the development of indicators for social and economic programs. Last year’s conference entitled “Creating a Conceptual Framework for The Application of Spiritually-Based-Indicators in Development” complemented the publication “Valuing Spirituality in Development” produced by the Bahá’í International Community. This series of seminars was developed and facilitated by experienced practitioners including several IEF members, engaged the participants in a learning process to identify the spiritual aspects at the heart of a social and economic problem, identify goals to ameliorate the problem and then identify the indicators which would measure progress towards achievement of those goals. The past two seminars have provided a forum for the exploration of a rich tapestry of thoughts, ideas and learning yet also showed that it is much more complex than expected and that time and effort is still needed before such indicators are ready for widespread implementation.


Several members and two Board members of the International Environment Forum attended the sixteenth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-16) held from May 5th to 16th, 2008 as part of the delegation of the Bahá’í International Community.  In partnership with the Rock Ethics Institute of Penn State University, the BIC hosted an official event at CSD-16 entitled, “The Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change: Implications for Africa’s Agricultural and Rural Development.” After a positive response at CSD-15 last year which featured IEF president Arthur Dahl, the ethical considerations of climate change were brought to the fore once again through this event which emphasized the need to engage in discussions within an ethical and moral framework.

Another CSD-16 side event, “Sustainable Development: Without Rural Women?” was organized by the BIC and Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture (WOCAN), bringing together two predominant areas of the BIC’s work: global prosperity and the advancement of women.

The BIC was also given the opportunity to present the SAT program as a best practice learning event at the CSD. The SAT (Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial) program is an internationally recognized system for building capacities for sustainable rural development. IEF Board member Duncan Hanks moderated and led a team of presenters to facilitate a three hour interactive workshop featuring two representatives of the Bayan Association of Honduras, Mr. Soheil Dooki and Dr. Barry Smith, and Dr. Erin Murphy-Graham, faculty member of the University of California (Berkeley). The learning event focused on the capacity building aspects of the SAT program in Honduras, where the program currently reaches about 6,500 rural participants primarily in farming communities.


IEF member Dr. Elisabeth Bowen attended the UN climate meeting in Bali in December 2007, and spoke at a side-event entitled “Climate for Change: Global Responsibilities and Local Realities Policy Roundtable” organised by the Education Caucus and co-sponsored by the Government of Indonesia, Stakeholders Forum for a Sustainable Future, and UN-OHRLLS. She reported it as a success with excellent participation from UN agencies including UNICEF and the UN University, from governmental delegates including Australia and Nepal, from major NGOs including Sierra Club and from youth, including the International Forestry Students Association. Dr. Bowen stressed the humanitarian, moral and ethical dimensions of our interconnectedness, gender equality and universal access to education.


Three IEF members attended the 4th International Conference on Environment Education in Ahmedabad, India, in November 2007. The five day conference was attended by 1500 participants from 97 countries. Since the First International Conference was held in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1977, conferences have been held every ten years, in Moscow in 1987 and in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1997. The conference was held in the context of UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005- 2014).


Irma Allen presented the keynote address “Spirituality: A Dimension of Sustainable Development” at the BOLESWA (Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland ) Theology and Religious Studies Conference at the University of Swaziland on February 25/26, 2008. Sylvia Karlsson has given lectures on “Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change” in Baha’i Centers in Paris and Stockholm, in private homes in Brighton and Berlin, and in the Ecomuseum of Emån (Småland, Sweden). Peter Adriance gave a presentation on “The Environment and Sustainable Development: A Baha’i Perspective,” at the Northern Virginia Baha’i School. Arthur Dahl gave courses on environment and sustainable development at Bahá'í schools in Switzerland and Portugal, public lectures in Quebec, Helsinki, Vienna and Madrid, and keynotes on sustainability for EBBF conferences in Berlin and Acuto, Italy. For AIESEC, the international student organization, he spoke to conferences in Italy, Switzerland and Austria, and gave the keynote lecture on the state of the world at the International Presidents Meeting in February in Macedonia for AIESEC leaders from a hundred countries. He was also a speaker at the Freiburg Forum on Environmental Governance, 18-19 April 2008, for which the theme this year was religion and environmental governance.


In October 2007 there were 191 members from 53 countries and territories. In September 2008 there were 215 members from 56 countries and 27 Associates from 12 countries. The number of members thus increased this year by 12 percent. Below is a list of membership by country.


The database is continuously handled very efficiently by Judith Golova.


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 April). The Secretariat has received some offers of help with the newsletter but needs more volunteers.


The IEF web site continues to be a major resource both for IEF members and many outside IEF. Updates on IEF activities are posted regularly, and recordings and other materials from the IEF conferences continue to be available through the site. More educational materials on environment and sustainability are being added all the time. One member is developing an interfaith study course on climate change, and another preparing training materials in rural environmental management. Members are welcome to submit material for possible publication on the website.


Overall, this has been a good year for IEF, with the main highlights being the annual conference and our continuing support for activities at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. Our partnerships help us to reach out to like-minded organizations and to bring our ethical approach to today's environmental challenges before an ever-wider audience. Participation at international and professional forums has presented good opportunities for integrating a spiritual dimension to the other elements of sustainable development, not only during the discussion process, but in declarations (e.g. the Ahmedabab Declaration) and strategies (e.g. Education for Sustainable Development National Strategies). Most importantly, we continue to progress in our major purpose to build our members' capacity for service to the world at a time when climate change and other environmental issues are high on the international agenda. The IEF membership now represents a significant pool of international expertise in environment and sustainability. Our main challenge is to mobilize more of the members for specific activities to extend our reach and impact. This includes finding strategies to improve communication. This is a big task due to the fact that our members are scattered all over the world. In this regard, IEF is looking forward to developing a system whereby issue monitors can coordinate sharing of information, discussions and activities among small groups of IEF members who are particularly interested in a specific theme or issue of environment and/or sustainable development.


Countries (members) Argentina (2) Australia (10)
Barbados (2) Belgium (1) Bolivia (4)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (1) Bulgaria (2) Cameroon (1)
Canada (16) Chile (1) China (1)
China, Province of Taiwan (1) Colombia (2) Cook Islands (1)
Czech Republic (3) Denmark (2) Ecuador (2)
Fiji Islands (1) Finland (2) France (5)
Germany (5) Ghana (1) Greece (1)
Grenada (1) Guyana (1) Hungary (1)
India (4) Ireland (1) Israel (2)
Italy (1) Kenya (1) Malaysia (2)
Namibia (1) The Netherlands (2) New Zealand (5)
Norway (3) Poland (1) Portugal (1)
Russian Federation (1) Samoa (1) Singapore (1)
Slovakia (1) South Africa (4) Spain (2)
Suriname (1) Swaziland (2) Sweden (3)
Switzerland (5) Tanzania (1) Timor-Leste (1)
Trinidad & Tobago (1) Uganda (1) U.S.A. (71)
United Kingdom (23) Vietnam (1) Zambia (2)