Annual Report 2017-2018

Report Year

International Environment Forum Annual Report
May 2017 to August 2018

The 22st Annual Report of the International Environment Forum summarizes the events and activities from May 2017 to August 2018 between two annual General Assemblies. The General Assembly in 2018 is being held on line in August 2018 since it was not practical to hold it in New York during the 22nd Annual Conference in July.


The 21st Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum was held in partnership with the Justice Conference in de Poort, the Netherlands from 14-17 April 2017. The theme of the Justice Conference was "From Disintegration to Integration: navigating the forces of our time", and one of the principal organizers was IEF member Maja Groff. The IEF contribution to the programme included a workshop on "Environmental Changes as forces for disintegration and integration", with presentations delivered by IEF members Laurent Mesbah on "Environmental Changes as forces for disintegration and integration", Arthur Dahl on "The Systems Science of Disintegration and Integration" (see, Joachim Monkelbaan on "Systems innovation for climate change" and Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen on "The promises and pitfalls of integration in governance". The IEF General Assembly was held on 15 April 2017 during the conference. The conference report can be found on the IEF website at


The 21st IEF General Assembly was held on 15 April 2017 at de Poort, the Netherlands, during the Conference.

Four IEF members and ten visitors were present. The agenda included approval of the annual report, and consultation on activities and priorities for the coming year such as possible locations for the next conference and increasing the involvement of IEF members.

The General Assembly and electronic voting elected the following Governing Board: Arthur Dahl (Switzerland), Laurent Mesbah (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Emily Firth (Australia), Ian Hamilton (USA), Victoria Thoresen (Norway), Wendi Momen (UK) and Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (Netherlands).

The report of the 21st General Assembly is available on the IEF website at


The IEF Governing Board elected Arthur Dahl as President and Emily Firth as General Secretary. However, Emily Firth resigned from the Board at the end of the year due to family and professional responsibilities, and she was replaced on the board in a by-election by Christine Muller (USA). Ian Hamilton has also not been able to serve for most of this period. The Board held four electronic meetings including teleconferences during the fifteen months covered by this report and has consulted on a variety of topics related to future conferences and IEF activities. The Board has approved 25 new membership applications since May 2017.

22nd IEF ANNUAL CONFERENCE: 10-14 July 2018

The 22nd Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum was a series of activities in support of the UN High Level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF) in New York on 9-18 July 2018. The events were planned primarily to allow participation at a distance, to avoid the cost and environmental impact of many members travelling to New York.

In the preparations for the HLPF, the IEF provided inputs to the official Scientific and Technological Major Group paper for the HLPF.

Organizing the IEF 22nd Conference as a set of supporting activities to a major UN event like the HLPF allowed us to continue our efforts to participate actively in the public discourse around sustainable development, as we did at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 and Rio+20 in 2012.

The IEF Panel on Your Smartphone was a virtual event where IEF experts recorded their short presentations on YouTube, so that HLPF participants could watch them whenever and wherever convenient on their smartphone or tablet. Seven short video presentations were prepared and publicized on the Internet distribution lists for Major Groups and Stakeholders at the HLPF, attracting over 270 views during the HLPF. These were:

Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies by Arthur Dahl

Water, Sanitation and Freshwater Ecosystems: Challenges in Tanzania (SDG 6) by Mark Griffin

The challenges that a renewable energy matrix bring to the academic world (SDG 7) by Rafael Shayani, Universidade de Brasília

Responsible consumption and production (SDG12) by Arthur Dahl

How can we reduce excessive consumption? (SDG12) by Christine Muller

Sustainable forestry in DR Congo (SDG15) by John Kendall

Biodiversity and Sustainable Development (SDG15) by Laurent Mesbah


The IEF also co-sponsored and contributed to a HLPF side event called "Responsibility Roulette" at Scandinavia House on 12 July that IEF Governing Board member Victoria Thoresen organized through the Partnership for Education and Research About Responsible Living (PERL), in which IEF is an active participant. The aim was to learn how sustainable lifestyles can become more desirable, accessible and normal.

The workshop was organized as an interactive game in which everyone participated including the panel of invited international experts. Three roulette wheels determined which participant would speak, what issue would be addressed, and how it would relate to one of the SDGs, to demonstrate that they were all integrated and interrelated. The experts were IEF members Victoria Thoresen and Arthur Dahl, along with Lewis Akenji from the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Japan, Erik Assadourian of the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C., Dorothy Marcic, a professor of business, author and playwright of popular off-Broadway shows, and Vanessa Timmer, Executive Director of One Earth, Vancouver, Canada. IEF member Christine Muller was one of the participants.

Victoria Thoresen also contributed to a SDGs Learning, Training and Practice event on 11 July in the UN Building on Leveraging innovative partnerships with higher education institutions towards sustainable and resilient societies organized by the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative.


Plans are to hold the 23rd IEF Annual Conference in New Zealand in partnership with the 23rd World Conference on Health Promotion, 7-11 April 2019 in Rotorua, hosted by the Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand (HPF) in association with the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) ( 3,000 participants are expected for the conference.

The theme of the conference is Waiora: Promoting Planetary Health and Sustainable Development. It is based on the traditional Maori concept of ‘Waiora’. Maori are the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand. Translated literally as ‘healing and healthy waters’, Waiora refers to the interconnectedness of our physical and spiritual worlds with our environment. As a theme, Waiora reflects the dependence of our own health on that of our planet, and recognises the major global challenge of balancing ongoing development with environmental stewardship. IEF will be associated with the 'spiritual health promotion’ sub-plenary and will also organize its own session. IEF members can register their interest on the conference website in order to receive updates on the conference:


Partnership for Education and research about Responsible Living (PERL)
The PERL/UNITWIN network continues to be a valuable and inspirational partner of the IEF. It organized the main on-site event in which we participated at the HLPF in New York in July 2018.

IEF board member Victoria Thoresen holds the UNESCO Chair for Education about Sustainable Lifestyles and heads the Center for Collaborative Learning for Sustainable Development at the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, which is responsible for the PERL/UNITWIN network.

IEF was an active contributor to the PERL Think Tank meeting on Collaborative Learning for Sustainable Lifestyles at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 25-26 September 2017. IEF board member Victoria Thoresen helped to organize the meeting, and IEF President Arthur Dahl was one of the 20 invited experts.

Our partnership with ebbf – Ethical Business Building the Future, the Baha'i-inspired forum for ethics in business and the workplace, continues in support of its core value of sustainable development. IEF President Arthur Dahl, and Board member Wendi Momen are on the ebbf Governing Board, and several other members are active in both organizations. The 2017 ebbf Spring event in Geneva, Switzerland, on 4-7 May was on the theme "Beyond Diversity" and Arthur Dahl gave the opening keynote on "Systems Science Beyond Diversity" (paper at

At the ebbf event on “Beyond Governance” held near Geneva, Switzerland, on 17-20 May 2018, Arthur Dahl gave the closing keynote on “Governance and the SDGs”.

European Center for Peace and Development (ECPD)
On 27 October 2017, ECPD held an International Round Table in Belgrade City Hall on ”Peace and Democratic Multilateralism”, chaired by Federico Mayor, former Director-General of UNESCO and President of the ECPD Council (report at Arthur Dahl was a rapporteur for the round table, chaired one session, and presented a paper on “UN Charter Revision as the Foundation for Peace”.

For the next ECPD conference in October 2018, Arthur Dahl was invited to prepare the concept note for the conference and to be a co-chair.

United Nations
As part of a United Nations-wide effort to strengthen its relationship with religions, led by a UN Task Force on Religion and Development, UN Environment (formerly UNEP) developed a Strategy for Engaging with Faith-Based Organizations. To help it finalize the strategy, UN Environment organized a Consultation meeting on Engaging with Faith-Based Organizations in Nairobi, Kenya, on 30 November 2017, among the events around the 3rd UN Environment Assembly. Participants represented Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Bahá’í, Judaism, Hinduism, Spirituality and interfaith organizations, and global, national and local perspectives. The International Environment Forum (IEF) was invited to represent the Bahá’í Faith, with Arthur Dahl as the IEF participant (see report at

On 1-2 March 2018, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) held a Regional Forum on Sustainable Development in Geneva, Switzerland, to prepare for the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2018 in New York, in which the IEF participated (report at The day before, representatives of civil society organizations and other stakeholders, including IEF, held a pre-meeting to agree on key points to be raised with governments.

The IEF then contributed to the Scientific and Technological Community Major Group paper for the HLPF, and participated in the HLPF in New York in July 2018 (see report above on the 22nd IEF Conference).

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The UN climate change secretariat called on stakeholders to submit recommendations on how the world can step up efforts to meet the objectives set out in the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Talanoa Dialogue was established at the COP23 summit in Germany in November by the meeting's Fijian chair. The term Talanoa refers to the Pacific Island practice of convening conversations to amicably share ideas and address an issue. A website ( was launched in January 2018 and stakeholders were invited to make submissions in response to three central questions: 'Where are we?'; 'Where do we want to go?' and; 'How do we get there?'

The IEF made an online submission, "Motivating the transition at the grassroots" ( Face-to-face dialogues were then organized at the Bonn Climate Change Conference on 6 May 2018, with seven dialogues in circles each consisting of 30 state party representatives, with 5 representatives of other stakeholders. Each participant was given 3 minutes to tell a story, and could then take part in the following discussion. Two IEF members participated in these dialogues. The Bahá'í International Community, represented in the UNFCCC by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, in partnership with the IEF, was accepted to participate in one of the dialogues on the question "How do we get there?" with IEF President Arthur Dahl as the representative. IEF governing board member Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen also participated in the Talanoa Dialogue representing Wageningen University where she teaches (see


IEF engagement with the Wilmette Institute
Several IEF members are faculty for on-line courses at the Wilmette Institute (

Baha'i Perspectives on Agriculture and Food, July-August 2017 and January to March 2018. Faculty include IEF members Paul Hanley, Arthur Dahl and Robert White.

Climate Change from April to June 2017 and April-May 2018. The faculty for this popular course consists of IEF members Christine Muller, Arthur Dahl and Laurent Mesbah.

Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind from 10 September to 28 October 2017. This is the sixth time since 2009 that this course is offered, now on an annual basis. Faculty include IEF members Arthur Dahl, Christine Muller and Laurent Mesbah.

The Wilmette Institute offered a new course "Sustaining 11 Billion People: Challenges for an Ever-Advancing Civilization", with IEF member Paul Hanley as lead faculty, based on Paul's book Eleven, from 1 November to 19 December 2017. His video webinar can be viewed on YouTube at

Other courses

In May-July 2017, Laurent Mesbah co-facilitated (in French) a Massive Open Online Course on Greening Consumption and Production in a partnership between UNDP, The Nature Conservancy, the Convention on Biodiversity and the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan Forum.

IEF member Charles Pierce created a Certificate Course on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction in Vanuatu that has been adopted by the government (see case study at

Christine Muller led the preparation of The Story of Stuff: A Baha'i-inspired Program for Youth, with study materials based on the popular video The Story of Stuff (see They help our youth cope with a culture of consumerism and to grow up to be responsible world citizens. The video is at and the study materials at


On 7-9 July 2017, Arthur Dahl participated in a meeting of the Triglav Circle, a global think-tank, which met in the Nievre Department in the Burgundy Region of central France to discuss the challenges of rural sustainability in France (see report at The 2018 meeting of the Triglav Circle on 29 June-1 July 2018, was also held at the Chateau de Poussignol in the Nievre Department of central France (report at A small but high level group from different fields spent a day and a half discussing the theme “Science, Technology and the Human Spirit”. Arthur Dahl prepared a paper for the meeting, “Reflections on Science, Technology and the Human Spirit” which can be seen at

Dr. Austin Bowden-Kirby from Fiji was nominated by IEF as one of the NGO experts participating in an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) workshop on visioning futures for biodiversity and ecosystem services, which took place in Auckland, New Zealand, on 4-8 September 2017. Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen also participated in the workshop. The focus of the workshop was to define future desirable scenarios and models for our relationship with nature.

On 15 February 2018, Arthur Dahl gave a TEDx talk at the Institut National Polytechnique: École Nationale Supérieure d’Électrotechnique, d’Électronique, d’Informatique, d’Hydraulique et des Télécommunications (INP ENSEEIHT), Université de Toulouse, France, on the topic "Information: private property or public good?" in French on YouTube at The English translation at was also published in two parts on at, and

The 23rd annual Justice Conference was held at the de Poort Conference Centre in the Netherlands on 30 March-2 April 2018 (report at The IEF previously partnered with the Justice Conference as its annual conference in 2017 (, so a number of IEF members were present again, including Iko Congo, Arthur Dahl, Maja Groff (conference organizer), Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Wendi Momen, Halldor Thorgeirsson, and David Willis. The theme of this year’s conference was “Shining a Light of Illumination in Turbulent and Divided Times”, and Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Halldor Thorgeirsson of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat, together with Sjoerd Luteyn, presented a plenary panel on “The Talanoa Dialogue under the Paris Agreement - Reflections on the illuminating Power of the Reflection-Action-Consultation Cycle”, as well as a follow-up workshop. Another workshop was led by longtime IEF member David Willis on “The Unity of Religions: ‘prefer all religionists before yourselves’” based on a statement from ‘Abdu’l-Baha as He was leaving America. Another keynote was by Arthur Dahl on “The Great Dichotomy: from Egoism to Altruism - from Love of Power to Love of Justice”.

IEF members Tara Palembe of the UK and Falkland Islands (and previously of Saint Helena), and Arthur Dahl, who worked for many years in the Pacific Islands, were among 200 participants in the 7th International Conference on Environmental Future: Humans and Island Environments, in Honolulu, Hawai'i, on 16-20 April 2018. Arthur presented a keynote paper previously commissioned for the conference on "Island Conservation Issues in International Conventions and Agreements" published in Environmental Conservation 44(3):267-285, September 2017, theme issue on Humans and Island Environments, doi:10.1017/S0376892917000224. The conference provided an opportunity to explore people and their interactions with island environments from the many different perspectives of the natural and social sciences and arts.

IEF member Gregory Dahl, a retired economist with the International Monetary Fund, gave an excellent Wilmette Institute webinar on 22 April 2018 on “Economic Life: Reflections on the House of Justice Message of 1 March 2017”, which can be viewed at….

Two members of the International Environment Forum, Maja Groff and Arthur Dahl, together with Augusto Lopez-Claros, submitted a proposal to reform the UN Charter to the New Shape Prize competition organized in 2017 by the Global Challenges Foundation. Their proposal, Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century, was one of 14 finalists invited to Stockholm, Sweden, on 25-30 May 2018, for the New Shape Forum and final judging for the US$ 1.8 million New Shape Prize, and came in first (report at The full proposal can be seen at and in the Global Challenges Foundation library.

On 25 June 2018 the International Environment Forum participated in the World Conference on Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights, held at the United Nations Palais des Nations (report at It was organized by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue. Arthur Dahl was one of the panelists on migrants, refugees, and internally-displaced persons, with a paper on Religion and Migration available at


IEF board member Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen led a group of IEF members and other friends in preparing a paper on the needs and ways to hold governments accountable for the agreements they sign up to, particularly in the context of the Paris Agreement on climate change. It was published on line in the journal Climate Policy at the end of July 2017, and is available in open access. The reference is: Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Sylvia I., Maja Groff, Peter A. Tamás, Arthur L. Dahl, Marie Harder & Graham Hassall. 2017. "Entry into force and then? The Paris agreement and state accountability." Climate Policy

For Earth Day on 22 April 2017, published a 4-part series by Arthur Dahl on Science and Religion in the Climate Change Debate (

Christine Muller published a paper on line in August 2017 at the Wilmette Institute on "How Should Bahá’ís Talk about Climate Change? Applying Recent Institutional Guidance" at…

A French book titled "Changements climatiques, nous sommes plus que concernés" (Climate change, we are more than concerned) has been published by IEF member, Mr. Kadima Mpoyi Long'sha, NGO Coordinator of the "Action pour la Protection et la Réorganisation de l’Environnement” (APRE), member of the “Groupe de Travail Climat REED” (GTCR) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

IEF member Joachim Monkelbaan has published a new book "Governance for the Sustainable Development Goals: Exploring an Integrative Framework of Theories, Tools, and Competencies" Singapore: Springer, 2019.

Arthur Dahl has just had two chapters published in the Routledge Handbook of Sustainability Indicators (Simon Bell and Stephen Morse, eds). They are Contributions to the Evolving Theory and Practice of Indicators of Sustainability, chpt. 3, pp.42-57, and UNEP and the CSD Process for Sustainable Development Indicators, chpt. 23, pp.347-363.

A recent paper by Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Arthur Lyon Dahl and Åsa Persson is The emerging accountability regimes for the Sustainable Development Goals and policy integration: Friend or foe? in Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, special issue on Integrative Governance.


IEF web site
The IEF web site ( continues to report on IEF events and statements, describes IEF actions to address climate change, education, indicators and the SDGs, provides an on-line version of LEAVES, the IEF newsletter, and includes educational materials, blogs, book reviews and papers by IEF members.

In May 2017 the IEF launched a new Toolkit on the Sustainable Development Goals, bringing together several ways of looking at the goals from the bottom up. For communities, there is a list of SDG targets that can be implemented at the community level, that could be used to prepare a local programme of SDGs. For individuals and community groups, the SDGs have been rewritten to make them relevant to what an individual can do as personal SDGs. Another list is of all the SDG targets that businesses can contribute to or implement within their own activities. Finally, there is a short compilation of Bahá'í texts for each SDG, for individual meditation and group study. The toolkit is on the IEF web site at

LEAVES newsletter
The newsletter team consisting of members Cynthia Diessner and Michael Richards, continues to make invaluable contributions to the IEF by preparing and distributing the LEAVES newsletter each month. The newsletter shares news of IEF activities and other significant events of interest to IEF members. Contributions from members are always welcome.


The last fifteen months have been a busy time for the International Environment Forum despite its limited resources, including on the Governing Board. At the United Nations, we were able to contribute to the Talanoa Dialogue of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, support the engagement of UN Environment with faith-based organizations, and participate in the UN High Level Political Forum on sustainable development, directly and through the Scientific and Technological Major Group. IEF members have made significant contributions to scientific processes, conferences and publications, reinforcing our credibility as a professional organization. Our educational activities, both as courses and materials, are widely appreciated, as is our regular monthly newsletter. We still face the challenge to recruit younger members willing to contribute actively to our activities and thus to guarantee our own sustainability. As the old world order continues to demonstrate its unsustainability and disintegrate, it is ever more urgent to contribute positively to the discourses on the environment and sustainability from an ethical perspective that can motivate people to change.


Full members

408 members in 75 countries (up from 379 in April 2017)

Albania 1 * Argentina 2 * Australia 19 * Austria 1 * Bangladesh 2 * Belgium 4 * Bolivia 4 * Bosnia and Herzegovina 1 * Brazil 2 * Brunei Darrussalam 1 * Bulgaria 2 * Cambodia 1 * Cameroon 2 * Canada 43 * Chile 1 * China 3 * Colombia 3 * Congo, Democratic Republic 3 * Czech Republic 3 * Denmark 1 * Ecuador 3 * Eritrea 1 * Ethiopia 1 * Fiji 1 * Finland 1 * France 8 * Germany 9 * Ghana 2 * Greece 1 * Guinea Bissau 1 * Guyana 2 * Hong Kong 2 * Hungary 2 * Iceland 1 * India 11 * Indonesia 1 * Iran 1 * Israel 2 * Italy 1 * Japan 1 * Kazakhstan 1 * Kenya 3 * Liberia 1 * Macedonia 1 * Malaysia 6 * Marshall Islands 1 * Namibia 1 * The Netherlands 13 * New Zealand 9 * Norway 3 * Pakistan 3 * Philippines 1 * Poland 1 * Portugal 2 * Samoa 1 * Serbia 1 * Singapore 2 * Slovakia 1 * South Africa 5 * Spain 4 * Suriname 1 * Swaziland 2 * Sweden 4 * Switzerland 9 * Tanzania 1 * Togo 1 * Tonga 1 * Trinidad & Tobago 1 * Uganda 1 * United Kingdom 50 * United States of America 121 * Vanuatu 1 * Zambia 1 * Zimbabwe 1

Associate members

59 Associates in 17 countries

Australia 2 * Canada 6 * Chile 1 * China 1 * Czech Republic 1 * Finland 1 * France 2 * Ghana 1 * Iceland 1 * Lithuania 1 * New Zealand 2 * Pakistan 2 * Portugal 2 * Switzerland 3 * The Netherlands 5 * USA 22 * United Kingdom 6

Last updated 8 August 2018