Bridge Builder award for Peter Adriance

Bit late, but today I received news that one of our CSD-17 delegates, Peter Adriance, received the 5th annual Bridge Builder Award from the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington on the 1st of June 2009.
And if you are wondering how you can ‘green’ your Baha’i (core) activities, just read Peter’s suggestions (in bold) below. Easy, isn’t it?
The info below is by Ariel Olson Surowidjoj, Office of External Affairs of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the USA.

For nearly 20 years Peter Adriance has been building bridges as the National Spiritual Assembly’s non-governmental organization liaison for sustainable development.

On June 1 he built many more in receiving the aptly named 5th annual Bridge Builders Award from the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.

It was, he said, a teachable moment. “In recent years there’s been an upsurge in recognition of the value that faith groups bring to discussions on the environment,” Adriance said in an interview.

“Science tells us what’s happening and what we should do about it. And the faiths tell us why we should act.”

That’s something Adriance has excelled at in his time as NGO liaison.

Between 1990 and 2000, he participated in consultations that resulted in the launch of the Earth Charter, a declaration of fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, peaceful global society.

He also helped found — and continues to serve — the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, a collection of more than 300 organizations supporting the goals of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

And he has been active in the International Environment Forum, a network of people in more than 50 countries who strive to apply Bahá’í teachings to environmental challenges.

Said the National Spiritual Assembly in a letter of congratulations to Adriance, “We are gratified to see your efforts garnering the recognition they so richly deserve — particularly from an enlightened organization that understands their roots in your longstanding affirmation of the Baháʹí Faith’s universal and unifying teachings.”

Prior to the awards ceremony at the Catholic University, Adriance participated in a roundtable discussion with three other awardees of Buddhist, Jewish and Christian affiliation. Each participant shared the fundamental values and scriptures that inspire the environmental ideals of his or her faith.

“It’s more powerful to work together,” Adriance said of interfaith work, noting that public receptivity to faith-based environmental solutions is on the rise. “The environment is not an isolated issue any more,” he said. “People have come to recognize the important ties between environmental, economic and social systems.”

Adriance sees sustainable development as a natural extension of the Bahá’í teachings and encourages Bahá’ís to “go green” as they implement increasing numbers of core activities.

To accomplish this, he said, Bahá’ís can hold devotional gatherings on themes related to the environment and social justice, incorporate recycling and reduced energy use into community functions, and prompt discussions or provide service opportunities that foster environmental awareness among children and junior youth.

“The Universal House of Justice encouraged such action more than 20 years ago in its (1989) Ridván message,” Adriance noted, “when it said that ‘assisting in endeavors to conserve the environment in ways which blend with the rhythm of life of our community must assume more importance in Bahá’í activities.’ “We should consider environmental stewardship as integral to our mandate to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization and apply environmental consciousness to all of our community initiatives.”

To learn more about a range of faith resources for sustainability (including Bahá’í) please visit www.uspartnership.org and click on the Faith Communities link.

CSD-17: sharing my experiences / het delen van mijn ervaringen

One month ago, it was the day after CSD-17 finished. I’ve been back home in my new house for about a week, after some additional unexpected travel to the Netherlands. I’ve been sharing my experiences with whoever has asked about it and have noticed that I keep mentioning the same aspects of CSD-17. So, I thought I could share those with you.

First of all, I’ll tell people that I’ve had an amazing experience and those 2 weeks at the UN were fascinating. I’ll mention that other people from Major Groups really appreciated the fact that I’d had come back a second time and my relationships with some became very strong, very quickly because of that.

I’ll explain the procedure of starting with a draft negotiation text and reading through it 3 times. The first time took about 4 days and gave every government the opportunity to add comments. This is why the negotiation text grew from 25 to more than 100 pages. Let me show you what this looks like. The example below is from the section on Agriculture and shows the difference between the same paragraph on 6th May and 14th May. The 2nd example is from the section on Rural Development.

AGRICULTURE – 6 May 2009

(a) Enhance agricultural [production, – G77] productivity and sustainability.
In that context: (i) Employ science-based agricultural management methods [and/, – EU] new technologies that capitalize on [existing – US] plant [and animal – US] genetic potential, availing of [scientific – US] knowledge [of soil biology – G77 delete],[which capitalize on existing plant potential, for example for increased drought tolerance, including by building upon the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. – EU] [while undertaking/and undertake – G77] research and development [on further genetic improvements – G77, EU delete] [of plants, animals, and other organisms – US] [so as to improve plant varieties,livestock, and soil contribution to poverty eradication and food security – G77];

As you can see, the English becomes pretty uncomprehensible with all those bolded comments in brackets. The final version of 14 May 2009, which by that time had 19 subparagraphs (up from 9!),  looked like this:

(a)    Enhance agriculture production, productivity and sustainability. In that context:  (i) Employ science-based agricultural approaches, and local and indigenous knowledge, while undertaking research and development, to improve plant varieties, livestock, and soil. Encourage development and adoption of locally appropriate farming systems and agricultural practices;

RURAL DEVELOPMENT – 6 May 2009
(a) Build social capital and resilience in rural communities. In that context: (i) Empower women and small-scale farmers, [and the landless – EU] [and indigenous peoples, – G77] [including through secure/ in particularly by securing equal – Switzerland] land tenure [supported by legal framework that protect family – G77] rights [in accordance with national legislation and institutions that promote the participation of rural communities in the development process – G77] [including inheritance – G77 delete]/ and inheritance rights – Switzerland];

And this became on 14 May 2009:
(a)    Build social capital and resilience in rural communities. In that context:  (i)  Empower women and small-scale farmers, and indigenous peoples, including through securing equitable land tenure supported by appropriate legal frameworks.

As you can see, the parts in brackets show the amendments and who suggested them on 6th May. Getting to the final version of 14th May required 2 more readings of the text and many hours of negotiations.

The other aspect people often ask is if it’s all worth it, after all it’s just words without any legal power. Well, I think it is. I then ask if they feel they’ve ‘unity of thought’ in their family. I then suggest they extrapolate this idea to the highest international level we can imagine (=the UN), give ourselves a tight schedule (2 weeks) and then expect excellence. Bit of a challenge, isn’t it? Well, that’s what the CSD-17 was all about. BUT, the governments did it, they did agree on a final text.

It just reminds me of Abdu’l-Baha’s Foundations of World Unity:

All of us know that international peace is good, that it is conducive to human welfare and the glory of man but volition and action are necessary before it can be established. Action is the essential. Inasmuch as this century is a century of light, capacity for action is assured to mankind. Necessarily the divine principles will be spread among men until the time of action arrives. Surely this has been so and truly the time and conditions are ripe for action now. (p. 26)

But the wise souls who are aware of the essential relationships emanating from the realities of things consider that one single matter cannot, by itself, influence the human reality as it ought and should, for until the minds of men become united, no important matter can be accomplished. At present Universal Peace is a matter of great importance, but unity of conscience is essential, so that the foundation of this matter may become secure, its establishment firm and its edifice strong. (p. 27)

And among the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh are justice and right. Until these are realized on the plane of existence, all things will be in disorder and remain imperfect. The world of mankind is a world of oppression and cruelty, and a realm of aggression and error.

In fine, such teachings are numerous. These manifold principles, which constitute the greatest basis for the felicity of mankind and are of the bounties of the Merciful, must be added to the matter of Universal Peace and combined with it, so that results may accrue. Otherwise the realization of Universal Peace in the world of mankind is difficult. As the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh are combined with Universal Peace, they are like a table provided with every kind of fresh and delicious food. Every soul can find at that table of infinite bounty that which he desires. If the question is restricted to Universal Peace alone, the remarkable results which are expected and desired will not be attained. The scope of Universal Peace must be such that all the communities and religions may find their highest wish realized in it. At present the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh are such that all the communities of the world, whether religious, political or ethical, ancient or modern, find in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh the expression of their highest wish. (p. 30)

Today nothing but the power of the Word of God which encompasses the realities of things can bring the thoughts, minds, hearts and spirits under the shade of one Tree. He is the potent in all things, the vivifier of souls, the preserver and the controller of the world of mankind. Praise be to God, in this day the light of the Word of God has shone forth upon all regions; and from all sects, communities, nations, tribes, peoples, religions and denominations, souls have gathered together under the shadow of the Word of Oneness, and have in the utmost fellowship united and harmonized. (p.32)