An ethical perspective on the environment – EBBF statement at COP15

As you might have noticed, I’m not at the COP15 in Copenhagen.

But several of my Baha’i friends are and some of them are attending as members of the European Baha’i Business Forum (EBBF). The EBBF  has offered a brilliant statement today.

Below is the full text of the EBBF statement (italics is my emphasis):

A statement from the European Baha’i Business Forum December 2009

One of the greatest crises facing all of us living on planet Earth is that of climate change. This global crisis is not limited to one geographic area but affects the entire world’s population, with its drastic consequences being felt particularly by the poor.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen offers a unique opportunity to establish a new, global approach to this enormous challenge. As a forum of businesses and business people in 70 countries, EBBF recognizes that the business community, as the perpetuator of much of the damage to the environment, must be among the first to change its practices and behaviours, to base them on an ethical ground, and to play a significant role in creating the new approach to climate change, acknowledging that the problem is, at heart, a moral one of justice and equity which must be tackled in unity.

EBBF recognizes that action and change are needed at all levels, from an individual’s consumption patterns and lifestyle choices to the restructuring and reorientation of enterprises, and the effective implementation of mechanisms of global governance. This is, at base, a call to create a new civilization, a civilization at once just, peaceful, sustainable and prosperous. “We need a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade and finance, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its federated units.” Such an ambitious task must start somewhere: EBBF and its members accept that they have a responsibility to live differently, now.

EBBF recognizes that responses to climate change may differ. However defining these responsibilities requires great attention to ethical principles. Justice requires that those who have caused the present environmental crisis bear the main burden to help nations and peoples adapt to the changes in agriculture, production and patterns of life that climate change will inevitably bring.

EBBF asserts that priority must be given to the poorest, who are the least responsible for the problem while being its greatest victims.EBBF recognizes that our decisions and behaviors are the direct consequences of our values and beliefs, no less for the business community than the world at large. Values common to the spiritual heritage of all humanity need to be identified, nurtured, preserved and utilized as the basis of a more cogent and practical response to climate change as such values will enable us to unite to bring about solutions through common projects and global innovation.

EBBF has begun to identify and establish in its own enterprises such values as dialogue, honesty, generosity, respect and justice, which together with trustworthiness, unity, service, benevolence, compassion and mutual respect as fundamental to embedding the changes in practice that will enable people to combat and adapt to climate change.

We call upon business leaders everywhere to a joint effort in rediscovering these values and implementing them in our lives and businesses while working together delving deep into our untapped reservoirs of creativity and innovation where we will, no doubt find beneficial solutions.


UN Geneva – day 3

Today’s session dealt with Mining, the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption & production (SCP), and Cross-cutting issues, interlinkages and implementation of CSD-17 decisions. Again we were given the opportunity to make several interventions and our last one during the cross-cutting issues was strongly backed up by the USA. That always feels good, if what you’ve said is supported by other delegations.This is what we said:

When it comes to cross cutting issues like “gender”, we would like to point out the following:

Gender mainstreaming (policies)  and women’s participation is NOT the same; looking at recommendations that talk about the pivotal role of women and women as agents of change, and the importance of them being part of decision-making processes, we have to say we still not see enough evidence of implementation of those recommendations and policies
What is rather interesting, is the gender balance that seems to exist in this room; it would be interesting to see a breakdown of actual functions though…

There seems to be a standard phrase, used by a lot of well meaning governments  which is a bit strange when looked at it more closely: “ …involve women and OTHER vulnerable groups”. You may see the funny contradiction: women as agents of change, being a vulnerable group as a whole? The women major group shows great diversity in who they are and the levels of expertise.

“People cannot be developed, people develop themselves” said HRH Prince Claus of the Netherlands. Some of us would appreciate ä little help from a friend to be taken seriously so we can do our jobs; others need serious assistance financially and otherwise to be able to play their roles and get out of the poverty trap. Of course we ask attention for the effects of chemicals, climate change etc. on women because of their biological  make-up.

In all cases: CSD 17 for the first time phrased it correctly and referred to women as “actors” not just as a target group  – we urge member states and others to be demand driven and precise in their wording. It will make your support even more noteworthy and appreciated.

I thought it was very useful to attend this RIM. OK, I had to attend – being the coordinator of BIC (one of the Organising Partners for CSD-18) – but it was also a much easier (smaller) meeting to build relationships and get attention (we surely did get noted due to the quality and consistency of our interventions!). I’m looking forward to working closely with Alexandra and meeting her again in New York in May.

Meanwhile my next job before Tuesday is to finish editing the discussion paper of the women major group. That is still a nightmare, but the end is near…..and the relief after emailing the final version will be immense.

UN Geneva – day 2

Regional Implementation Meetings (RIM) are held in all 5 UN regions as preparation for the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-18). This RIM for Europe and North America was the last one, following those held for Africa, Western Asia, South Asia & Pacific, and Latin America & Caribbean. It was attended by approximately 100 people, including many reps of civil society.

I finally met up with Alexandra from Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) and Olga (Eco-Accord) and was very pleased since they really are experts in Chemicals, Waste, and Mining. Good, because I’ve never liked chemistry!

I was sitting with Lesha (Nederlandse vrouwenraad = Dutch Women Council and our advisor to the Women Major Group), Alexandra and Olga, looking at the chair of the meeting and thinking ‘ I know that man. Where do I know him from?’ Finally figured out that it was Marco whom I knew from my time in Mali with the German Development Service (DED).  Very funny to realise that we both started at the same organisation and 15 years later I’m at the UN as a volunteer and Marco is a highly paid director of the UNECE Environment, Housing & Land Management Division. Anyway, we had a really nice chat afterwards.

Today’s keynote talks, followed by discussions (interventions by governments and NGOs), dealt with Transport, Chemicals, and Waste management. We (as women major group) made several interventions on all topics, highlighting specific aspects affecting women. We weren’t able to give our 1st intervention because the session ran out of time. However, the advantage of this was that the co-chairs felt bad about this and from then on gave us (Dutch Women Council, BIC, WECF, and Eco-Accord) speaking time every (!) time we asked for it in the 2 days.  We definitely had most speaking time as a major group since the other major groups did not organise themselves that well.

During lunch time we also attended a training workshop on capcaity building for civil society. Basically, sharing of lots of useful background information on the role of major groups during CSD and how we can support each other (from sharing expertise to drafting joint interventions). Very useful.

I missed the first 15 min of the session after lunch because I went outside to take photos. You’ll have to wait until I get home before I can upload them – I forgot my camera cable. The extreme lack of sockets to recharge laptops was a continuous issue in the hall (showing how old the building is, I suppose) and the owners of working adaptors became valuable friends! Amazing what kind of relationships you can built while borrowing adaptors….

UN Geneva – day 1

Been in Geneva already for 3 days – I arrived on Saturday so I could be the tourist on Sunday. I’m amazed how small Geneva is, but its location is beautiful.

Yesterday was my 1st day at the UN for a preparatory meeting to decide the position/priorities of the UNECE region regarding the 10 Year Review of Sustainable Consumption & Production (also know as the Marrakech process). Lots of words and me thinking ‘this process has been going on for the last 8  years and this is it? Where are the concrete actions?’ Anyway, the meeting definitely helped me to make more sense of the editing required of the discussion paper of the Women Major Group.

I met up with some people I knew from CSD and that was just great. It makes such a difference if you already know some faces.

In the evening we (Major Group reps) met the EU Presidency including Sweden (current chair) and Spain (incoming chair). They had brought their experts on waste, chemicals, mining, and the Marrakech process. Very open question & answer session – it’s nice if you get the feeling that your questions are taken seriously.

I’m aware that Geneva is where the League of Nations began and still walk around in wonderment and awe in the UN compound.

Today I’ll finally meet my German colleague Alexandra from WECF and I’m looking forward to that.