Days 0 & 1 of CSD-19

It always takes a while to get back into the flow of the Commission of Sustainable Development (CSD-19), even if this is my 4th time. Do I remember where to go? How long does it take to get there? What silly things did I pack in my backpack that UN security want to see? Will I remember names of key people?

Yesterday (Sunday) was a long day, starting with breakfast with 2 Baha’is, a training/information session organised by the Major Group of the NGOs, picking up of my UN batch, more NGO training, and finally our briefing at the offices of the Baha’i International Community (BIC). It was fabulous to see my Baha’i friends, catch up with them, and get ours heads around the BIC focus points. More on that later.

Today (Monday) is Day 1 of the 19th session of CSD. For more general info, please look here.

I find the 1st day always a bit boring (I know, awful isn’t it?) with the general statements made at the opening session – everybody thanking everybody and expresssing their pleasure in being here. I wonder if that’ll still be the case at those days of negotiating at 3AM (fully expected later in the 2nd week).

The Women Major Group (WMG) is meeting at 6pm tonight, so I’ll attend that briefing.

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Day 7 at CSD-18

For Dutch readers I’d like to point you to the blog that’s being written by Lesha and Wanda on behalf of the Dutch Wommen Council.

Monday of the 2nd week is always the day that you suddenly see new faces and realise that others have disappeared without you having said goodbye properly. So, thank you Alexandra, Olga and Yuyun from WECF for your inputs on chemicals, waste and mining.

Morning briefings were followed by coffee with Lesha and putting a statement together about implementation of previous CSD decisions. We divided tasks for statement writing and presentations for Tuesday and Wednesday, so half of the week already feels under control. Phew!

In the afternoon I went to the side event organised by UNESCO, the Baha’i International Community, and the Swedish Mission to the UN on”Rethinking prosperity: forging alternatives to a culture of consumerism.” The title of the event was the same as the BIC statement for CSD-18. Speakers included Tim Jackson of the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission and author of the book Prosperity without Growth; Jeffrey Barber of the International Coalition on Sustainable Production & Consumption; Luis Flores Mimica of Consumers International; and Victoria Thoresen of the Partnership for Education & Research on Responsible Living (PERL). And then of course the arts were included; this year 2 poems read by Kiara Worth (she has promised me the text).

These are some of the focus sentences from the BIC statement:

“The issue of sustainable consumption and production, under consideration by this Commission, will need to be considered in the broader context of an ailing social order—one characterized by competition, violence, conflict and insecurity—of which it is a part.”

“The culture of consumerism, however, has tended to reduce human beings to competitive, insatiable consumers of goods and to objects of manipulation by the market.”

“It is not enough to conceive of sustainable consumption and production in terms of creating opportunities for those living in poverty to meet their basic needs.”

“Ultimately, the transformation required to shift towards sustainable consumption and production will entail no less than an organic change in the structure of society itself so as to reflect fully the interdependence of the entire social body—as well as the interconnectedness with the natural world that sustains it.”

“The unfettered cultivation of needs and wants has led to a system fully dependent on excessive consumption for a privileged few, while reinforcing exclusion, poverty and inequality, for the majority.”

“Developing the capacity for identifying technological need and for technological innovation and adaptation—in light of societal needs and environmental constraints—will be vital to social progress.”

“As a starting point, the program of education must be based on a clear vision of the kind of society that we wish to live in; and the kind of individuals that will bring this about.”

“The cultural shifts taking place are evident in the greater capacity to carry out collective action, to see oneself as an agent of change in the community, as a humble learner, as an active participant in the generation, diffusion and application of knowledge.”

day 1 at CSD-18

The new North Lawn building at the UN is, well, what shall I say? It’s very square, white, light (compared to the old venue) and has sufficient sockets. Other than that, I don’t know what to say about it. It’s temporary as well (that might explain some of its design). Security queues were long due to CSD coinciding with negotiations about the non-proliferation treaty on nuclear weapons. So, lots of TV crews and demonstrators, but of course not for CSD!

Because many people were still getting their UN passes, attendance at the morning briefings was low. Jan-Gustav from the NGO Major Group couldn’t get rid of all their secondary passes for the afternoon session! He gave them to us, noting they’d expect something in return.

Well, our briefing only had about 10 attendees, so I struggled with getting rid of all the secondary passses as well. Completely the opposite of my expectation! I’m not sure if day-1 is a good indication of what will happen in these 2 weeks, so I’ll wait and see.

The first woman I knew from last time who walked in this morning was ‘charmed’ into presenting our 1-minute statement. Luckily I knew Sabinah wouldn’t say ‘no’ to my request, so at least our seat at the microphone was occupied during the opening session. However, apparently all these secondary passes weren’t really needed since security wasn’t aware of them and let anyone in……..Typical! Again, let’s wait and see what happens at day-2.

Anyway, I didn’t go into tthe opening session but explored the new building instead and sat in the ECOSOC room which acts as an overflow room with many big screens showing what was happening in conference room 1. Opening statements from the Major Groups were amazing, full of principles close to Baha’i principles. Let me show you the statement presented by the children & youth Major Group and delivered by Michaela Hogenboom (youth representative on the Dutch government delegation):

Thank you chair for giving me the floor

Dear delegates,

As this is the 18th session of the CSD, we have finally come of age. We are no longer in our childhood stages of determining sustainable development – the time of maturity has arrived. This year is the International Year of Youth and now, more than ever before, the youth are taking a stand.

The need for a change in our societies is stronger than ever. This transformation – that enables us to shift towards a more sustainable world – should be an organic process, guided by principles of compassion, integrity and justice. We need to pragmatically rethink our behavioral patterns, to enable a paradigm shift that is based on a cyclical process of action, reflection and meaningful participation, which involves citizens as a key driver of change.

Awareness, education and empowerment are fundamental requisites to enabling this process. We are ready to take on this challenge, as our organizations are key providers of non-formal education. Through peer-to-peer learning we are already investing in our own social capital to build patterns of awareness. We want to be empowered and count on your recognition to do this.

Youth are energetic and passionate about holding governments and all relevant stakeholders involved accountable for their actions. We are equal partners in this process and commit ourselves fully to achieving the challenges as will be identified by this Commission and the solutions required beyond today.

We need to transcend national borders and individual action. We all together have a common but differentiated responsibility.

Let our vision be world embracing.

I spent the afternoon catching up on reading, sorting out stuff for the Women Major group, skyping with my love, chatting to my BIC friends and attended our BIC briefing at 5 pm. Got home early (it was still light!), so I actually had time to go for a run in Central Park.

the day before day 0 at CSD-18

I know, bit of  a strange title, but yesterday was my day of being the tourist in New York, before today’s (day 0) of preparatory meetings and tomorrow’s start (day 1) of the 18th session of the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-18). So, together with my brother and Katinka (Dutch Baha’i), we explored the southern part of Manhatttan, took the free ferry to Staten Island to take photos of the Statute of Liberty on the way, and went to the Guggenheim museum (I liked the building but was disappointed by the exhibitions). Weary feet in the evening and a brain tired from jetlag meant that my plan to do some background reading was delayed to early Sunday morning (i.e. now!).

Hoping to do the same as last year and writing this blog every day, using it as a way to reflect on yesterday’s events. It is fab to be here again, not so much New York (can’t say I’m a big fan of it), but mainly the working together with friends (Baha’is and others) to support a concept I passionately believe in. I’m very excited by the statement released by the Baha’i International Community (BIC) during CSD-18 to support the discussion on Sustainable Consumption & Production. The BIC’s statement  is called “Rethinking Prosperity: Forging Alternatives to a Culture of Consumerism” and I will reflect on it more later. Let me just give you its opening paragraph:

Against the backdrop of climate change, environmental degradation, and the crippling extremes of wealth and poverty, the transformation from a culture of unfettered consumerism to a culture of sustainability has gained momentum in large part through the efforts of civil society organizations and governmental agencies worldwide. Beyond informed policies and ‘greener technologies’ it is a transformation that will require an earnest examination of our understanding of human nature and of the cultural frameworks driving institutions of government, business, education, and media around the world. Questions of what is natural and just will need to be critically re-examined. The issue of sustainable consumption and production, under consideration by this Commission, will need to be considered in the broader context of an ailing social order—one characterized by competition, violence, conflict and insecurity—of which it is a part.

And this first paragraph is followed by 7 more pages of insights and reflections…much food for thought and sharing.

To fly or not to fly ? Getting ready for CSD-18

It’s one week before my flight to New York to attend the 18th session of the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-18) on behalf of the UK’s Baha’i community. I’ll be a member of the 16-people strong delegation of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) and am really looking forward to seeing some of my fellow Baha’i friends back whom I met last year.

That is, of course, assuming that a certain Icelandic volcano behaves and no one panics (that includes me). Normally I wouldn’t mind too much risking being stuck in New York for a few more days (finally getting the change to be the tourist then!), but this time I’d rather be back in the UK so I can be at  my own wedding in May. So, I need some courage over the next week to decide what to do.

This year’s CSD-18 themes are Chemicals, Mining, Waste management, and Transport, as well as a review of the so-called Marrakech process (dealing with patterns of sustainable production and consumption). This year BIC also acts as one of the Organising Partners (OPs) for 2 of the Major Groups: Women and Children & Youth. I’m the BIC’s coordinator for the Women Major Group (WMG) and have been participating in the monthly prepatory conference calls with the UN Secretariat. The last one is scheduled for Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I need to start thinking about what to pack, have ordered a SIM card which works in the US, and decide how I’m going to meet up with my younger brother for a weekend of being the NY tourist. I hope/plan to blog every day about CSD, as I did last year, because I enjoyed that early morning reflection on previous day events/developments. So, please bear with me and spare a few prayers/positive thoughts for me while I make up my mind and gather courage 🙂

Ethical dimensions of climate change /de ethische kant van klimaatsverandering

Blog Action Day 2009 on Climate Change was yesterday. So, yes, I know I’m late.

I’m just going to share a few thoughts from the Baha’i International Community (BIC) and the International Environment Forum (IEF) on the ethical dimensions of climate change.

In May I attended a workshop organised by the BIC and we were asked to look at several case studies of vulnerable countries such as Fiji, Niger, and Bangladesh. We were asked to identify what we considered to be the ethical issues embedded in the case study. I found the following questions very thought-provoking:

Who or what should be protected or safeguarded?
Who are affected most?
Who are the most vulnerable?
What rights do the most vulnerable have to protection?
Who has the responsibility to protect and assist the most vulnerable?
Who should participate in deciding what actions should be taken?

Not easy to answer any of these, but they do make you think!

The BIC statement “Seizing the Opportunity: Redefining the challenge of climate change” is as thought-provoking as the above questions, so I’m just going to share some of its paragraphs (emphasis in bold is mine). You can read the whole statement here:

“As negotiations proceed to set the rules and establish the mechanisms that will determine how governments assist vulnerable countries and approach this global challenge, they will test the resolve of the international community to address comprehensively and justly the shared threat of climate change.

Yet, in the face of the destructive impacts of climate change – exacerbated by the extremes of wealth and poverty – a need for new approaches centered on the principles of justice and equity is apparent. A dynamic and bourgeoning discourse on the ethical dimensions of climate change has brought to the fore the role of ethical inquiry in overcoming some of the most difficult substantive and process-related challenges. The fundamental questions it seeks to address include: Who is responsible for the consequences of climate change?; Who should pay for the damages?; How should target levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere be determined?; What procedures will ensure fair representation in decision-making?; and, if nations have a responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, how do those responsibilities devolve onto the various units of government, organizations, individuals and non-state actors? The challenge before the world community, then, is not only a technical one but a moral one, which calls for the transformation of thoughts and behaviors so as to allow our economic and social structures to extend the benefits of development to all people. To contribute to this important discourse, we assert that the principle of the oneness of humankind must become the ruling principle of international life. This principle does not seek to undermine national autonomy or suppress cultural or intellectual diversity. Rather, it makes it possible to view the climate change challenge through a new lens – one that perceives humanity as a unified whole, not unlike the cells of the human body, infinitely differentiated in form and function yet united in a common purpose which exceeds that of its component parts.

… the United Nations must give more attention to the gender dimensions of climate change. Neither the principal legal nor scientific framework guiding climate change negotiations – the UNFCCC and the Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – makes reference to gender. To begin to remedy this situation, we call on the United Nations and member states to include a gender dimension in their response to climate change and in their ongoing and future negotiations of climate change agreements. As a starting point, a gender component could be included in national reports to the UNFCCC; the presence of gender experts on UNFCCC delegations would further strengthen the gender analysis.

Efforts to reconceptualize sovereignty, from an absolute right to a responsibility, signal that a shift in consciousness towards greater degrees of global solidarity is already underway. To be sure, the solution to climate change exceeds the capacities and resources of any one nation and requires the full cooperation of all nations, each according to their means.

Much has been said about the need for cooperation to solve a climate challenge that no nation or community can solve alone. The principle of the oneness of humankind presented in this statement seeks to move beyond utilitarian notions of cooperation to anchor the aspirations of individuals, communities and nations to those of the progress of humanity. In practical terms, it affirms that individual and national interests are best served in tandem with the progress of the whole. As children, women, men, religious and scientific communities as well as governments and international institutions converge on this reality, we will do more than achieve a collective response to the climate change crisis. We will usher in a new paradigm by means of which we can understand our purpose and responsibilities in an interconnected world; a new standard by which to evaluate human progress; and a mode of governance faithful to the ties that bind us as members of one human race.”

Update

An update of my activities seems long overdue. So, what’s kept me busy the last few weeks? First of all a very successful (1st ever in England) residential cluster school near Durham over the August Bank holiday weekend. I still need to pull together a final report, but that’ll happen soon.

Last week, with a UN nomination deadline looming, I managed to sort out nominations for 4 women to attend different Regional Implementation Meetings (RIMs). These women will get their trips funded by the UN. RIMs are preparation meetings for next year’s 18th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. The nominations have come via the 3 Organising Parties for the Women’s Caucus. The Baha’i International Community (BIC) proposed a Baha’i from Brazil, Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) proposed women from Russia and Indonesia (both winners of the 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize), and Voices of African Mothers (VAM) proposed someone from Ghana. Unfortunately we’ve been unable, so far, to find a suitable candidate from the Western Asia region.

The next thing on the list writing a guideline on the structure of the discussion paper needed by the end of November. Hopefully with this guideline, we can split the topics (chemicals, hazardous waste management, transport, mining, and the 10-year review on sustainable consumption & production) between BIC, WECF and VAM. Each topic needs to be covered in 1600 words which isn’t a lot!