pp. 525-527 in Jan-Gustav Strandenaes and Isis Alvarez (eds), The People's Environment narrative: 50 years with UNEP and Civil
Society, Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, 5 June 2023
“One Planet, One Habitation”
Climate Initiatives of the Baha’i International Community
at Stockholm+50 and Beyond
Representative to the United Nations
Baha’i International Community
The People's Environment narrative: 50 years with UNEP and Civil Society
Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future
5 June 2023
The Bahá’í International Community (BIC) represents the worldwide membership of the Bahá’í Faith, organized through some 200 national affiliates, to the United Nations. First established in 1948, the BIC has consultative status with ECOSOC and UNICEF, as well as accreditation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Department of Global Communications (DGC).
At the heart of the BIC’s message at the Stockholm+50 conference was one central message: the coordinated contributions of numerous populations around the world will be required to rebalance humanity’s relationship with the natural world.
Among a range of activities it undertook at the conference, the BIC released a major environmental statement entitled One Planet, One Habitation: A Bahaʼi Perspective on Recasting Humanity’s Relationship With the Natural World.
The statement suggested that one of the central challenges facing humanity today is bridging the gulf between intention and action. “Moving humanity to a more sustainable and harmonious relationship with the natural world will require a strong and actionable consensus, along with collective will, around key principles that are to shape the affairs of the international community,” it read.
“Consensus that has been well settled is demonstrated not merely by the name and claim of text on a page, but through coordinated, collaborative action; its touchstone is deeds, not words.”
Concepts explored in the statement included the need to empower masses of humanity to contribute to processes of constructive social transformation, the need to redefine notions of progress and success in more holistic and less material terms, the need to align personal and institutional choices with higher principles, and the need to base collective action on consciousness of the oneness of humanity, as expressed through relationships of justice and appreciation for diversity.
“Will humanity act on the truth that its own destiny and that of the planet are irrevocably intertwined?” the statement asked. “Or will still greater calamities be required to move it to action?”
One Planet, One Habitation joins contributions the BIC made to other notable environmental milestones, such as the 21st meeting of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties, from which the 2015 Paris Agreement emerged (statement), the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development or Rio “Earth Summit” (statement), and the original 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (statement).
The statement was launched at an event that the BIC co-hosted at the Swedish Parliament with several other civil society organizations, including the Climate Governance Commission and Global Women Leaders: Voices for Change and Inclusion. The event was moderated by Swedish Members of Parliament Anders Österberg and Mattias Vepsä.
Titled “Global Environmental Governance: Ethical Foundations & Practical Proposals in an Age of Interdependence,” the event explored elements required for global environmental governance to meet the needs of both present and future generations.
“Concepts of human environment, sustainability, and the triple planetary crisis are part of an evolving discourse,” said Daniel Perell, a Representative of the BIC who spoke at the event. “As understanding deepens, we must continually refine our methods and approaches.”
Maria Fernanda Espinosa, former President of the United Nations General Assembly, noted in opening remarks the need to align systems of global governance with widely recognized ethical values.
“A new pact for the future requires a values-based multilateral system,” Ms. Espinosa said. “This is not an abstract statement. It means to transition from greed to solidarity and the redistribution of wealth and power, from prejudice to empathy and kindness, from indifference and hate to radical love for humankind and nature.”
Other speakers at the event included Augusto Lopez-Claros, Executive Director of the Global Governance Forum; Maja Groff, Convenor of the Climate Governance Commission; and Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Board Member of the International Environment Forum.
Joining Mr. Perell on the delegation to the conference was Peter Aburi, who represents the BIC at UNEP in Nairobi, Kenya, and Nogol Rahbin, from the Baha’i Community of Sweden. Other Baha’is attending the conference as United Nations staffers, members of national delegations, and with civil society groups included Arthur Dahl, who represented the BIC at the 1972 environmental conference in Stockholm and later served in senior leadership positions at UNEP and the International Environment Forum. Following the statement launch, Mr. Dahl was featured at a roundtable event, hosted by noted Swedish journalist Erik Halkjaer, Editor-in-chief of Sveriges Natur Magazine and President of Reporters Without Borders Sweden.
The BIC subsequently hosted a follow-up event at its Offices in New York, in collaboration with the UNEP and the government of Sweden, to share outcomes from the conference with those based at the UN headquarters.
The BIC’s activities at Stockholm built on a range of past efforts around climate issues and laid foundations for further engagement going forward. It hopes to share narratives of what the principles laid out in One Planet, One Habitation look like when put into practice at all levels, and is looking forward to continued engagement with UNEP and other related UN processes going forward.
In the view of the BIC, Stockholm+50 represented a moment to reflect on progress made over the past 50 years but more importantly, consider the road to come for the next 50. Because it did not aim to produce a negotiated outcome document, the conference fostered a different kind of atmosphere, more supportive of mutual learning and shared endeavour. An important focus going forward will be ensuring that the exchanges made possible by this environment are translated into long-standing and action-oriented partnerships.
Extraordinary scientific advancement since 1972 has put the international community in a well-informed position, from which appropriate policy can be derived. This reality was foundational to all the deliberations at Stockholm+50. Yet institutions and systems, as well as patterns of thought, behaviour, and culture continue to act as barriers to taking full and necessary action in response to this scientific knowledge. The work of the coming years will be to answer the ethical call to enact policy contrary to dominant narratives and in favour of our obligations to present and future generations — generations which will increasingly feel the negative impacts so long as our obligations remain unmet.
Panelists share thoughts at an event co-hosted by the BIC, ti- tled “Global Environmental Governance: Ethical Foundations & Practical Proposals in an Age of Interdependence” © BIC
“Concepts of human environment, sustainability, and the triple planetary crisis are part of an evolving discourse”
Delegation members Peter Aburi, Daniel Perell, and Nogol Rahbin represented the BIC at the Stockholm+50 environmental conference © BIC
SOURCE: pp. 525-527 in Jan-Gustav Strandenaes and Isis Alvarez (eds), The People's Environment narrative: 50 years with UNEP and Civil Society, Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, 5 June 2023. https://iefworld.org/fl/Peoples_Environment_Narrative5June2023.pdf
Last updated 11 June 2023