Global Crisis, the MDGs, and the Earth Charter

Global_Crisis

The MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS (MDGs) are an intertwined set of priorities first promoted by the United Nations in 2000.

Here they are:
End Poverty and Hunger
Universal Education
Gender Equality
Child Health
Maternal Health
Combat HIV/AIDS
Environmental Sustainability
Global Partnership

The original “deadline” for meeting the goals was 2015.

In the highly influential Huffington Post , in an article entitled, It’s Over: The Tragedy of the Millennium Development Goals, William Easterly says, “The MDGs will go down in history as a success in global consciousness-raising, but a failure in using that consciousness for its stated objectives….Why waste any more effort on the MDGs, now that we know they will not be met?”

In the 2009 Report on the status of attainment of the goals, it says:

“Rather than retreat, now is the time to accelerate progress towards the MDGs and to strengthen the global partnership for development. If the global community responds constructively to the crisis, the goals can still be achieved.”

The statement from the Huffington Post is from an economist. The statement from the 2009 Report is from the Secretary-General of the UN.

It’s relatively easy to see why the chief officer of the United Nations would implore hope and significantly puzzling why an economist would preach defeat before the deadline…

Of course there are many other views as well as many other initiatives to improve the miserable lot of most of the members of our human family…

One particularly important initiative is the Earth Charter—drafted during a six-year worldwide consultation process (1994-2000).

In 1991, the Bahá’í International Community offered suggestions for the proposed Earth Charter and presented them to the Preparatory Committee of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

This blog always offers a spiritual quote along with its commentary since I believe the solutions to cultural and global crises lie in applied spirituality. I believe the BIC’s suggestions to the UNCED are noteworthy because they give the underlying spiritual prerequisites without which any proposed political or economic solution will fail. Here are those suggestions…

Spiritual Quote:

Geneva
5 April 1991

* * * * *

“The Bahá’í International Community applauds the proposal of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) that an Earth Charter be one of six principal components to be addressed at UNCED in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992. Indeed, agreement on the ‘principles to govern the relationships of peoples and nations with each other and with the earth’ will be essential ‘to ensure our common future in both environmental and developmental terms’. We, therefore, welcome this opportunity to share our views on elements to be considered for inclusion in this proposed Charter.

“It is our conviction that any call to global action for environment and development must be rooted in universally accepted values and principles. Similarly, the search for solutions to the world’s grave environmental and developmental problems must go beyond technical-utilitarian proposals and address the underlying causes of the crisis. Genuine solutions, in the Bahá’í view, will require a globally accepted vision for the future, based on unity and willing cooperation among the nations, races, creeds, and classes of the human family. Commitment to a higher moral standard, equality between the sexes, and the development of consultative skills for the effective functioning of groups at all levels of society will be essential.

“There are many environmental declarations to which the UNCED Earth Charter could refer and on which it might draw, including the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment (1972), the Nairobi Declaration (1982), the World Charter for Nature (1982), and more recent documents such as the Universal Code of Environmental Conduct (Bangkok, October 1990).

“Clearly, an UNCED declaration or Earth Charter would profit from the widest possible consultation with governments and non-governmental organizations. The Bahá’í International Community is, therefore, pleased to offer the following elements for possible inclusion in such a declaration of principles.

“In order to reorient individuals and societies toward a sustainable future, we must recognize the following.

– Unity is essential if diverse peoples are to work toward a common future. The Earth Charter might well identify those aspects of unity which are prerequisites for the achievement of sustainable development. In the Bahá’í view, ‘The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established’.

– The unrestrained exploitation of natural resources is merely a symptom of an overall sickness of the human spirit. Any solutions to the environment/development crisis must, therefore, be rooted in an approach which fosters spiritual balance and harmony within the individual, between individuals, and with the environment as a whole. Material development must serve not only the body, but the mind and spirit as well.

– The changes required to reorient the world toward a sustainable future imply degrees of sacrifice, social integration, selfless action, and unity of purpose rarely achieved in human history. These qualities have reached their highest degree of development through the power of religion. Therefore, the world’s religious communities have a major role to play in inspiring these qualities in their members, releasing latent capacities of the human spirit and empowering individuals to act on behalf of the planet, its peoples, and future generations.

– Nothing short of a world federal system, guided by universally agreed upon and enforceable laws, will allow nation states to manage cooperatively an increasingly interdependent and rapidly changing world, thereby ensuring peace and social and economic justice for all the world’s peoples.

– Development must be decentralized in order to involve communities in formulating and implementing the decisions and programs that affect their lives. Such a decentralization need not conflict with a global system and strategy, but would in fact ensure that developmental processes are adapted to the planet’s rich cultural, geographic, and ecological diversity.

– Consultation must replace confrontation and domination in order to gain the cooperation of the family of nations in devising and implementing measures that will preserve the earth’s ecological balance.

– Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavor, including environment and development, will the moral and psychological climate be created in which a peaceful, harmonious, and sustainable civilization can emerge and flourish.

– The cause of universal education deserves the utmost support, for no nation can achieve success unless education is accorded all its citizens. Such an education should promote the consciousness of both the oneness of humanity and the integral connection between humankind and the world of nature. By nurturing a sense of world citizenship, education can prepare the youth of the world for the organic changes in the structure of society which the principle of oneness implies.

“The Bahá’í International Community stands ready to contribute to the further elaboration and promotion of an Earth Charter in consultation with other interested bodies.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1992 June 06, Earth Charter

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What Good Is The United Nations? – Part Two

thinkingTime to put on our thinking caps. Time to search for values and principles that the whole of humanity can embrace. Time to work tirelessly so, at least, our great-grandchildren can have some measure of peace and tranquillity.

Sure, you could avoid thinking hard about these issues but, in my experience, if things weren’t going well and I avoided the effort of critical thought, things got immeasurably worse.

Also, this quote from the last post should lend tremendous power to the effort of thought leading to action:
“The great peace long envisioned by the peoples and nations of the world is well within our grasp.”

In the last post, we looked at some of the immensely critical issues testing the effectiveness of the United Nations—the continuing subjugation of women and girls, neglect of cultural and religious minorities, unbridled nationalism, massive refugee flows, narrow economic agendas exalting material prosperity, and the growing importance of the role of religion in discussions of global crises.

How in the world can all these things be resolved in time to avoid a global meltdown?

There is no longer any rational doubt about what can provide the power to make all the changes we must make—The Principle of Oneness—the awareness that we are All  in the same boat and we must include All  in the bailing out process…

If you think you don’t have to be involved or that other people have the job of resolving these issues, you’re ignoring one of the most basic laws of the universe: Everything Is Interconnected.

There are certain important areas of change the United Nations is involved in and some they need to bring to greater urgency in their agendas.

The following points of focus come from the Study Guide to the Bahá’í International Community’s 2005 statement to the UN.

“…at what point is it morally legitimate and necessary for the international community to intervene in the affairs of sovereign states? In 2001, in response to this question, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty defined
sovereignty not only as an inviolable right (as it had been previously understood) but as a ‘responsibility to protect (its citizens).’ In a historic move during the 60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly member states, after much debate, endorsed this new understanding of sovereignty.”

“For many years, the level of ‘development’ of a nation was assessed primarily by its Gross National Product (GNP), its GNP per capita and other commodity-based indicators. In 1990, under the leadership of Mahbub ul Haq (former minister of finance of Pakistan) and Amartya Sen (Nobel prize winning economist from India) —the UN released its first annual Human Development Report stating that ‘people are the real wealth of a nation.’” Read the report.

“Several factors have contributed to the near complete rejection of religion in concepts of international relations.”

“In [David Held’s] book, Democracy and the Global Order, he states that the ‘future has to be conceived in cosmopolitan terms’ which include a set of global institutions shaped by democratic law and which act as a ‘government’ by implementing and enforcing that law. Citing philosopher Immanuel Kant, Held states that ‘cosmopolitan law’ is not a utopian way of thinking about law, but rather a ‘necessary complement’ to the existing code of national and international law and a ‘means to transform the latter into the public law of humanity’.”

Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, introduced a major report that “took a comprehensive approach – stressing the interdependence of development, freedom, and peace and emphasizing human solidarity as the basis for effective and sustainable solutions to global challenges.”

“As the number of countries with significant minority populations grows, states face the challenge of devising policies to effectively govern increasingly diverse ethnic, religious, and linguistic populations.” Read the report, Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World.

This is only a representative offering of the super-critical issues facing not only the United Nations but each of us as World Citizens. Will we, through lack of initiative and action, let our world implode on itself?

Spiritual Quote:

“It is my hope that this standard of the oneness of the world of humanity may be upraised with the utmost solidity so that the Orient and Occident may become perfectly reconciled and attain complete intercommunication, the hearts of the East and West become united and attracted, real union become unveiled, the light of guidance shine, divine effulgences be seen day by day so that the world of humanity may find complete tranquillity, the eternal happiness of man become evident and the hearts of the people of the world be as mirrors in which the rays of the Sun of Reality may be reflected. Consequently, it is my request that you should strive so that the light of reality may shine and the everlasting felicity of the world of man become apparent.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 12

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What Good Is The United Nations? – Part One

United Nations
Does the United Nations actually help in our crisis-laden world?

Can they actually do anything that counts—anything that addresses humanity’s ills and facilitates solutions?

From Forbes: A Real Election Choice On The United Nations “U.N. reforms proclaimed with fanfare in recent years have fizzled.”

From the New York Times: U.N. Blocked From Pulling Workers Out of Congo “…the peacekeeping troops were overstretched in trying to protect the civilian population, which is caught in the middle of vicious fighting between a rebel group and the Congolese Army.”

From The Hindu: Give developing nations a say in financial crisis talks “A day before the United Nations meets to discuss its taskforce on the global financial crisis, ActionAid, along with more than 400 civil society organisations across the world, has issued a statement demanding that developing nations be included in crisis talks.”

This post will present some of the most pressing international concerns as discussed in a major document presented to the United Nations on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of its founding in 2005. It was presented by the Bahá’í International Community, a Non-Governmental Organization registered with the UN. The document is called The Search for Values in an Age of Transition. It is not casual reading and there’s also a detailed Study Guide to help understand the issues and solutions it provides.

I’ll give you the essence of the issues dealt with in this post and the solutions they present in the next post.

One of the most powerful statements in this document is: “The great peace long envisioned by the peoples and nations of the world is well within our grasp.”

Quite a statement, eh? How in the world can an organization make such a statement when we have issues like these to deal with:

“The advancement of men and boys at the expense of women and girls has sorely limited the creative and material capacities of communities to develop and address their problems…”

“…the neglect of cultural and religious minorities has intensified ancient prejudices setting peoples and nations against one another…”

“…an unbridled nationalism has trampled the rights and opportunities of citizens in other nations…”

“…weak states have erupted in conflict, lawlessness, and massive refugee flows…”

“…narrow economic agendas exalting material prosperity have often suffocated the social and moral development required for the equitable and beneficent use of wealth.”

One of the most stunning issues brought up for consideration is the growing importance of the role of religion in discussions of global crises:

“The existing debate about religion in the public sphere, however, has been driven by the voices and actions of extreme proponents on both sides—those who impose their religious ideology by force, whose most visible expression is terrorism—and those who deny any place for expressions of faith or belief in the public sphere. Yet neither extreme is representative of the majority of humankind and neither promotes a sustainable peace.”

Here are a few more snips from the first part of the document:

“…the question of values must take a central place in deliberations, be articulated and made explicit.”

“…the search for shared values—beyond the clash of extremes—is paramount for effective action.”

“…we can no longer be content with a passive tolerance of each other’s worldviews; what is required is an active search for those common values and moral principles which will lift up the condition of every woman, man, and child, regardless of race, class, religion or political opinion.”

This is, no doubt, a challenging document but these are, certainly, challenging times.

You may also be interested in my post, Sweet Words Are Crying Out for Potent Action, one of the most popular posts on this blog, which has the text of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In the next post, we’ll look at some of the changes proposed for the United Nations, to transform it into the global peace-promoting organization it was created to be.

Spiritual Quote:

“No social body, whatever its form, has power to maintain essential human rights for persons who have repudiated their moral obligation and abandoned the divine endowment distinguishing man from beast. Civil definitions of political and economic status, if devoid of moral value and influence, are not equivalent to essential human rights but express the expedients of partisan policy. An ordered society can only be maintained by moral beings.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1947 Feb, A Bahá’í Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights, Presented to the first session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

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Mother Earth Is Crying

pollution

What will it take for the leaders, political and corporate, to stop killing the very environment they use to make their profits?

From IC Publications, News from Africa: West Africa’s coastline redrawn by climate change: experts

From the Canberra Times: Adjusting for climate change a shared task

From Agence France-Presse: ‘Clock ticking’ on global warming: UN climate chief

One barrier to resolving this crisis is the highly fractured nature of our world community. There are, taking an opinionated survey, a few leaders of countries, some members of legislative bodies, a larger group of leaders and lobbyists for corporations, a number of representatives to global institutions, many leaders of religious communities, a few very rich people, and The Rest of Us . . .

Most of those groups are at-odds with each other.

Most people are struggling to just get along—making ends meet—dealing with depressive tendencies . . .

Many of our fellow family members in the world community are being treated like expendable non-entities!

Here are some personal responses, from Orion Magazine, to this crisis:

Storm’s Coming
Six Authors Respond to Climate Change

Recently Orion asked six authors to describe what the changing climate is doing to them personally–how it is affecting their hearts and souls. Here’s what they had to say:

A Quartet by Gretel Ehrlich

Anticipating Our Future by Jared Duval

Seeing Paradise by Jay Griffiths

The Source of Hope by Peter Sawtell

The Inner Climate by Pico Iyer

The Moral Climate by Carl Safina

The solution is not easy. The resolution of disunity is The major challenge facing humanity.

Today’s Spiritual Quote:

“Our efforts now and in the future to safeguard our common habitat and to promote the well-being and development of all peoples must be characterized by a unified approach within an effective universal framework. The unity we envision is more than an academic matter of geography, climatology or oceanography. It is based on the concept of the fundamental unity of mankind living as one world community, in which the problems of economic relations and the use of natural resources must be addressed from a global perspective with due regard for the wide diversity of climates and cultures. The universal framework proposed by Bahá’u’lláh over one hundred years ago calls for universally agreed-upon and enforceable laws, the equitable sharing of resources, fundamental adjustments to present institutional and economic relations, and world-wide changes in the values, behavior, and consumption patterns of individuals and communities.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1990 Aug 06, Environment Development

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The Divorce of Peace and Justice

It’s so easy to miss the critically important issues when focusing on materialistic concerns.

From the Christian Science Monitor: Peace before justice in Darfur “The UN must suspend an indictment of Sudan’s leader if it will bring a peace settlement.”

From the Chicago Tribune: Peace vs. justice in Sudan “…all the chest-thumping about justice being the enemy of peace rings hollow in light of the sad truth, which is that the on-again, off-again peace process—currently off—hasn’t gotten anywhere.”

From the Ottawa Citizen: Justice vs. peace “The ICC…is caught in a collision course between peace and justice in four African countries where it is working on cases.”

So…

I’ll stop trying to keep you from hurting me if you just say you’ll stop hurting me…

Or…

We know how much pain and suffering you’ve caused and we fear you greatly. We fear you so much we’re willing to not try to stop you if you’ll just sit down and talk.

Hmmm…

See that poisonous snake ready to bite you again? Just forget about that and talk some sense into it !

If my loving mother hadn’t, in all justice, slapped my hand away from that stove, I wouldn’t have a hand that peacefully avoids dangerous heat.

Why not weigh in on this discussion? I’ll admit it’s not necessarily an easily solved issue and my analogies may be rather weak but, really, what do you think?

~~~~~~~~~

“Until the actions of humankind promote justice above the satisfaction of greed and readjusts the world’s economies accordingly, the gap between the rich and the poor will continue to widen, and the dream of sustainable economic growth, peace, and prosperity must remain elusive.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Feb 12, Human Rights and Extreme Poverty

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Our Ruined Earth

My focus today is what’s wrong in Our Family’s Home . . .

From the Environment Section of AlterNet:

Why Our Food Waste May Be Our Greatest Asset
Composting is key to reducing waste costs, cutting global warming emissions, and increasing urban food security.

Time to Face the Hard Realities of a Global Energy Crisis
America needs a comprehensive plan to deal with post-peak oil — and that is going to involve some serious long-term thinking.

Get Ready for the Post-SUV World!
SUVs and big pickups are waddling off into the sunset, leaving Americans with no more excuses for the nation’s profligate oil use.

Global Warming’s Twin Evil: Wildfires and Drought
The 850 fires burning in California alone should be a wake up call that we’re unprepared for rapid climate change.

All this and much more on AlterNet’s Site . . .

And, absorb this wonderful, educational, and surprising video: “Solving” climate change from David Keith.

What’s driven our Family to this Crisis?

What can we actually do?

How much of the Crisis is manageable?

What needs to occur in political circles to make change actually happen?

Why in the world, considering that the environmental problem was already a concern in the 1950’s, have we let it get this bad?

Will prayer help?

Will war help? ( That’s a trick question. Just seeing if you’re paying attention… 😉 )

What in the World can We DO !?!

I’d Love to see your thoughts and feelings in the comments . . .

Today’s quote is from ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT: Statement to the first substantive session of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED):

“The principle of the unity of mankind naturally implies the need for world peace and security. The World Commission on Environment and Development observed in its report that world peace and security are central to sustainable development. The Bahá’í International Community agrees that as long as the specter of war continues to dominate international relations, the well-being of the human race and the environment will continue to erode. It is the Bahá’í view that the root cause of all war and injustice is the failure to recognize the fundamental oneness of the human race. Acceptance of the principle of oneness will induce the willingness to uncover and permanently resolve all other causes for conflict. Indeed, it must be the foundation for any serious attempt to find ways of living in harmony with our environment and each other.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1990 Aug 06, Environment Development

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Women . . .

SpacePlasma

For far too long, women have been irreverenced by men:
When she was still a child her father selected a teacher for her and she studied various branches of knowledge and the arts, achieving remarkable ability in literary pursuits. Such was the degree of her scholarship and attainments that her father would often express his regret, saying, “Would that she had been a boy, for he would have shed illumination upon my household, and would have succeeded me!”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 191

Here’s a bit of Truth for those who may use Scripture to attempt a suppression of women:
In the Kingdom of God, there is no difference between the men and the women; both are considered alike—only the one who works the hardest surpasses the other. In the time of Christ, women were the great agents in spreading the Kingdom. The disciples would not have been confirmed if it had not been for them—Peter would not have been strengthened. In cultivating a garden, it makes no difference whether the gardener is a man or a woman—but if the woman works hard and takes care of the plants, she will certainly have a better reward than the man who idles.
Compilations, Baha’i Prayers 9, p. 55


Often various traditions hinder the health and well-being of girls and women:
Statement to the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Agenda item: Women in development

In the view of the Bahá’í International Community, the advancement of civilization now requires the full participation of everyone, including women. For this to happen, girl children as well as boy children must be valued by their families and by society. We share UNICEF’s distress at the blatant neglect of girl children, justified in many parts of the world as part of the culture. We concur with the recommendation, set forth in the Progress report on achievements made in the implementation of UNICEF policy on women in development (E/ICEF/1991/L.5), that UNICEF broaden its approach to maternal health to include an attempt to alter factors that affect girl’s and women’s health before maternity, including harmful traditional attitudes and practices.
Baha’i International Community, 1991 Apr 22, Girl Child

Some may violently disagree with the next quote but this blog does try to focus on spirituality:

As long as the desire, however small, of a man for women is not destroyed, so long is his mind attached, like a sucking calf is to its mother. Cut out the love of self, like an autumn lotus, with your hand. Cherish the path of peace. Nirvana has been shown by the Buddha.
Buddhist, Dhammapada – Sayings of the Buddha 2 (tr. J. Richards)

And, in closing, a poet revered by the spiritually-minded:

Love and tenderness are qualities of humanity,
Passion and lust are qualities of animality.
Woman is a ray of God, not a mere mistress,
The Creator’s self, as it were, not a mere creature!

Mathnavi of Rumi (E.H. Whinfield tr), The Masnavi , Vol 1