Baha'is to stress spiritual values at World Summit on Sustainable Development

August 26, 2002

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Baha'i representatives will stress the central importance of spiritual values at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Some 30 representatives of six Baha'i and Baha'i-inspired organizations will take part in the Summit, an effort to assess progress made since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in achieving sustainable development. The centerpiece of Baha'i efforts at the Summit will be the presentation of a statement, prepared by the Baha'i International Community, entitled "Religion and Development at the Crossroads: Convergence or Divergence?"

"The statement raises a bold and challenging call to the UN and to the leaders of the world's religions," said Peter Adriance, the lead representative of the Baha'i International Community to the Summit. "It asks the UN to more fully recognize the key role religion must play in the quest for sustainable development and it calls on religious leaders to reject all forms of religious fanaticism as impediments to development and peace." [For the full text of the statement, go to:]

Scheduled from 26 August to 4 September 2002, the Summit will bring together thousands of participants, including heads of state and government, national delegates and leaders from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses and other major groups. Organized by the United Nations, the Summit's goal is to inspire action towards creating an environmentally sound world while addressing humanity's needs for food, water, shelter, sanitation, energy, health services and economic security.

The gathering has three major venues. The Summit itself, with its focus on government negotiations, will be held at the Sandton Convention Center just outside Johannesburg. A Forum for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be held separately at Nasrec, about 25 kilometers from the Summit site. And a special area, called the Ubuntu Village, open to government leaders, NGOs, major groups such as businesses, and the public, has been created near the Sandton Center for exhibits, cultural performances and other events designed to help facilitate new partnerships for sustainable development.

Baha'is will participate in activities at all three venues. Delegations from the Baha'i International Community, as well as the official Baha'i communities of Brazil, Canada, and South Africa, have been accredited to the Summit. Two Baha'i-inspired organizations, the International Environment Forum (IEF) and the European Baha'i Business Forum (EBBF), which operate on Baha'i principles but have no formal connection to Baha'i institutions, have also been accredited to the Summit and will send delegations. In all, 30 Baha'is have been accredited from these organizations, said Mr. Adriance.

The same delegations will also participate in activities at the NGO Forum and the Ubuntu Village. In particular, the Baha'i International Community and the Baha'i Community of South Africa have created two exhibits, one for the Ubuntu Village and the other for the NGO Forum. The exhibits highlight the Baha'i approach to development and showcase Baha'i projects that reflect values and principles at "the heart of development," such as trustworthiness, the equality of women and men, and justice.

The IEF and EBBF will share an exhibit at the NGO Forum. They have also planned several workshops on topics that include: Multiple Dimensions of Globalization; Indicators for Sustainability; Integrating Science in Local Communities; Values For Sustainable Development; and Value-Based Education For Sustainable Development.

"In many respects," said Mr. Adriance, "the program of workshops and activities by these Baha'i-inspired organizations backs up the central theme of the Baha'is at the Summit -- which is to show that you can't have sustainable development in a spiritual vacuum."

"Both the IEF and the EBBF have stressed the importance of spiritual values in their work, with the IEF focusing on values as they relate to the scientific and technical issues surrounding the environment and the EBBF focusing on values as they relate to business ethics," Mr. Adriance added.

"We believe that religion has a significant role to play in inculcating the values necessary to create a sustainable society. And there are many groups that are now carrying forward this message to the United Nations and other international organizations," Mr. Adriance said.

In addition, two Baha'i youth performing arts troupes, Beyond Words and Ablaze, will support selected volunteer initiatives, and there will also be a display of "Children's Art for the Environment" from an annual competition run by the Baha'is in the Cape Town area.