Sustainable development focus for Rio conference

June 10, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — In 1992, the Rio Earth Summit was one of the largest events ever organized by the United Nations. Now, world leaders are preparing to return to the city to consult about the global path to sustainable development – an idea that was first broadly raised here two decades ago.

Representatives from governments, the private sector, and civil society – including members of the worldwide Baha'i community – are joining the deliberations on how to reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.

While the Rio+20 Conference, officially known as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, opens in 10 days time, as many as 50,000 people are also expected for a series of parallel events, some of which are already under way.

Baha'i delegate Peter Adriance was present at the Earth Summit in 1992. "We have made significant progress on certain aspects of sustainable development since then," he said. "The term is much more widely understood and used now. Many communities, businesses and institutions have adopted new and innovative approaches to address the challenges of sustainability."

"On the other hand, many issues are so much more pressing than they were 20 years ago. Some of the same challenges persist, and in addition we have a heightened concern over such matters as climate change and the worldwide economic crisis."

The importance of ethics and spirituality as motivating factors in the promotion of sustainable development will be a major thread of the Baha'i contribution to Rio+20.

"One of our main aims will be to talk to other participants about the broad moral and ethical principles that lie behind efforts to eliminate the extremes of wealth and poverty and to preserve the earth's environment for future generations," said May Akale, who – with Daniel Perell – is heading the 13-strong Baha'i International Community delegation to the Conference.

"Our goal is to talk about some of the deeper issues involved in sustainable development," added Mr. Perell, "asking questions like 'What does it mean to be a member of the human family?' and 'How does that influence our daily lives or affect the institutions of governance in the world?'"

Baha'i participation at the Conference includes:

– The submission of a formal statement from the Baha'i International Community.

– The co-sponsorship of two side events at the main UN conference site on 13 June addressing the topics of the “extremes of wealth and poverty in a green economy” and “synergies between faith values and education for sustainable development.”

– Participation in "Youth Blast," a parallel conference for young people. Specifically, the Baha'i International Community is sponsoring an interactive workshop on "trusteeship in the context of sustainable development."

– The organization of two side events by the Brazilian Baha'i community at the People's Summit, a parallel civil society conference that commences this Friday. The sessions will explore "spiritual principles for development" and the "social role of religions."

– Members of the Baha'i-inspired International Environment Forum will participate in several pre-conference meetings, including the "Global Research Forum on Sustainable Consumption and Production," and the "Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development."