Rio+20: "Hope and optimism" for unified action

June 21, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — World leaders seeking to promote sustainable development should embrace the principle "that each one of us enters the world as a trust of the whole and, in turn, bears a measure of responsibility for the welfare of all."

This concept is among several being explored by the Baha'i International Community (BIC) in its participation at Rio+20 – the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – which ends here tomorrow.

In its statement to the Conference, the BIC says the idea of a "world-encompassing trusteeship" challenges the "ethical basis of loyalties that do not extend beyond the nation state."

"As long as one group of nations perceives its interests in opposition to another, progress will be limited and short-lived," says the statement.

Among the other areas being highlighted by the BIC are the need for a principle-based approach to collective decision-making and the importance of addressing both extremes of the poverty-wealth spectrum.

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An hourglass-shaped 'Peace Monument" in Rio bearing the words of Baha'u'llah was re-dedicated on 17 June 2012. The monument was an initiative of the Baha'i International Community and the Baha'i community of Brazil for the 1992 Earth Summit. More than 100 people attended the ceremony including the UN Secretary-General for Rio+20 Sha Zukang, the monument's designer Siron Franco, and Eduardo Paes - mayor of Rio.

More than 80 heads of state and government, along with some 50,000 representatives of international agencies, civil society, and other groups, have attended the Conference, which has aimed to assess progress on sustainable development since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

Two major themes in relation to sustainable development – a green economy and the institutional framework – have been discussed in numerous forums here over the last few weeks and were addressed in the BIC statement.

Thirteen BIC delegates have attended Rio+20, representing a diversity of national backgrounds. "The common thread in our contributions has been the betterment of humanity," said BIC delegate Daniel Perell. "We have sought to share ideas on such themes as trusteeship and human oneness – all with the overall goal of helping to create a just, global civilization that is sustainable in the long term."

In addition to attending the main Conference, Baha'is also organized, co-sponsored, or participated in a wide range of side events and parallel conferences. These included:

– A panel discussion on the "Elimination of Extremes of Wealth and Poverty in a Green Economy Context" which explored the social, economic and moral dimensions of growing income inequality.

– Participation in the "Youth Blast" – a parallel UN conference for young people, held 7-12 June. The BIC sponsored an interactive workshop on "trusteeship in the context of sustainable development."

– The re-dedication of a peace monument, built in 1992 by the BIC and the Baha'i community of Brazil as a contribution to the Earth Summit. The hour-glass shaped sculpture contains soil from nearly 150 countries. The re-dedication was attended by Sha Zukang – UN Secretary-General for Rio+20 – and Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio.

– Assistance with the Rio People's Summit, the parallel civil society conference. Brazilian Baha'is were involved in organizing workshops on "spiritual principles for development" and the "social role of religions."

"We are challenged here at Rio+20 to look beyond national self-interest and loyalties, and to be concerned with the welfare of the whole," said Daniella Hiche, the Brazilian Baha'i community's human rights officer, at a press conference held at the Rio+20 headquarters.

BIC delegate May Akale, summing up the whole event, noted: "The challenges are complex, humanity's expectations are high, and the disappointments at the pace of progress can be deep."

"What is obvious is that we are evolving towards unified action. Much remains to be done, but the possibilities for relationships to develop and advance implementation on what has been agreed upon in Rio are endless. And that is the source of great hope and optimism."