Good news comes from Australia, where the Queensland State Government has announced that it will formally integrate the Earth Charter into its education curriculum. The decision was announced publicly by State Premier (Governor) Beatty, and was reported on ABC News, the national radio broadcaster.
The announcement was one of the outcomes from an outstanding conference called The Earth Dialogues 2006, organised by Green Cross International in partnership with the State Government of Queensland Australia and the Brisbane City Council, among other sponsors. An impressive array of speakers from around the world analysed the critical issues of our time regarding environment, development and security.
President Gorbachev, in his role as Chair of Green Cross International, gave a stirring keynote address. Alexander Likhotal, President of GCI and member of the Earth Charter International Council, played a key role in the conference and gave a remarkable plenary address on the current state of the global environment and prospects for the coming decades.
The Earth Charter initiative was well represented at the event, with Council Co-Chair Erna Witoelar and Council Member Brendan Mackey in attendance. Erna Witoelar made contributions in her role as UN Special Ambassador for the Millennium Development Goals in the Asia-Pacific region. In her plenary address, she compared the civil society process that generated the Earth Charter with the intergovernmental processes that gave birth to the MDGs, and pointed to the need to bring these two dimensions and approaches together.
Brendan Mackey was involved in the “Energy and Climate” stream, and in his presentation used the Earth Charter to highlight the ethical dimensions of the challenges we face in dealing with the greenhouse problem. Professor Mackey was interviewed on CNN as a result of his remarks to the conference. Earth Charter Australia also had a strong presence in the event. Noel Preston spoke eloquently of the need for ecojustice and the links with the Earth Charter. Clem Campbell and Louise Erbacher, along with other local supporters, organised an Earth Charter stand that was a major point of interest during the event.
A major outcome of the Earth Dialogues was recommendations for a Plan of Action, endorsed by the participants, which will soon be available on the GCI web site. The preamble warrants noting:
“We, the participants of Earth Dialogues Brisbane, recognize that our environmental security and development challenges are interdependent. There can be no sustainable peace while the majority of the world’s population lives in poverty. There can be no sustainable peace if we fail to rise to the global challenge presented by climate change. There can be no sustainable peace while military spending takes precedence over human development.”
Immediately following the Earth Dialogues was an Education Day involving 500 school children from across Queensland. Louise Erbacher was also involved in helping to organise this event. President Gorbachev and the Premier of Queensland Peter Beattie gave keynote addresses. During his speech, Premier Beattie announced that the Queensland Government has committed to incorporating the Earth Charter into the State’s official education curriculum. This is a significant development for the Earth Charter in Australia.
Key speakers from the Dialogues also participated in the education Day, including Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams. Brendan Mackey gave a presentation on the Earth Charter, and introduced a satellite linkup with the Brink Expedition (Louise and the Brink Expedition had received an Earth Charter award at last November’s Earth Charter+5 conference).
Other essential conferences have also taken place recently. Brendan Mackey reports that he attended the 2006 meeting of the Global Ecological Integrity Group (GEIG) in Samos, Greece. This year’s conference used the Earth Charter as a focal point for addressing the interconnections between the themes of global governance, ecological integrity, health and justice. The proceedings from the 2005 meeting, which also featured the Earth Charter, are currently in preparation as a book. This year’s proceedings will also be published.
GEIG 2007 will be held in Halifax in partnership with Dalhousie University, and Council member Elizabeth May will attend and give a keynote address. A proposal has circulated already to approach Halifax city with the idea of endorsing the Earth Charter as part of the event.