United Kingdom Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Earth Charter

Earth Charter inspired conference in Bournemouth, UK

Pupils from the Avonbourne School hosted an Earth Charter inspired conference on 8th July 2011.  In this Conference, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt. Hon. John Barcow MP, spoke to school pupils about environmental issues.

The event included various workshops including video conferencing, cartoon-making, dance and theatre all with an Earth Charter theme.

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The Earth Charter and Sustainability: Interview with Peter Head

Peter Head is a consultant and the former Chair of Global Planning for Arup, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, and others who are committed to making a positive difference through their work.

Recently, he did an interview to discuss “The Earth Charter and Sustainability”. He points to the need for companies to have a strong set of values in order to be successful, and the unique role of the Earth Charter as a “comprehensive strategy” for addressing the social, economic, and environmental challenges that we are facing.

The full 3 minute interview can be found on YouTube at:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UzxrpxolS8
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ESD Conference: Global Vision, Local Action. Bournemouth University, UK

Inspired by the principles of the Earth Charter, the ESD Conference “Global Vision, Local Action” will take place on 8-9 September 2011 in Bournemouth UK

In 2008, Bournemouth Borough Council became the first UK district council to adopt the Earth Charter. The process started back in 2007 at an interfaith meeting which took place thanks to the efforts of UK Earth Charter Affiliate Jeffrey Newman and his supporters.

Subsequently, Bournemouth became one of the leading places in Britain to tackle various sustainability issues, from waste and recycling, energy reduction and conservation, transport, biodiversity and eco-tourism, to the challenges facing education for sustainable development, as addressed and covered by the Earth Charter principles. The local community and organisations use the Earth Charter ethical framework as the foundation for a peaceful, just and sustainable regional society with global aspirations.
(Learn more about the Bournemouth and its commitment to the Earth Charter)

This year, the Bournemouth University is organising its 4th Conference, “Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship: Global Vision, Local Action”, which will be held on 8-9 September. It is no accident that the organisers chose a quotation from the Earth Charter to set the tone of the conference: “As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile… we have much to learn from the ongoing collaborative search for truth and wisdom.”

As the organisers have said, “We shall continue to address the overlapping themes of Sustainable Development, Internationalisation and Global Citizenship but are keen to explore the interconnections between the themes and how local action addresses global concerns. We adhere to the belief that these are not separate issues: holistic approaches that encompass all aspects of university life are important if higher education is to contribute effectively to global sustainability. As the Earth Charter quote suggests, we have much to learn. Collaboration may enable us to develop new ways of seeing; working together may enhance power of our local actions.”

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Earth Charter youth network wants to expand in Europe!

An example of an European Earth Charter effort:


In March 2011 the Earth Charter International along with the Earth Charter Youth Team organizes a one-day online conference to inform the European youth organizations and individual activists on the Earth Charter and its usefulness as an educational instrument when building a more just, sustainable and peaceful world.

So far some 100 organizations have joined the Earth Charter youth network from Europe and Central Asia. In addition, there are 16 official Earth Charter Youth and Student Groups (ECYG) in 16 European and Central Asian countries.

ECYGs are action-oriented societies, networks, or organizations that bring alive the vision of the Earth Charter in the local and/or national communities. The youth study the declaration, get inspired by it and then organize small action projects on sustainability.

Youth in Europe promote the Earth Charter by

  • organizing events where they present the declaration
  • translating the document
  • informing other organizations on it
  • training people on sustainable development and ways of living.

National Earth Charter Websites in Europe and CA:

Finland | Germany | Greece | Italy | Latvia Norway | Russia |

From the related articles below, one can see some examples of the European Earth Charter youth activism.

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"Making the Invisible Visible" Conference


“Making the Invisible Visible” is an international conference bringing together an emerging community of practice in Indicators, Sustainability and Human Values for business, civil society and other organisations around the world.
 
The conference is hosted by the University of Brighton, UK, from December 16-18, 2010.  It will showcase the results of a Pioneering ???0.8Million EU Funded Project to Trial Values-Based Indicators to Measure the Values Dimension of Organisations and Projects.

Earth Charter International will participate in this conference with a plenary address by Mrs. Alide Roerink, from NCDO Netherlands, two specialist session, one conducted by Jeffrey Newman, ECI Affiliate from UK, and an  EC Assess session conducted by Alicia Jimenez from ECI Secretariat.

Among the speakers  are: a global expert in economics, Augusto Lopez-Claros (Chief Economist and Director of the the Global Competitiveness Report 2006/2007 and the Humanitarian Response Index at the World Economic Forum); leading environmentalists such as Arthur Dahl (President of the International Environment Forum, former Deputy Assistant Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and former coordinator of the UN System-Wide Earthwatch) and Professor Arjen Wals (UNESCO Chair of Social Learning and Sustainable Development and world expert on environmental education); parliamentarians  such as Professor Bedrich Moldan (Senator in the Parliament of the Czech Republic and a global authority on indicators for sustainable development); civil society organisations as diverse as the International Red Cross, the Alliance for Religions and Conservation (ARC), Global Action Plan InternationalConsumer Citizen Network//PERL; world experts on values in business  such as Richard Barrett (leadership expert mapping values among some 2000 organisations in over 40 countries); and AtKisson.Inc. Also, representatives from UNESCO (DESD),  UNEP, and the WHO

To learn more about the speakers:
http://www.brighton.ac.uk/sdecu/research/esdinds/conference/speakers.html

TO REGISTER PLEASE VISIT THIS LINK http://www.esdinds.eu

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The potential of the Earth Charter as a science-teaching tool

A special edition of the School Science Review devoted to Education for Sustainability, published to mark the half way stage of the UNESCO Decade, seemed like an ideal opportunity for an article on the potential of the Earth Charter for science teaching in secondary schools. The only difficulty was that the Jeffrey Newman, EC affiliate in the UK, has no scientific expertise whatsoever – so it was necessary to find collaborators.

Fortunately, in the wonderful way that such things happen, two outstanding people quickly emerged willing to give support. Dr Stephan Harding is a world-famous ecologist, collaborator with James Lovelock who first developed the Gaia theory which sees Earth as a living organism. Harding’s depth and breadth of scientific understanding underpins the article. 

Jason Holbrook was formerly Head of Science and is now Deputy Head of Avonbourne School in Bournemouth. It was through his involvement with the Earth Charter in writing the article that he and the Head Teacher, Debbie Godfrey-Phaure decided that Avonbourne should become the first school in the UK to endorse the Earth Charter. Jason has ensured that the article includes practical suggestions of use to teachers in their development of a scientific curriculum.
 
Click here to see the article

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Business and the Earth Charter: Towards responsible business (Roundtable in UK)

In the face of climate change, financial shocks and ongoing hunger and poverty around the world, questions are being asked about notions of sustainability and what it means to be a responsible business.  Greater global awareness and recognition of the interconnectedness of issues are becoming pre-requisites for successful operations and to meet changing expectations about the contribution to society of businesses and their employees.

While many companies have environmental and CSR programmes and a few make reference to the Millennium Development Goals or the Global Compact, forward-thinking companies are expressing interest in a more integrated and broad approach.  CarbonSense and Earth Charter UK, with support from DFID (Department for International Development), have started a bold project to see how companies can benefit from working with the Earth Charter.

This Roundtable event brought together businesses that are supporting or working with the Earth Charter, or considering doing so. The aim of the organizers was to inspire and facilitate sharing and learning amongst a small and select group operating in different sectors but each of which, in their own way, is deeply concerned with these issues. This included discussions on:

  • Inspiring stories and examples from companies that are genuinely putting aspects of sustainability into action.  How is this working? How are tensions between normal business drivers and a sense of responsibility resolved? Are employees benefiting as well as the company?

 

  • Pointers from working with the Earth Charter. Although it is still ‘early days’ on the project, feedback and learning will be shared that could help forward-thinking businesses to evaluate actions, shape strategy and plan staff development.

Please see more about the project here.

For more information please contact:
Antony Turner, CarbonSense 07973 641131 antony@carbonsense.com
or Bill Rigby, Earth Charter UK 07785 572713 billrigby@earthcharteruk

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The new "Values based Indicators" are ready to be tested

we value.org is a website that allows any interested organization to test the indicators developed by the ESDinds project.  ECI Secretariat is one of the ESDinds partners and have been fully participating in the development of these indicators, which are 170 Values-based Indicators in total developed as the basis for the measurement of values within organizations around the world.  

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) as well as faith-based organisations and businesses worldwide are often conscious of the importance of their values-based work, but this is usually seen as a non-measurable intangible asset. Until now, values have been largely overlooked in conventional project monitoring and evaluation activities, which tend to focus on concrete outputs and outcomes rather than the ‘human results’ of the work.

The We Value platform and community stems from the ESDinds project, based on the concept that values can be usefully measured, when locally defined through relevant indicators, and that this information can help CSOs and business organisations in their efforts to develop successful and sustainable programs and business models.

“We believe that improved understanding in how we see and value ourselves and the world around us is essential to creating a sustainable, just and responsible society” said Professor Marie Harder, Sustainable Development Coordination Unit (SDeCU) at the University of Brighton, UK and academic lead.  “The We Value platform has been created to help us, as civil society organisations, businesses and faith communities, to explore and share what `We Value’ through values-based indicators which are adaptable.”

We Value membership is open and free
. Those interested are encouraged to visit the ‘Participate’ page, to join in and start creating a Profile with brief details about you and your organisation, company or community.

Find here the Press Release of WeValue.org

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Faith and Climate Change Conference held in London

Earth Charter UK Affiliate Rabbi Jeffrey Newman and Michael Slaby, Earth Charter Coordinator of the Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values, participated in the Faith and Climate Change Conference hosted by the Faith Regen Foundation and the Commonwealth Foundation. The two-day conference brought together over 100 representatives of different faith communities in the UK and abroad to discuss and exchange about their responses to climate change. The event started on Tuesday, 27 of October with a House of Lord’s reception hosted by Lord Sheikh, the founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum.

In his speech, Lord Sheikh highlighted UK’s Climate Change Act 2008 that makes the UK the first country in the world to have a legally binding long-term framework to cut carbon emissions. It sets the target of at least an 80 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and at least a 34 percent reduction by 2020. Both these targets are against a 1990 baseline.

The first day of the conference started with a joint opening plenary with the Young Commonwealth Youth Summit where several Commonwealth officials, including Ransford Smith, Deputy-Secretary General of the Commonwealth welcomed the participants. A strong address was given by Dr. Farah Faizal, High Commissioner of the Maldives, who shared her experiences of being at the front-line in the struggle against climate change. Since 80 percent of its 1,200 islands are no more than 1m above sea level, the Maldives could become uninhabitable within the next 100 years.

During the afternoon session, the findings of global focus group discussions were presented that were held in eight different countries and involved the circulation of survey questions among religious leaders about their knowledge and engagement on climate change. These surveys brought to light a need for further education and training for religious leaders on this crucial challenge. In Malaysia, the focus group discussions were led by Shareen Iqbal who launched the first Earth Day Celebrations in her country and raised awareness about the Earth Charter in this context.

The first day ended with a special Dinner where UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change Ed Milibrand gave the keynote speech. His remarks centered on the important contributions religious communities can make by raising awareness about the special role of humanity as a species on this planet, our global interdependence, and the deep questions of justice that are brought up by global warming. After his address, Jeffrey Newman presented to him a copy of the Earth Charter and received his card to follow up on this important contact.

On the second day, Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation shared with the participants an overview about ARC’s exciting project of helping nine of the world’s major religious communities (Baha’ism, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism and Sikhism) to develop long-term action plans to save the environment. These 5, 7 or 9 year plans will be launched and presented in a festive ceremony in Windsor Castle from November 2 – 4 with attendance of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Following Palmer, Michael Slaby was invited as final speaker to discuss the Earth Charter’s relevance for engaging religious institutions on climate change. In his remarks, Slaby focussed on three major task for bringing this engagement to the next level, namely to intensify efforts to bring good practice examples of religious actions against climate change into the religious mainstream; to build better bridges between faith communities and environmental organizations, government agencies and the sciences; and providing education and training for religious leaders so that religious responses will be commensurate with the problems we are facing.

He then presented the Earth Charter as an integrated ethical framework that could help religious leaders and communities to frame systemic responses that address the interrelated environmental, social, economic, political, and, on a deeper level, also spiritual challenges posed by climate change.

After his presentation, he distributed copies of the Earth Charter Guide to Religion and Climate Change of which an updated version will be made available shortly.
 
The conference brought to light that many participants of different faiths seemed to agree on some very basic values, such as respect, reverence, repentance, humility, and the wish to leave a healthy world for their children and grand-children. As Shareen Iqbal from Malaysia summed it up beautifully: “The answer is love.”

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Oxford University Seminar Kicks Off Earth Charter UK, Wangari Maathai as Special Guest

On 9-10 February, a special seminar on “The Earth Charter, Past and Future” was held at Exeter College, one of the oldest colleges at Oxford University. The Earth Charter UK Trust was formally launched at this seminar to the music of New Orleans Jazz, and with the powerful symbol of a special tree planting ceremony, whose special guest of honor was Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Earth Charter Commissioner, Wangari Maathai.

 

The planting of the tree was also the first official contribution of Great Britain to the global United Nations Environment Program “Billion Trees” campaign, which Prof. Maathai has championed. And finally, Prof. Maathai simultaneously kicked off a new lecture series, at Oxford University, sponsored by the Cambridge University-based Center for International Sustainable Development Law (making the series an example

of Oxford-Cambridge institutional collaboration as well).

 

The tree was also, of course, a tree — a walnut whose purpose also was to replace an historic, 300-year-old tree that had been the oldest and greatest in the Exeter College garden. The old tree had died and had to be removed; the new tree is expected to last for a further 300 years.

 

The symbolism of this historic tree-planting heightened the feeling that something wonderful had happened at Oxford.

 

The Earth Charter is on course to have a much higher profile in the UK than it did previously — and to make a contribution to that country’s dynamic movement toward sustainable development — thanks to the work of a group of organizers led by ECI Individual Affiliate Jeffrey Newman. Affiliate status will now shift to the new Earth Charter UK Trust, an organization developed by Jeffrey and colleagues during the course of the last year. Among the several historic firsts on this occasion, the Trust papers were formally signed in the offices of Frances Cairncross, Rector of Exeter College and the first Patron of Earth Charter UK.

 

The tree-planting and music were the celebratory high points of a seminar that brought together a small number of international Earth Charter leaders with members of the newly-formed Earth Charter UK Trust.

 

Together this group took a fresh look at the Earth Charter’s past and future — partly with an international focus, and partly with an eye to the Earth Charter’s future in the United Kingdom.

 

Before describing what happened at the seminar itself, it is worth noting who attended, in addition to Earth Charter Commissioner Wangari Maathai and the new Trustees of Earth Charter UK. Participants and speakers included:

 

 

  • Steven Rockefeller, Co-Chair, Earth Charter International Council

 

  • Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of the World Conservation Union -IUCN and Member, Earth Charter International Council

 

  • Bianca Jagger, the award-winning human rights campaigner and Advisor to Earth Charter International

 

  • Alide Roerink, Director of Programs for the Dutch government-sponsored foundation NCDO and an Advisor to Earth Charter International

 

  • Herbert Girardet, Director of Programs for World Future Council, noted sustainable cities expert, and Advisor to Earth Charter International

 

  • Ian Goldin, Director, The James Martin School for the 21st Century, Oxford University

 

 

  • Tom Benson, Director, World Leadership Corps (a program of the James Martin School, and with whom Earth Charter International has a partnership that involves two WLC Fellows working with the Earth Charter Initiative)

 

… and about a dozen other active thought-leaders on sustainability, peace, and human rights in the UK.

 

 

In addition to the crucial and fruitful work put in by Jeffrey Newman and other UK volunteers, the seminar was made possible by the sponsorship and organizing work of Frances Cairncross, Rector of Exeter College and a former senior editor at The Economist (among many other distinctions); Marie-Claire Condonnier Segger, Director of CISDL and Director of International Affairs for the ministry Natural Resources Canada; and by Earth Charter International.

 

 

ECI Executive Director Alan AtKisson and International Youth Coordinator Dominic Stucker attended; and Mirian Vilela, Director of the ECI Center for Education for Sustainable Development at UPEACE, was able to join for the first part as well. (By luck and coincidence, Mirian had come to London for the simultaneous meeting of Global Community Initiatives, an ECI partner and creator of the Earth Charter Community Action Tool, EarthCAT.)

 

The following is a short summary of this extremely rich and thought-provoking seminar. A more complete report will later be published on this website.

 

 

The Authority and Legitimacy of the Earth Charter

 

Since many in the UK are new to the Charter, the seminar began with a review of the Earth Charter’s sources of authority and its status in terms of international law. Steven Rockefeller briefly reviewed the entire history of the Charter, beginning with the original idea for such a document, which surfaced in concert with the founding of the IUCN in 1948. He traced the evolution of this idea through other international processes and declarations through to the Brundtland Commission and its 1987 call for a “new charter.” The actual drafting of the Earth Charter during the 1990s, through the enormously participatory global consultation process, and its completion and release in the year 2000 was thus the culmination of over fifty years of global reflection on guiding ethics and values for sustainable development.

 

 

Steven noted that the authority of the Charter is rooted in at least four things:

      
    1.

The historical evolution of these ideas, as described above;

   
    2. The drafting process, which has often been called the most open and participatory consultation process ever to be associated with an international declaration, and which helped to integrated the principles and insights of science, ethics, religion, international law, and the wisdom of indigenous peoples;

 

    3.

The grounding of the document in international law (more on this below); and

 

 

    4. The Endorsement process, which has involved over 2,500 organizations and institutions making public declarations of commitment and support, as well as many thousands of individuals and numerous heads of state.

 

 

 

Marie-Claire Cordonnier Segger then expanded on the theme of the Earth Charter and International Law, noting that while it is common to think of the Charter as a document as a “soft law” instrument aspiring to lead to more binding commitments, it is equally accurate to see the Charter as a document summarizing key aspects of what is already international “hard law” in the form of binding agreements and treaties. These range from international norms that are considered inviolable (even though they are violated, such as prohibitions against torture) to multilateral agreements such as the Convention on Biodiversity or the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Marie-Claire, a noted expert on international legal issues, made a strong parallel between the Earth Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which itself has taken decades to implement in the form of international norms, agreements, and legal decisions (and still has far to go).

 

It was clear by the end of this session that the Earth Charter stands on very firm ground indeed, and also has the potential for much future growth and development as an authoritative reference document on the ethics of sustainable development.

 

The Earth Charter’s International Strategy

 

Alan AtKisson, ECI’s Executive Director, then described briefly the history of the Earth Charter Initiative in strategic terms, from the enormous outreach efforts of the drafting process, to the Endorsement campaign that was especially important in the lead-up the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, to the 2005 celebration of “Earth Charter +5” and the launch of a Third Phase of strategic development focused on “The Earth Charter in Action.” He described the extremely broad and diverse movement that has grown up around the Earth Charter, known collectively as the “Earth Charter Initiative,” with its differentiated qualities and prospects in countries all around the world where Earth Charter International has Affiliates, both individual and nstitutional (formerly “Focal Points”).

 

For this new Phase, he noted, the strategic work of Earth Charter International can be summarized as being guided by the Earth Charter itself, and in particular the closing words of the Preamble:

 

Therefore, together in hope we affirm the following interdependent principles for a sustainable way of life as a common standard by which the conduct of all individuals, organizations, businesses, governments, and transnational institutions is to be guided and assessed.

 

 

The phrase “guided and assessed” describe the principle uses of the Earth Charter: as a reference that can guide decision-making through education and training on its integrated ethical vision; and as an instrument that help people and organizations assess their progress in making that vision real.

 

 

All of ECI’s programs — ranging from sectoral initiatives in business or education or with youth, to cross-cutting projects like the emerging “Lighthouse and Beacon” recognition program — are being designed to support education and training that can guide and inspire ethical decision-making for sustainable development, and to assess and acknowledge progress.

 

The Meaning of Endorsement

 

One of the special themes of this seminar was a review of the concept of Endorsement. ECI is in the process of redeveloping its Endorsement program, and has introduced the new concept of “Engaged Endorsement” — Endorsement that includes a specific commitment to take additional actions that reflect Earth Charter values, and that help to spread awareness of the Charter itself.

 

The need for new clarity on the expectations accompanying Endorsement has grown, especially as ECI begins to engage companies and national government actors in dialogue about possible formal Endorsement or recognition. The Earth Charter, while it has received many high-level institutional endorsements and supportive statements from heads of state and other government bodies, has not yet been formally endorsed by a

major multi-national corporation, or by a sovereign nation-state. As people representing these actors begin to ask questions about the meaning of the Charter, and the obligations entailed in endorsing it, ECI must be ready with good answers.

 

But an examination of Endorsement was also of critical importance to Earth Charter UK at a local level, as it frames its strategy for outreach. Jeffrey Newman noted that for him, the concept of “Engaged Endorsement” was already central to their strategic thinking, in terms of both individuals and organizations.

 

Alan AtKisson had prepared a short essay on the past and future meaning of Endorsement, as well as Engaged Endorsement, and Steven Rockefeller offered a presentation that summarized the history of the Endorsement campaign. Marie-Claire Cordonnier Segger clarified what the law had to say about Endorsement, particularly when it came to dealing with “persistent objectors” to provisions of the Charter and to the Charter itself (which has often come in the way of international-level endorsement). She also noted that the Earth Charter Initiative already had available to it several strategies for moving the Earth Charter from soft law to hard law status — for example, by having the Charter  referenced in multi-lateral or bilateral agreements among countries.

This could be accomplished, to cite one possibility, by having the Earth Charter referenced in an agreement among countries for cooperation in a field such as Education for Sustainable Development. Such agreements may not be equivalent to Endorsement by nations in formal terms, but they imply it, and move the Charter onto still-firmer legal ground.

 

A Public Event with Stirring Words, Rich Soil, and Soaring Melodies

 

At mid-day on Saturday, February 10, the Seminar changed character and became a much more public event. Wangari Maathai’s arrival created a wonderful additional lift in the room, especially as she spoke movingly of her long dedication to “this wonderful document,” and the need to work continously to put its principles into practice. In her public lecture, she noted how important it was that the Earth Charter UK was being launched at “this historic institution of global significance, Oxford University.” She made a special plea to reach out to religious congregations, since they are already so engaged with universal values, and encourage them to do more to support the common vision of the Earth Charter.

 

 

Attendees at her inaugural lecture for the series sponsored by the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law were also treated to stirring words by the new director of the IUCN, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, on the Charter’s extraordinary capacity to bridge worlds. Her own career has practically been an example of that: having now served as the director of four different global institutions, spanning topics from science to peace to environment to the development of young leaders, she has seen the Earth Charter be endorsed and progressively more embraced in each of those settings. She noted that it was time to strengthen the Charter’s bridge-building capacities and to make the concept of endorsement more meaningful in an action sense.

 

 

As part of the inauguration of the public lecture series, Marie-Claire Cordonnier Segger and her colleagues from the CISDL sketched out both the general framework of international law that exists to support and guide action toward sustainable development, as well as the origins of this seminar: a conversation with the Queen of England. Apparently her Majesty had remarked to Marie-Claire on the importance of honoring international commitments. Part of the purpose in starting the lecture series with the Earth Charter is its use as an inspirational and normative instrument to strengthen both popular and political support for such observance, through public education and action/implementation programs.

 

 

Although she had not been on the original program, because her ability to attend had been uncertain until late in the organizing, Bianca Jagger was also invited to speak by meeting host Frances Cairncross. Bianca delivered a warm and empassioned speech about the imperative to see environmental care and human rights as inextricably intertwined, and how this aspect of the Charter had so attracted her to its vision. A member of the World Future Council, which promotes policies and solutions and speaks out on behalf of future generations’ well-being, Bianca enjoined Earth Charter International not to allow corporate and other institutions to simply “wrap the Earth Charter around themselves” without a serious and genuine commitment to taking actions in accordance with the Earth Charter’s ethical principles.

 

 

After these excellent speeches, the assembly moved out to the grounds of Exeter College, where it was joined by many of the college’s students, and was ceremoniously and joyfully led around the grounds — as well as in and out of the grounds of several neighboring Oxford colleges — by one of Britain‘s most celebrated dixieland jazz bands and a man with a whistle, who was carrying a pink umbrella. The “dancing march” carried us to the site of the old tree, where more warm words were spoken, and Wangari Maathai put the first spade of dirt onto the newly planted babwalnut tree. “Very good soil!” she declared. She was followed by Steven Rockefeller, honored for serving as Chair of the Earth Charter Drafting Committee, and by Julia Marton-Lefèvre, in honor of her new leadership challenge as head of the IUCN.

 

 

The assembly then moved into the hallowed dining hall of Exeter College, built in the 1600s, where, after the usual heated buzz of conversation, Frances Cairncross was formally installed as the first Patron of Earth Charter UK.

 

Strategy Going Forward – the UK and Elsewhere

 

When these delightful ceremonies were over, the seminar group of about twenty persons retired to the Rector’s quarters to conclude its formal work. The seminar took advantage of the presence of so many influential thinkers and Earth Charter advisors to consider a few questions of strategic priority. How important, for example, is the process of Earth Charter Endorsement going forward?

 

The consensus that appeared to emerge from this group was that Endorsement continued to be quite important, especially to continue building the Earth Charter’s international legitimacy as a soft law instrument. Continued growth in the citation of the Earth Charter, whether through formal Endorsement or through other statements of legal recognition, will help move its overarching vision from soft law through to hard law status (as well as laying the groundwork for other formal binding agreements such as the UN might facilitate). But the group also noted that the process of engagement was equally or more important, with Endorsement being an important part of that process.

 

 

Participants reflected on the need to build a “climate of opinion” in support of the Earth Charter, for example by establishing its relevance and importance to the emerging central global issue of climate change. The engagement of important opinion-leaders and public figures was also underscored, as well as the need for “Earth Charter Champions” — well-known people who could speak out in support of the Earth Charter, as well as committed leaders of successful projects that reflect the Earth Charter’s vision and values in action. Helping people move from engagement, to commitment, to becoming a true champion of the Earth Charter vision emerged as the “critical path” for growing the Earth Charter Initiative globally.

 

 

Closing words offered by the seminar hosts underscored the importance of integrating understanding and commitment with regard to the Earth

Charter; of continuing to review the Charter itself both appreciatively and critically (with an eye to future amendment if necessary); and of the great friendship and hope that grows among those who engage with the Charter as one of its greatest impacts.

 

 

Earth Charter UK is now officially under way, and all of us in the Earth Charter community internationally welcome this new national institution, and look forward to collaborating with them and to supporting their success.

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