Alan AtKisson Speaks (and Sings) in Final Plenary of CIVICUS World Assembly

CIVICUS made an unequivocal statement about its commitment to sustainability by focusing the final plenary of this year’s World Assembly on: “Our Accountability to Future Generations: Responding to the Challenge of Environmental Sustainability.” Jem Bendell, a professor from Auckland University, moderated the plenary, which included June Zeitlin of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, Alan AtKisson of Earth Charter International, and a video broadcast of Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Earth Charter Commissioner.


When Alan spoke he was both articulate and impassioned, persuasive and humorous. Sitting in the audience amidst representatives of civil society, governments, and business, I felt proud to be working with him on promoting a more “just, sustainable, and peaceful world” – by Friday, if possible. I was pleased that the younger delegates, who had been hearing about the Earth Charter from me all week, were given a fresh perspective.



Alan spoke about the Earth Charter as being the foundation for our accountability to future generations. Indeed, he expanded on the plenary’s title and called on us to be accountable to “the world, the people we love, to all life.” In this regard, he encouraged us to expand the circle of people we love – a word, he lamented, which is often considered taboo – to include all of humanity. He shared a story about how the Norwegian and Brazilian contributors to the Earth Charter insisted that the word love be included in the Charter.


Alan balanced the soft and fuzzy with the hard and technical. He urged us to be accountable to the facts in the world, saying that we must keep ourselves informed about the issues that affect our planet, ecosystems, people, and animals. He urged us to use the Earth Charter to help understand the holistic and interconnected nature of the challenges we face. “We no longer have the luxury to consider one issue at a time. We must think and act in an integrated way.”


True to his musical inclinations, Alan closed by serenading us with a clever song about how an effort to eradicate malaria in the 1950s led – by a series of interventions and their unintended consequences – to cats being parachuted into Borneo to prevent outbreaks of the plague. Long story about how everything is interdependent. Ask him about it sometime!


The Secretary General of CIVICUS, Kumi Naidoo, closed the plenary by thanking the panelists and audience for “a stimulating discussion on one of the most important issues in the world today.” Clearly, CIVICUS and Earth Charter embrace similar values in their pursuit of realizing an equitable, democratic, sustainable, and peaceful world.