Speakers from all over the world participated in the “EC+20 event: Turning Conscience into Action”

On the occasion of the 20th Anniversary since the launch of the Earth Charter, a series of online events under the theme “Earth Charter 2020 Turning Conscience into Action for a Thriving Earth” were organized to commemorate two decades of the Earth Charter movement and to offer a space to reflect on the relevance of the Earth Charter to current times.

Three of these events were organized by Earth Charter International in collaboration with a number of partner organizations and were moderated by Mirian Vilela, executive director of ECI. In her opening remarks, to each of these events, Mirian started by acknowledging the work and support of ECI affiliates and partner organizations, young leaders, advisors, ECI Council members and Commissioners and Earth Charter friends from all over the world.

“I want to acknowledge and express appreciation to all of you who in a way or another have supported the Earth Charter work over the years. Your support makes a huge difference.”

You can access the full recording of these webinars in the following link:

Herewith a brief account:

Webinar 1: Turning Conscience into Action for Global Collaboration
Sunday, 28 June 2020 – First webinar (in English)

Brief overview of remarks:

1. Caitlin Byrne, Director, Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University, Australia

Caitlin Byrne’s remarks on The Role of Regional Diplomacy were built on her research focus on Australian diplomacy with a special interest in Australia’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. She shared some reflections on turning conscience into action and the opportunities for diplomacy in navigating toward the new normal, and addressed that from a regional view towards diplomacy for the Pacific region. She said the Earth Charter as a people’s charter was innovative diplomacy at work and decades after its launch, the Earth Charter is still challenged, in a diplomatic context, on how we can reimagine diplomacy and realize outcomes that go beyond national interests. She argued that we need to reimagine diplomacy to account for the interests that are shared beyond borders, that are shared with future generations, and also with the environment as an actor. She added that Pacific Diplomacy needs to move from coordination to collaboration, as global challenges require innovations for problem solving.

2. Brendan Mackey, Director, Climate Action Beacon, Griffith University, and ECI Council member, Australia

Brendan Mackey’s remarks on The Relevance of the Earth Charter to Current Times built on the previous speaker’s remark on the need to build greater synergies between national governments’ interests and addressing the political dimensions. He stressed the importance to seek regional and global collaboration to address the multiple global crisis we are at, including an existential crisis. He talked about “the extraordinary community of life of which humans are part and which is being destroyed, the increased human-forced climate change and the fact that the global crisis we are in are deeply interconnected: pandemics, climate change and biological annihilation.” He said that, “in order to address these global crises in a coordinated manner, it cannot be done in isolation and based on national interests. However, many of the processes set up to address these challenges are based on sectoral and national self- interest and short-term goals. There is always a tension between the focus on serving the common good versus the national interest of certain governments.” He ended by making a point on the relevance of the Earth Charter in helping to address the current world challenges given the fact that it offers a holistic and ethical framework of what we need to be thinking about. Moreover, the Earth Charter helps us to see that the crises are not only connected, but also share root causes, and it provides a framework for international cooperation.

3. Klaus Bosselmann, Director New Zealand Center for Environmental Law, The University of Auckland, New Zealand

Klaus Bosselmann offered some reflections on The Earth Charter – Ideas for the Next 10 Years, making a strong case on the interconnections of the global issues we are dealing with and how the Earth Charter provides an overall holistic ethical framework to address these challenges. He shared some ideas for the next 10 years and highlighted how the Earth Charter is already helping to address some of the needs.  In this context, he mentioned three initiatives for “transforming our world”: The Hague Principles, The Global Pact for the Environment and the SDG process, that are all linked with the Earth Charter in various ways.

4. Kazuo Takahashi, Earth Charter Study Group, Japan. Advisor of the Library of Alexandria, and Visiting Professor, Tokyo University and the United Nations University, Japan

In his presentation, The Earth Charter and the Post Coronavirus World, Kazuo Takahashi briefly shared what the Earth Charter study group in Japan has done over the past year to explore the potential the Earth Charter offers for the world community. The group examined critical global issues and the relationship of the Earth Charter with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Climate Change Paris Agreement, Education for Sustainable Development, Business in relations to the UN Global Compact and Corporate Social Responsibility with emphasis in digital technology and on Disarmament and Security. He indicated that the ethical and philosophical underpinnings of the Earth Charter (without any time boundaries) was repeatedly recognized throughout these discussions and that this group plans to continue a second round of discussions on the post-coronavirus world and the Earth Charter towards the second semester of this year. He also mentioned the initiative he is involved in, which seeks to propose the creation of an Earth Council to be established as a new UN governance body to address environmental and human health.

5. Atsufumi Yokoi, Vice-President, Global Engagement Strategy, Okayama University, UNESCO Chairholder in Research and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and ECI Council member, Japan

In his remarks, New Approaches to Education, ESD and the Earth Charter, Atsufumi Yokoi raised the question of what is normal for us, specially considering the current context the world is living? He cautioned that, we tend to forget crises and “go back to normal.” We need to challenge our perception of normality. The previous reality can no longer be accepted as normal. It is time for change and we need to use this Earth Charter+20 moment to question what is our vision of normal. The need for lasting change needs to take root in the minds and hearts of people and in this effort, education is essential. Education needs to better prepare us for uncertainties and possibilities. Universities are key to orienting us in the new normal and they must integrate ethics and sustainability into their curriculum and research programmes. He said that in response to this, Okayama University will integrate ESD and the Earth Charter in its whole institution approach as a foundation for research, education and social implementation.

6. Hua Wang, Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics and former Dean of the School of Environment and Natural Resources, Renmin University of China. Honorary President of the Professional Association for China’s Environment (PACE) / ECI Council member, China

Hua Wang shared some thoughts on Ecological Civilization and the Earth Charter Vision and made a call for ongoing dialogue and cooperation between efforts of further clarifying the concept of Ecological Civilization and its relation to the Earth Charter. He started by identifying a number of world crises that call for a new ecological civilization such as the crisis in public health with the Covid-19 Pandemic, the crisis of global environment resulting in climate change, the crisis of racial inequalities and cultures that are generating conflicts, and unemployment among others. He argued that the ecological civilization approach can be seen as a solution for these various world crises, but there is much need to clarify what ecological civilization means and he thinks the Earth Charter principles can be seeing as guiding principles for the construction of the ecological civilization approach.

Click here to access the recording of the full event.

Webinar 2: Turning Conscience into Action in an Interdependent World
Monday, 29 June – Second Webinar (in English)

Brief overview of remarks:

1. Oren Lyons, Native American Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy

Oren Lyons talked about the challenge and importance to understand political language and terminology of words to be able to influence change. “We have to defend ourselves and for that we need to learn the language of the oppressor.” Oren also mentioned that “we need to respect the laws of nature, and that the basis of the indigenous ceremonies, independently of where they are, is to be thankful and respectful and to recognize the powers of Earth and nature and our position in there. We really need to understand that Earth is nature, nature is people, and that we are interdependent.  For indigenous people, this is our foundation and that is the foundation of the Earth Charter.”

2. Peter Blaze Corcoran, Professor Emeritus, Environmental Studies and Environmental Education, Florida Gulf Coast University and Senior Advisor, Earth Charter International, United States

In his remarks, Caring in a Time of Coronavirus: The Inspiration of the Earth Charter, Peter Corcoran highlighted Albert Camus’s book The Plague as a metaphor for people’s indifference. He stressed the importance for us to overcome our indifference to inequality, our indifference to an unsustainable economy, our indifference to the vulnerability to those who live in extreme poverty, our indifference to massive species extinction, to the dramatic impact of climate collapse and our indifference to increasing zoonotic virus, our indifference to the natural as well as the social world. He said we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility and to broaden our sense of care as stated in the Earth Charter.

Read Peter Blaze Corcoran’s opening speech here.

3. Ama van Dantzig, Co-founder of Dr. Monk and ECI Council member, Ghana/Netherlands

Ama offered a presentation in which she linked some of the Adinkra Symbols from Ghana with the Earth Charter Principles. She explained that she sees many similarities in various traditional knowledge and worldviews and the Earth Charter vision. In this context, she likes to identify some parallels between traditional knowledge of Ghana and the language we find in the Earth Charter as this helps her to understand these concepts better. She sees the Adinkra Symbols as visualizations of some of key ideas we can find in the Earth Charter and offered some examples.

4. Kartikeya Sarabhai, Founder, Center for Environment Education and ECI Council member, India

In his presentation The Earth Charter in a Changing World, Kartikeya Sarabhai shared that he had a chance to relate some of Gandhi’s knowledge and messages to the Earth Charter principles, such as how Gandhi stressed that we should live as trustees of this planet and that we need to question the lifestyles that we have reflecting on Gandhi’s famous quote “ The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”. He ended by emphasizing the importance for human beings to pause and reflect on our impact, not only the negative, but also the positive impact we bring to the world.

5. Severn Cullis-Suzuki, environmental activist and ECI Council member, Canada

In her remarks on The Earth Charter in 2020 – A Path Forward in a World of Uncertainty, Severn Suzuki expressed the she sees the Earth Charter as a visionary document and that we are reaching the time of transformation when the values of the Earth Charter will become the infrastructure of how humans get organized. She highlighted the importance of foresight and readiness linking it to the Adinkra Symbols that Ama shared previously and what the Earth Charter represents. She affirmed, “We are on time; we need to be prepared. We need to have readiness and foresight.”

6. Akpezi Ogbuigwe, Former head of Environmental Education and Training at the United Nations Environment Programme. Coordinator for its Strategic and Human Development Programmes ANPEZ Center for Environment and Development, Nigeria

In her reflections on Rethinking Education in Shaping the ‘New Norma‘, Akpezi Ogbuigwe stressed that “people are the key to securing the future we want. People are also the key to winning the battle over Covid-19. Rethinking our educational processes across the board in redefining a new normal where everyone takes full responsibility for their actions, respects and cares for others and applies a sense of responsibility in our use of resources, while applying restraint and equity in our production and consumption is critical.” She concluded her remarks by highlighting that “Humans are made to be humane! Colours beautify our world and not divide!” and made the following call:

“Let’s celebrate our colors
Let’s celebrate our strengths and weaknesses
Let the strong embrace the weak
And the weak endear the strong
Let’s love each other
Let’s live and let live
Let’s give of our best to each other
And never look back!”

Read Akpezi Ogbuiwe’s complete intervention here.

The meeting ended with the special participation of Adrian y Rebecca Alvarez, who are children engaged in the Earth Charter movement. They started by saying that the coronavirus left a profound sense of connection with others and that turning conscience into action means putting our ideas and determination into action and to be able to help others. They said children are ready to help to build a better society and that they do not want to wait until they become adults to help.

Click here to access the recording of the full event.

Webinar 3: Turning Conscience into Action through processes of education and learning.

Monday, 29 June 2020 – third webinar (in Spanish)

Brief overview of remarks:

1. Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary, ECLAC

In her intervention, Ms. Bárcena affirmed that the Earth Charter is twinned with the Escazú Agreement, the first environmental treaty of the Latin America and the Caribbean countries and the first in the world to contain specific provisions for the protection of human rights defenders in environmental matters. She indicated that its implementation will be achieved through capacity building and cooperation. In addition, she said that the Earth Charter is a call to action. “We have an opportunity to change a development model that destroys the natural basis on which it is based… Climate change is the result of an uneven, unsustainable type of development with serious negative externalities. Therefore, we must promote a post-pandemic reactivation with equity and sustainability to advance towards a new kind of development. ”

Find here the text of Alicia Bárcena’s remarks in Spanish.

2. Enriqueta Medellin, National Ecological Emeritus award recipient and President of the Ecological Conscience Association, Aguascalientes, México

In her remarks, Enriqueta Medellin mentioned that, in current times, it is important to review our efforts, and learn to change our negative thoughts for positive thoughts, transform our thoughts into thoughts of hope and joy. “It is important to sow joy and gratitude. There are thousands, even millions of human beings working for a more beautiful and better planet. So it is important to look back at the positive efforts and consider not only what is negative in the world and what we think, but also how we feel when we are involved in transforming our world into something better.”

3. Federico Mayor, former Director General UNESCO and member of the Earth Charter Commission, Spain

Federico Mayor affirmed that we have an intergenerational responsibility to not allow ourselves to reach a point of no return: “It would be a historical error that we would make if we reached the point where there is no longer a remedy.” He stressed that we need to have a new concept of security and return to democratic multilateralism. He stated that we can see in the Earth Charter an ethical compass and a road map for current times.

4. Catalina Gómez Vives, Earth Charter Young Leader, and manager of education processes, Costa Rica

Catalina shared about the Earth Charter community of Young Leaders that involves young people from all over the world in transforming their realities and their experiences. As a facilitator of the online course on Leadership, Sustainability and Ethics, she shared that “more than a course, this offers an experience where people from many different realities come together to get to know one another, and where we move from understanding what sustainability is, to how it relates to the Earth Charter and how to have ethical leadership.”

5. Francisco Rojas, Rector, University for Peace, Costa Rica / Chile

Rector Francisco Rojas began his remarks by affirming that “we live in an interdependent world and that we have a shared responsibility to achieve peace, protect the planet and achieve progress as indicated by the 2030 Agenda”. He emphasized that “the immense military expenses in the world are obscene compared to the expenses of health and education; the culture of peace and non-violence must prevail. We need to educate for cooperation, for non-violence and peace and we need to build more global transparency.”

6. Cristovam Buarque, member, UNESCO International Commission on The Futures of Education and professor Emeritus, University of Brasilia, Brazil

Cristovam Buarque, identified four “knights” of the apocalypse of today’s civilization: a) the misuse of technical advancement and technology (it would be the use of technology without ethics); b) lack of awareness of the limits of growth in production and the economy; c) the acceptance we have of living in a world with so much poverty and inequality; and d) the mismanagement of globalization. These four are leading the world to ecological destruction and social injustice. He said that the study on how our planet functions, should not be limited for geographers, nor the study on humans, humanities and our role here should be seen as a limited area for philosophers. He stressed that the lack of awareness about the limits of growth must be addressed in the education processes and that we must rethink the content we see in schools, and consider the importance of education in helping to change people’s mentality. He ended by making an invitation to create one day a year for the Earth to breathe (as a parallel to the “I can’t breath” of George Floyd’s (USA) final words).

This webinar also counted with the participation of Adrián and Rebecca Alvarez who mentioned that, for them, to transform consciousness into action is to put ideas into action to help improve our world, and that as children, they want to help now in the transformation processes of our societies.

Click here to access the recording of the full event.

In addition, as part of the commemoration of this 20th anniversary, some members of the Earth Charter Commission sent messages recalling the process of drafting the EC and also emphasizing the relevance of the principles to current times.

Steven C. Rockefeller, Chair Drafting Committee, United States of America
Click here to read his message

Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan

Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Canada

Yolanda Kakabadse, Ecuador.

Elizabeth May, Canada

Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, the Netherlands

Pauline Tangiora, Aotearoa, New Zealand

Erna Witolear, Indonesia