Gorbachev, AtKisson Address Russian Conference on Sustainable Development

At a recent conference hosted by Russia’s “Public Chamber” — the official gathering point for the civil society movement of Russia, and a conduit for communicating civil society concerns to the government — former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev made a well-received, unscheduled speech that underscored the importance of science to sustainable development, and pointed to the role of the Earth Charter as a guiding ethical framework.


The conference was called “Global Security and Sustainable Development: Ecology, Economy, Energy.” ECI Executive Director Alan AtKisson was an invited speaker, and longtime Earth Charter champion Rustem Khairov was among the central organizers.

Mr. Gorbachev, who is both the founder of Green Cross International and co-initiator (with Maurice Strong) of the Earth Charter Initiative, was not originally on the speaking program. But he gave a stirring and spontaneous 30-minute address at the invitation of the conference chair, Vladimir Zakharov of Russian’s Center for Environmental Policy. Mr. Zakharov also chairs the Environment Commission of the Public Chamber.


The two-conference on 12-13 February included a full day of speeches, including an account by the Minister of Environment from Tatarstan on that semi-autonomous region’s extensive work with the Earth Charter in recent years in its government policies and programs (ECI will be reporting more on this later). Among the prominent speakers were Hans-Peter Dürr of Germany and Dennis Meadows of the United States.


The second day of the conference consisted of working sessions that confirmed the draft of an advisory statement on increasing the importance of environmental issues in Russian government policy making. Climate and energy issues received special attention, both in the conference generally and in the advisory statement. Alan AtKisson co-chaired one of these sessions with Mr. Zakharov. He later addressed the students, faculty, and president of Mendeleyev University, at a special lecture session organized by Prof. Natalia Tarasova, whose Center for the Problems of Sustainable Development is on course to become a new ECI Affiliate in Russia. The Center, in addition to its university research work, sponsors a very successful program of outreach to Moscow schools, and acts as a regional champion for the UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development.


ECI was grateful to have this opportunity to participate in this important Moscow gathering, and to connect to Mendeleyev University, and looks forward to further opportunities to deepen these important relationships in Russia