Earth Charter International Director, Mirian Vilela, was recently awarded the “Spirit of the United Nations Award” by the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns in New York. The award was given to Ms. Vilela at the beginning of the Week of Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns.
In honor of the anniversary of the United Nations, the Week of Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns was created in October 2007 to foster the growth of a culture of peace in which “we, the peoples of the world”, can address together our common challenges in a holistic, positive and transformative way. The Week’s activities recognize that spirituality and adherence to universal values, such as those expressed in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are important keys to providing solutions to global concerns. The NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns (NY) (CSVGC-NY a committee of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN – CONGO), created “The Spirit of the United Nations” Award as an opportunity to recognize and acknowledge individuals whose work is an expression of the core principles, spirit and vision on which the United Nations and the Week of Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns is founded.
Ms. Vilela was present in New York City at the Church Center next to the UN Headquarters for the ceremony on October 20, 2014. Rick Clugston, ECI Advisor and former Earth Charter Council Member, was on hand to introduce her. Ms. Vilela gratefully and gracefully accepted the award on behalf of the Earth Charter Initiative and those who have contributed and who are presently contributing to making the Earth Charter vision a reality.
Here below is the content of Ms. Vilela’s speech in acceptance of the Spirit of the UN Award.
It is a great honor to receive the Spirit of the United Nations Award. I am deeply grateful and I am humbled that the Committee on Spirituality, Values, and Global Concerns is offering us this significant recognition, which I receive on behalf of all of those, past, present, and future generations involved in the Earth Charter Movement.
Great work, great movements require shared vision and collaboration among various generations and many people, because often, great goals and vision cannot be achieved within a single generation or by a small group. The Earth Charter vision was initiated in the late 80s by key leaders of that time: Maurice Strong, Jim MacNeill, Tommy Koh… then in the 90s more visionaries joined this effort: Ruud Lubbers, Steven Rockefeller, Rick Clugston, Junie Kalaw, Kamla Chowdhry and many others, each embracing this shared vision of the importance of coming up with an Earth Charter. Many others joined as time went by to contribute their own voice, their own rhythm and flavor. This is like building a big monument over many years. Therefore, we need to pay tribute to past and present generations.
Next year we will be celebrating the 15th year since the launch of the Earth Charter (under the slogan “One Earth Community, One Common Destiny”) and also next year the Sustainable Development Goals will be launched, signifying the ever-increasing importance and acknowledgment of sustainable development as a global concept for governance, environmental stewardship, and social and economic equity. This is a good sign for the progress of the sustainable development movement, but there are also clear signs that the strong ethical values of the Earth Charter still have a great role to play in informing the ongoing process and strengthening its moral validity.
At the core of the Earth Charter are values of respect and care that coincide with the aspirations of the United Nations. The Earth Charter envisions societies that act with compassion towards each other and the rest of the community of life on Earth. Embedded within these values both explicitly and implicitly are values that reflect the spiritual nature of the aspirations of the United Nations and of the hopes of individuals and societies around the world.
The second paragraph of the Earth Charter preamble states: “The protection of Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.” A sacred trust. The implication of this statement assigns the responsibility of compassion, care, and stewardship for all life for all time to a part of the human experience that is undefinable outside of a spiritual sentiment.
The preamble continues: “The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature.” Reverence, gratitude, humility. These encapsulate the spiritual practice at the heart of the Earth Charter that seeks to reinforce the human connections and interconnections among ourselves, our societies, and all other forms of life with whom we share the Earth. These values are shared with the fundamental intention of the United Nations and should continue to inform the UN and its processes and initiatives, including the Sustainable Development Goals. The spirit of the Earth Charter can and should help guide these vital efforts to make our world more sustainable, just, and peaceful.
It is with this spirit that Earth Charter International recently inaugurated the Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development in Costa Rica at the University for Peace. This Center seeks to deepen students’ and program participants’ understanding of the world vision and practice that the Earth Charter articulates, and build the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values participants need to shape a sustainable future. We continue to pursue these lofty goals with passion, vision, and hope.
It has been my privilege to be in the involved in the Earth Charter Movement and to be able to contribute to this endeavor and shared vision of global ethics. I thank you again for this honor and close with the following world vision that the Earth Charter articulates: “To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth Community with a common destiny.