Nobel Peace Laureate and Earth Charter Commissioner, Wangari Maathai, participated in the “Symposium on Climate Change and Sustainable Cities” held in Nairobi, Kenya on August 31, 2009 where she highlighted the relevance of the Earth Charter as an instrument for education for sustainability and challenged UNEP to adopt this important declaration as an organizing principle for the second half of the Decade.
Peter Blaze Corcoran, faculty member at the Florida Golf Coast University (Earth Charter Affiliate) and Director of FGCU’s Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education was also participating and offered a keynote speech drawing the audience’s attention to the value of the Earth Charter, particularly in the efforts on education for sustainable development.
“We know what to do. Why aren’t we doing it?” asked Maathai, who in 2004 became the first woman from Africa to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Born in Kenya, she is also the first woman from East Africa to earn a doctorate. In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement, which for over thirty years has worked to improve the lives of poor women through a holistic approach to sustainable development. Maathai urged her audience to bridge the gap between ethical principles and practice, stating: “There are enormously thought-provoking words in this document. What we should do, instead of just reading through, is to reflect on what the words mean so that we can be moved to action.”
The conference marked a powerful opportunity to elevate the role of the Earth Charter within the Decade and within UNEP. In her capacity as a global ambassador for the Earth Charter, Maathai articulated the rationale, significance, and inspiration of the Earth Charter in education for sustainability.
In his speech, Prof. Corcoran reflected on the Earth Charter, describing its development and drafting process: “The Earth Charter reminds us that we have an ethical responsibility to secure the bounty and beauty of Earth for generations to come.” He also recognized Maathai’s great contribution to a better future for Africa, saying: “She touches our hearts and minds with her courage, with her commitments to environmental education and self-determination for Africa, and her stubborn hope that governments and intergovernmental agencies will bring about the people’s desire for peace through environmental sustainability.”
Their keynote address was presented to an invited audience of one hundred diplomats, United Nations officials (including UNEP Director General Achim Steiner), local dignitaries, and scholars from African universities gathered for a “Symposium on Climate Change Education and Sustainable Cities.” The symposium was part of the annual meeting of the Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) which manages the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD).
The one-day climate change symposium focused on the role of education in building sustainable cities. The IAC for the UNDESD is a multilateral forum that brings together representatives from all UN agencies and programs, including the World Bank.
See speech of UNEP Director General, Achim Steiner here
More information on the event here