The World Council of Churches organised a peace workshop in Beirut, Lebanon from 19 to 21 June 2013 at Lady of the Mountain Conference Center. The workshop focused on training Syrian activists in the international humanitarian law, reconciliation, and post conflict recovery.
The workshop included a presentation of Mr. Basel Kaghedo from ESCWA (The UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia), on the future agenda for Syria. Mr. Melhem Mansour, who was leading the workshop, presented the potential of the Earth Charter as a foundation and ethical framework in the post conflict recovery in Syria.
Participants analysed the connection between different principles and the current challenges and needs. The Earth charter is an important document to be promoted in conflict areas and societies because it would help to inspire people in ideas towards peace and dialogue. However, it needs to be adopted at different levels and should be promoted at all levels as much as they do no harm the local efforts that take care of aid and relief services.
A two day interactive workshop entitled “Sustainable Development Projects Inspired by the Earth Charter” was organized by Massar in Aleppo, a Northern City in Syria, on the 24th and 25th of January, 2012. During this 27 representatives from environmental NGOs, international agencies, governmental bodies, and representatives from 8 eco-schools participating in “Green Light: Environmental Education Initiative” came together to discuss sustainable development projects and to create synergies amongst the stakeholders.
Attendees of the workshop included people from eco-schools participating in Green Light Initiative, the Directorate of Environment, Youth Union, UNRWA, Agha Khan, UNEP, and seven active environmental NGOs in Aleppo. Overall, it was a very enriching experience and participants walked away with not only a better sense of what the Earth Charter is but also better equipped about how to take action towards more sustainable lifestyles.
The objectives of Earth Charter workshop were:
Introducing the earth charter
Updating the attendees on some interesting and recent facts in environment
Discussing potential sustainable development projects inspired by the Earth Charter
Giving an overview of climate change and planetary boundaries
Explaining the principles of writing a project proposal
Creating working groups based on the suggested project ideas by the attendees
Day One: – Give Earth a Hand… Green Peace Campaign – The Earth Charter formation – Envisioning sustainability…shedding light on Donella Meadows work – Why is the Earth Charter different? – Tree of the Earth Charter
Introducing the 4 main principles through interactive activities and discussions 1. Respect and care for community of life – The most important living thing – Types of participation and your institute – Community of life: an interconnected web
2. Ecological Integrity – Types of ecosystem services and its current situation – Study on services of forests and woodlands in the UK – Ecosystems and equilibrium? – Story of our stuff
3. Social and Economic Justice – Different perspectives on a social issue
4. Democracy, non-violence, and peace – Art collage on the 4 principles of democracy, non-violence and peace
– Overview of climate change and defining planetary boundaries – Eradicating ecocide and Polly Higgins work – Brainstorming sustainable development projects – Steps for writing a funding proposal – Introducing some funding opportunities – Creation of working groups and discussion of project ideas brainstorm: – A community problem and Earth Charter principles – Mind Map for Climate change
The Earth Charter workshop will be followed by another workshop to further elaborate the project ideas that were developed during this workshop.
This Department, under the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Syria, is implementing a project called SAWA: Sustainable Actions for The World Academy. This is a series of capacity building initiatives for state and non-state actors to link local and national sustainable development activities with the global agenda.
The project is carried out in collaboration with the State Ministry of Environmental Affairs and ESCWA (The UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia), which is leading the preparation to Rio +20 in the Arab region.
As a part of the national preparation for Rio +20 in Syria, the project team organized the first training workshop (March 2011) on the transition towards Green Economy including trade and environment and green jobs. The workshop was facilitated by ESCWA and AFED (Arab Forum for Environment and Development).
A second training workshop took place in June 2011 to discuss preparations for a national green economy forum in the country.
In these workshops, Mr. Melhem Mansour (project manager of the Department of Development at Greek Orthodox Patriarchate) introduced the Earth Charter and made a presentation called “Ethics of transition towards Green Economy” derived from the report of Earth Charter and Green Economy. Participants of these workshops were active private sector and SME’s in Syria, in addition to governmental employees.
The Earth Charter was also discussed when Mr. Bashar Zietoun from AFED presented the concept of environmental corporate responsibility during the Green Jobs training session organized by Mr. Mansour.
SAWA project will present the Earth Charter as a reference for CSR strategies in the upcoming national Green Economy Forum to be held in January 2012.
Earth Charter youth activist Hanouf Al-Alawi from Iraq took the initiative to present the principles and values for sustainability in Syria, where she currently lives. Hanouf firstly got introduced to the EC through online course Youth Leadership, Sustainability and Ethics.
Thank you Hanouf for your continuous support for the EC and for this article!
The presentation was given during a 3 day workshop (3rd-5th May, 2011) held at Massar premise during which 30 representatives from the government, international agencies, and grassroots came together to discuss the appropriate approach to non-formal activities that can be implemented in 16 schools in Aleppo, in the Northern part of Syria, and in order to create synergies and networking amongst the stakeholders. This is part of a 3 year project (August 2010- July 2013) funded by Reach Out To Asia, in order to equip the young people of Syria with the necessary skills and knowledge to become ecocitizens.
Attendees of the workshop included people from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Environment, Youth Union, UNDP, UNICEF, Syrian Pioneers, Sustainable Business Associates, and two pedagogical environment experts from Jordan.
The Earth Charter presentation aimed to highlight how this living document can be used as an inspiration and guide to the development of any activities and school projects in the mentioned schools. It discussed the following main points:
The Earth Charter formation and the principles of the Earth Charter
Why the Earth Charter?
The Earth Charter Guidebook for Teachers: a unique pedagogical approach woven internationally but applicable locally
The four basic principles for any educational environment activity inspired by the Earth Charter
Learning from 10 years of experience: Recommendations for the use of the Earth Charter in non-formal education given during the 10th year EC anniversary held in India (November, 2010)
Ten aspects of quality education set by the UNESCO
The presentation concluded with a questions and answers session. Hanouf’s PowerPoint presentation is available here.
Mr. Melhem Mansour, e-GLO 2 alumni from Syria, presented the Earth Charter in Our White Sea II: Networking for Sustainable Development -seminar. This was organized in Malta, October 27-31, 2010, for youth NGOs across Europe and Mediterranean countries and hosted by the Euro-Mediterranean Youth Platform. The seminar focused on the role of young people and youth organizations in the sphere of sustainable development.
The participants came from different countries in the Mediterranean region: Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Malta and Tunisia. In addition UK was represented.
Mr. Mansour contributed to this seminar by writing an article to be published in the annual Euro-Med Youth Platform Magazine. This article discussed the importance of investment in youth potentials towards sustainable development.
In addition to that, Mr. Mansour presented The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) and the role of non-formal education and the Earth Charter in this youth seminar. He specifically emphasized the link between the Earth Charter and education for sustainable development.
Mr. Mansour was also able to inform the participants about the youth opportunities within the Earth Charter youth network, such as e-GLO. One of the seminar participants from Egypt, Mirette Bahgat, had taken part in the Earth Charter International’s short course on Youth Leadership, Sustainability and Ethics and she was able to go through the EC website and explain to the workshop what resources and information is available regarding the ESD and Earth Charter.
“We need to take every opportunity to promote the Earth Charter” says Mr. Mansour, and adds that “even if we are doing this task voluntarily, and have to take some days off from our work, we do it because we believe in the Earth Charter and feel responsible to spread the word on it. The Earth Charter is our mission!”
Mr. Mansour is the first person promoting the Earth Charter in Syria and thanks to him, now many NGOs are interested to learn about it, such as MASAR and Syrian Entrepreneurs Association.
On 23 and 24 November 2010, a special celebration of the 10th Earth Charter anniversary took place in Jordan, under the patronage of HRH Princess Basma Bint Talal and the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD). The objectives were to raise awareness about the EC in Jordan and in the region, share experiences and forge collaboration between regional organizations. As a result, a regional Earth Charter network for Middle East and North Africa was created, and strategic actions and way forward were discussed and agreed.
The first day of the event, around 200 people gathered at Movenpick Hotel in the Dead Sea, Jordan, where HRH Princess Basma offered her views on the importance of the Earth Charter for the region, she said: “the Earth Charter is in line with our region’s culture and lifestyle. Our commitment to the EC is evident, but we need to do more actions, we need to do what is simply right”. She offered an overview of the contributions of Jordan society to the drafting process of the Charter, and actions that have taken place during this last 10 years. She highlighted the translation of the EC Teacher’s Guidebook into Arabic and how this resource was distributed to schools throughout the country. At the end of her speech, she expressed hope that this meeting leads to more use and promotion of the sustainability vision that is articulated in the Earth Charter.
In this occasion, IUCN regional office launched a toolkit in Arabic of the water initiative called WANI. Mr. Mark Smith from IUCN Headquarters presented this material and made the official launch. In addition, he reflected on the complementary missions of IUCN and Earth Charter Initiative.
In the first panel discussion, Prof. Peter Blaze Corcoran offered, on behalf of the Earth Charter International, a thorough presentation of what have been the most important highlights and outcomes of the Earth Charter in the last ten years, in areas such as education, private sector, youth and global governance. In addition, Mr. Odeh Al-Jayyousi, IUCN Regional Director highlighted the importance of the EC as an educational tool for sustainable development and the importance of a continued collaboration. Dr. Sawsan Majali, Director of ZENID offered an overview of actions to put in practice the Earth Charter in Jordan. Finally, Mr. Mustafa Naseredin, from TAG group, offered his views on the importance of the Earth Charter as a framework to motivate new ways of doing business. He reflected on the complementarities between EC, Global Compact and GRI.
A second panel was organized to share experiences of the Earth Charter in action, each panelist discussed one of the four pillars of the Earth Charter. Mr. Ibrahim Al-Zubi from Emirates Diving Association discussed about Respect and Care for the Community of Life; Mr. Yehya Khaled from Royal Society of Conservation of Nature shared thoughts on the notion of Ecological Integrity; Mr. Emad Adly from RAED Network reflected on his work on Social and Economic Justice and Mr. Melhem Mansour from Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Syria about Democracy, Non Violence and Peace.
Then, participants divided into five groups to discuss the role of the Earth Charter in education, private sector, youth, policy making, planning and in evaluation and assessment for sustainability.
The second day of the meeting, the working groups identified priority actions for each area discussed, they started to develop a regional plan for putting the actions identified into practice, and discussed on a collaboration effort to start a regional Earth Charter network.
Participants representing organizations of 11 countries (Governmental, International and Non Governmental Organizations) committed to get involved in this network. The countries represented were: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
There was an agreement to have JOHUD as the coordinating entity for this network, who will be in close communication with the members and ECI Secretariat. The participant’s commitment is expressed in a final declaration signed by all, which was presented to HRH Princess Basma on the last day.
Mr. Melhem Mansour participated in e-GLO 2 [Earth Charter Global Learning Opportunity] in September 2009 – January 2010. After that he used his newly learned knowledge on the Earth Charter and presented the declaration in his home country Syria, in National Seminar: Towards An Educational Strategy For Sustainable Development.
Mr. Melhem Mansour works at the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development, which was the organizer of this National Seminar. Mr. Mansour was responsible for the whole organization of this Seminar from the Department behalf.
This seminar that gathered the key parties from the national level and benefited from international experts on the field of ESD. The goal of this seminar was the recognition of non-formal education as an important tool to promote sustainable development and combat climate change. It aimed to contribute to implementation of initiatives such as Millennium Development Goals, UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005- 2014) and the Earth Charter.
Introduction to the Earth Charter By Mr. Melhem Mansour, Project Manger in Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development
Mr Mansour’s plenary session was devoted to introduce the Earth Charter. This charter represents a global consensus on shared values and ethics for building a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world. Moreover, it encompasses values and principles needed for a sustainable and peaceful global society in the 21st century.
Mr. Melhem Mansour presented a full PowerPoint presentation explaining the Earth Charter. His presentation tackled the following points:
Core sustainability values
Key themes of the Earth Charter
A Brief History of the Earth Charter Initiative
Why Earth Charter?
Contribution of Earth Charter to DESD
Case study of Earth Charter framed ESD activities
At the end of this session, Mr. Mansour answered the questions and replied to the comments. An Arabic version of the Earth Charter was distributed to the participants.
The Earth Charter is a universal expression of ethical principles to foster sustainable development.
The Earth Charter Initiative is the global network that embraces, uses and integrates the Earth Charter principles.