‘Our Moving Borders’ Conference celebrates the 12.5 year anniversary of the Earth Charter

The Erasmus University Rotterdam hosted a conference entitled ‘Our Moving Borders’ on December 17th, 2012 to celebrate the 12.5 year anniversary of the Earth Charter. The conference was organised by the CSR Academy (Rotterdam) in cooperation with RSM, VNO/NCW, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Earth Charter Initiative. The video of the full conference plenary sessions, featuring such speakers as Ruud Lubbers, Peter Bakker, Awraham Soetendorp, Lucas Simons and Alexandra van Huffelen can be watched here.

In her official opening of ‘Our Moving Borders’ Prof. Gail Whiteman said, “This is a different sort of conference.” In addition to the hands-on aspects of the conference, which included some 175  participants engaging in work groups focused on solving various ‘earth based’ dilemmas that need urgent attention,  the day included the ‘moving borders’ enabled by social media:  students from universities in Egypt, Afghanistan, and the EU tweeted questions and observations during the opening and closing plenaries.

The opening and closing plenaries addressed the following main theme:
“The challenges of our time require breaking down barriers between corporations, governments, NGOs and citizens to create new perspectives and scale-up action. What can we do together now to meet these goals?”

The conference included musical performances, a meditation, storytelling, the inclusion of youth perspectives, and the presentation of a flower to Ruud Lubbers, the former Prime Minister of the Netherlands and one of the original drafters of the Earth Charter.

After the opening plenary, the participants broke into eight working groups. Topics varied from “Lessons Identified: military, business & NGOs”, to “How can young professionals contribute to a changing Africa?” The participants reconvened after 90 minutes spent in their working groups, ready to hear from keynote speakers and international participants in the closing plenary:  various speakers via video from Cairo’s Heliopolis University, Twitter contributions from Afghanistan, Alexandra van Huffelen (Alderman City of Rotterdam), Alide Roerink (Earth Charter International), Lucas Simons (NewForesight), and Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp (Earth Charter International). Guus Balkema, RSM MSc Alumnus and  Director of Business Development and Organisation for CSR Academy, invited audience members to stay engaged by connecting in January 2013 at a follow-up meeting.

Prof. Whiteman thanked the panel and described the end of the Mayan Calendar as a sort of ‘reset’ button. “This coming Friday (21 December 2012) is the date the Mayans thought the world would start again – and I think it is definitely a day of renewal.  On Friday I’m going to be thinking about what a day of renewal means, and what we are going to do in 2013. I wish you success and joy and sustainability next year.”

The day’s events wrapped with a performance from the Dutch choir Zingen Voor Je Leven, comprised entirely of cancer patients. In introducing the group, Agnes Dinkelman of CSR said that they represented what the day’s events, and the Earth Charter, stand for:  quality of life.

This article was condensed from a fuller version on the RSM Web site. To read the full version, click here.