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Statement to the first substantive session of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)

Nairobi, Kenya
6-31 August 1990

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In his opening remarks to this first substantive session of the Preparatory Committee, the Secretary-General of the 1992 UNCED Conference observed that "...the conference for which we are preparing is one of the most important of our times...The conference is expected to take decisions which will lead to fundamental changes in the direction and nature of our economic life and behavior and establish the basis for a more secure, equitable, hopeful and sustainable future for the whole human community." [1]

The Baha'i International Community concurs with the Secretary-General in his view of the significance of this conference. We, therefore, wish to express our gratitude to the Preparatory Committee for its decision to involve non-governmental organizations in the preparatory process for this important event. It is the view of the Baha'i International Community that NGOs acting in partnership with governments can complement and reinforce government efforts and contribute significantly to the success of the 1992 Conference. We, therefore, also support the recommendation that representatives of non-governmental organizations be actively involved in national preparations for this conference.

Among the issues to be agreed upon by the conference are, in the words of the Secretary-General, "the basic principles which must guide people and nations in their conduct towards each other and towards nature to ensure the future integrity and sustainability of planet Earth as a hospitable home for the human species and other forms of life." [2]

In the Baha'i view, one such pivotal principle is that of global unity and interdependence. Our efforts now and in the future to safeguard our common habitat and to promote the well-being and development of all peoples must be characterized by a unified approach within an effective universal framework. The unity we envision is more than an academic matter of geography, climatology or oceanography. It is based on the concept of the fundamental unity of mankind living as one world community, in which the problems of economic relations and the use of natural resources must be addressed from a global perspective with due regard for the wide diversity of climates and cultures. The universal framework proposed by Baha'u'llah over one hundred years ago calls for universally agreed-upon and enforceable laws, the equitable sharing of resources, fundamental adjustments to present institutional and economic relations, and world-wide changes in the values, behavior, and consumption patterns of individuals and communities.

The principle of the unity of mankind naturally implies the need for world peace and security. The World Commission on Environment and Development observed in its report that world peace and security are central to sustainable development. The Baha'i International Community agrees that as long as the specter of war continues to dominate international relations, the well-being of the human race and the environment will continue to erode. It is the Baha'i view that the root cause of all war and injustice is the failure to recognize the fundamental oneness of the human race. Acceptance of the principle of oneness will induce the willingness to uncover and permanently resolve all other causes for conflict. Indeed, it must be the foundation for any serious attempt to find ways of living in harmony with our environment and each other.

The Baha'i International Community, through its agencies around the world, in both developing and developed nations, provides a vast network of local groups and communities whose activities at the grass roots can support and assist government programmes to promote public awareness and education about environment and development, and to lay the foundations for sustainable development. Indeed, for sustainable development to be truly effective, it is essential that community-based groups and organizations not only be integrally involved in the process at the local level but also have a say in the creation of international mechanisms which will ultimately affect them.

The proposals and recommendations which the Preparatory Committee will be preparing for adoption in 1992 will only be effective if they receive general support among the majority of peoples in both developing and developed countries. The NGOs can do much to help mobilize that support by preparing the peoples of the world for the sacrifices and adjustments necessary to achieve a more just and environmentally sustainable world society. By taking part in the initial discussions and, ultimately, the decision-making process itself, people are much more likely to take ownership of the decisions that emerge.

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