The 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity was held in Hyderabad, India from 1st -19th October 2012. This was the first COP in the UN Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020. The slogan ‘Prakruti Rakshati Rakshita (”Nature protects if she is protected”) gave Brahma Kumaris an opening for raising awareness about personal responsibility. A BK position Statement, three pamphlets and a set of cards were prepared to help awaken biodiversity consciousness.
A total of 33 delegates from Brahma Kumaris were registered. It was a co-operation between the Rural Development Wing - with BK Raju as the main co-ordinator, with BK Sumanth assisting, the Hyderabad Shanti Sarovar Retreat Centre team with Sister Kuldeep and Brother Vamshibhai as main co-ordinators, plus international members from the BK Environment Initiative: Anthony Strano (Greece), Ruth Liddle (UK), Meera Ryu Chunghee (South Korea), Andrea Gutierrez (Finland), Klaus Peter Hankel (India), Usha Jeevan (South Africa), Julia Grindon-Welch, (USA), Ingrid Arnold, (Gibraltar), Claudia Lizana (Costa Rica), Brigida Fries (Brazil), Maureen Goodman (UK), Sonja Ohlsson (Denmark), Golo Pilz (India).
For COP-MOP6 which ran 1st -5th October, the Brahma Kumaris hosted two exhibitions and one side event. For COP11 8th -19th October, which included the high level meetings, three exhibitions and four side events had been prepared.
HITEX Exhibition – the exhibition at the conference venue
This was the first UN gathering of such a large scale and conference organisers underwent some teething troubles. Information changed day by day, and the exhibition halls were still under construction on the days exhibitors were invited to prepare their stands. However, as the BKs are widely known and respected, the conference staff were very, very willing to help. The HITEX COO (event manager) even offered a meeting room free of charge in their administration building. Many exhibition stalls were unoccupied the first week and attendance was low, but stand visitors - mainly other exhibitors, policemen, workers and school children – showed a lot of interest in sustainable yogic farming.
This exhibition set in a folk village catered for the general public. Our stand was large and well located. The finished stand, partitioned into three areas, was attractively decorated. Visitors could walk around a poster exhibition, browse literature available for purchase, watch a video in the viewing section, or sit in quiet reflection in a meditation room then select a Living in Harmony card which gave an awareness and action to practise to bring positive change.
We were surprised to see 70 BKs come from centres in Hyderabad for the training held at Shanti Sarovar on the Sunday before the opening of the conference. Such was the enthusiasm to help with UN conference service!
At the end of the first week, a second training was held on Sunday 7th October - only for English speaking helpers serving on the HITEX or Silparamam stands 8th-19th. It was light and interactive with sharing of the previous week’s learnings plus great questions on how to better present what BKs have to offer. Sumanth –a senior representative of Brahma Kumaris Rural Wing - Klaus Peter and Andrea presented slideshows and there was powerful group meditation from 7-7:30pm.
Conference Side Events
Side events from October 1st-5th (MOP) were mainly during the lunch break, 1:15-2:45pm. Side events inside the conference downloaded from the website were incomplete. More sessions were advertised on screens within the conference venue, but for some of the sessions attended the presenters didn’t show up and several presentations that looked relevant or useful were cancelled in advance. Each day delegates made their plans according to what was available and checked the screens in inside the conference for updates.
BK Meera Ryu , coordinator of Brahma Kumaris activities in South Korea, arrived on 4th October to get experience and make connections with the South Korean delegation as COP12 - in 2014 - will be in South Korea.
With one day of COP-MOP6 remaining we were wondering how to connect with the Korean delegation when we met our friend, Malaysian government delegate, Letchumanan Ramatha. Through this chance meeting we ended up with introductions to four Korean delegates within a few minutes!
On 29th September we made a video for BK Media about the COP 11 conference.
On 1st October, our delegates were interviewed by a Telegu (local language) daily newspaper.
On 8th October Ruth was interviewed by Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) TV. She talked about BK’s involvement in the field of biodiversity.
A film crew visited Shanti Sarovar 8th October evening to interview Rural Wing Green Team members about yogic agriculture. They filmed 13 BKs meditating over a variety of seeds.
LIVING IN HARMONY: Special BK Side Event for COP-MOP6 - 4th October, 6.30pm
The programme venue was Brahma Kumaris’ Global Peace Auditorium, Shanti Sarovar Campus, Hyderabad. Approximately 350 people attended the event.
The programme opened with a traditional Indian dance followed by a welcome speech by a local hero in biodiversity conservation. Dr. G.B.K. Rao, CMD Pragati Group is a staunch promoter of Indian lifestyle and traditions, who has received two doctorates and numerous awards for his services in conservation, preservation, protection and promotion of various traditional, natural and medical practices. He shared his vision to instil the values of joy, abundance, balance, social responsibility and innovation and recreate an ecologically balanced environment and system of sustainable living.
The theme was how healing the living system of nature first requires a change in our awareness and a healing of the living system of our thinking.
First to speak was Rajana Kumar, former chairperson of NABARD, who headed three large organisations, her last post being Vigilence Commissioner with the Indian government. Ms. Kumar spoke on the need for each person to be their best and draw on their inner strengths to develop interpersonal harmony. Harmony along with values such as cleanliness, self-esteem and appreciation will remove fear and anxiety and lead to growth and progress. We need to look at things in a different way now, understanding strengths and listening with the intellect.
The second speaker was Dr. Kewalanand, a professor of agronomy who has worked for the past 40 years on various aspects of agro ecosytems, good agricultural practice, medical and aromatic plants, forest crops and fibre crops. Author of two books, 30 research papers and 4 monographs on concepts and benefits of agro biodiversity, Professor Kewalanand presented a slideshow outlining why and how a change in the quality of our thoughts can be beneficial. He drew on and research findings of Lebbrecht, Emoto, Grad, Besant, Crath and Gary, and presented data to show how pure and powerful thought vibrations utilized in the germination and growing process of seeds can both enhance crop productivity and quality and benefit the environment and society.
The final speaker was BK Anthony Strano, international speaker, author of several self-development books and CDs, and regular contributor of values-centred articles to Huffington Post - a popular American online newspaper. Anthony shared how we are currently facing a crisis of values. Anxiety and chaos are common experiences. Nothing will change through words alone. A change in attitude and values is needed. It’s time to look at my atma (soul) ecosystem. I need to remember and use deep traditional spiritual knowledge to come close to myself again. Harmony in my atma ecosystem will result in a change in my attitude to and connection with matter. When I am in harmony with myself, it is much easier to have harmony with others and to treat nature in a very harmonious way, in a very respectful way. Three things that a human being needs within himself to be able to live harmoniously are a sense of identity, a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose. When a human being has these three things, then it is very easy to be able to have that fulfilment within which enables us to work well with others. When there is something lacking inside, it is very easy for there to be greed, anger, and disrespect, and this impacts everything, whether it is nature or my colleagues. So living in harmony begins with one’s own self.
Anthony spoke a meditation commentary to take the audience into the experience of what he had shared. This was followed by a short speech and gift giving from Sister Kuldeep, coordinator of Shanti Sarovar Retreat Centre.
On October 1st, Anthony and Ruth went to Banjara Hills BK centre for introductions and a class by Anthony which defined the major concepts needed to understand biodiversity consciousness more fully - awareness, biodiversity consciousness, sustainability, resilience.
After class we visited Pragrati Resort, a biodiverse site run by Dr. G.B.K Rao, Chairman and Managing Director of Pragati Green Meadows and Resorts, a lush green habitat developed from wasteland which now sustains diverse species in 2,500 acres of ‘biodiversity land’.
Anthony left Saturday 6th morning. Andrea (from Finland) and Klaus Peter (from Germany/ Shantivan) arrived.
Saturday 6th evening Andrea, Klaus Peter and Ruth went to Meerpet BK centre - the first centre in Hyderabad – for sightseeing, an overnight stay and to meet approximately 120 students the following morning.
Ruth met with groups of retreat residents at Shanti Sarovar on two different occasions.
Meera visited Banjara Hills BK centre for Sunday morning class and shared about biodiversity service and life in South Korea.