Report 20th June

Today was the start the actual Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference and most of the Brahma Kumaris delegation were present and participating by going to various events, making interventions and meeting with speakers and other participants. Todays report gives you an idea of some of the themes and topics discussed by high-level delegates, civil society, youth and indigenous people. It was also the day when the Brahma Kumaris local Center hosted an evening program in the city of Rio with Sister Jayanti as the speaker.

Solstice vigil
The day began in a mansion on the hillside behind Rio Centro with a gathering of spiritual leaders coming together for a morning meditation at 6:30am. Luciana Ferraz and Sonja Ohlsson arrived some time later, joining a gathering of 100 who were meditating for the Harmony of Mother earth and giving power to the negotiations. Many were present 20 years ago with Dadi Janki at the same place, so we met many old and new friends and contacts.

This mansion was also the place which held "Visioning – Co-creating a New Economic Paradigm" This was a one day reflection organized by Global Peace Initiative of Women and Terra Nova. The presenters were Sister Jayanti, BKWSU; Sri Prem Baba, Spiritual Teacher, Sacha lineage & Shaman, Brazil; Alan Imai, Shumei International, Japan; David Courchene, Leading Earth Man, Ashinabe Nation, Canada; Martinez, Guardians of the Earth, Colorado, USA.

Sister Jayanti took the participants on a meditative journey to the historical and ancient 'golden age', an era of where humanity and nature lived in harmony and truth. She invited us to envision that time, so we may bring it about again. She gave a beautifully detailed description of life in the golden age, that world of perfection and complete happiness. The meditation created a sacred atmosphere, full of vibrations of love and peace.

Sri Prem Baba talked about the separation between secular and spiritual knowledge, making it difficult to find efficient solutions to overcome this deep crisis. According to him, the root of the crisis is lack of spirituality within the negotiations.

Alan Imai mentioned Mr. Emoto's experiment with water, through which Emoto could verify the direct effect of vibrations on matter. The first one to receive the consequences of my thinking is me and my body, then the environment. We need to change our internal environment to be clean and pure if we want to bring about change in the world.

David Courchene invited people to stop intellectualizing the crisis and understand the intelligence of nature. Martinez, an eleven-year-old child, spoke of his concern about the people destroying the earth, which moved him to create "guardians of the earth". They undertake concrete actions to save nature in their own communities, like convincing authorities to avoid the use of pesticides in parks. Martinez and his young colleagues have come to Rio to give a message to the world leaders - "you have to do something to save the earth, before it's too late." The meeting concluded as everyone sang spiritual songs together.

Day of reflection - Sister Jayanti leading a meditation visioning - co-creating a New Economic Paradigm

Evening program – The Future We Want
As part of the Rio +20 events, Brahma Kumaris in Rio de Janeiro organized a public lecture by Jayanti Kirpalani, director of the Brahma Kumaris to Europe and the Middle East, entitled "The Future we Want" at Baden Powell Hall. 400 people attended the program, almost filling the hall to capacity.

Cristina Braga, a well-known harpist, welcomed the audience with 3 gorgeous Brazilian pieces of music. Patricia Carvalho, coordinator of Brahma Kumaris in Belo Horizonte, was the MC and Luciana M. S. Ferraz, coordinator of Brahma Kumaris in Brazil translated Sr. Jayanti's talk that was filled with spiritual treasures. Sr. Jayanti emphasized that truly via the power of love we can restore love, but this requires a silence, and a clear decision that my life will follow in alignment with my deepest inner values. After the talk, Marli Medeiros, coordinator of Brahma Kumaris in Rio and Minas Gerais conducted meditation. Jayanti distributed the typical sweet, called 'toli' to all participants.

Events attended by the BK delegation

Part of BK delegation entering Rio Centro - Meeting at Rio Centro

Launch of Sustainia 100 – a guide to 100 Sustainable solutions
Sustainia, a think-tank founded by Danish Journalist Erik Rasmussen is supported by major companies like Microsoft, General Electric, Ikea and many others. On June 20th evening there was a reception and the launch of the 100 best solutions at the Copabacana Palace, one of the oldest and most prestigious Hotels in Rio.

Launch of Sustainia 100

Joachim Golo Pilz and Sister Jayanti received invitations. Invited speakers included Gro Harlem Brundtland (Former President Norway), Rajendra Pachauri (President IPCC) and Connie Hedegaard (EU Commissioner for Climate). Arnold Schwarzenegger who supports the environmental initiative was also invited (but could not come). The high level discussion stressed the need for a positive vision, clear examples, and proper finance to transition towards a sustainable future. The evening concluded with closing remarks by Danish prime minister Helle Thorning -Schmidt.

Title of the event: Measure What Matters: a coherent global framework - aligning performance indicators for global sustainable development, national beyond GDP metrics and improved corporate reporting

Organizing partners: The Prince's Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S)

Part of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales's International Sustainability Unit, A4S was established by The Prince of Wales to help ensure that we are not battling to meet 21st century challenges with, at best, 20th century decision making and reporting systems. A4S brings together the finance and accounting community from business, government, academia and the capital markets to rethink the fundamentals of accounting and develop the institutions, systems, tools and approaches needed to build a sustainable economy. The project's work focuses on ways to integrate measures of environmental health, social well-being and economic performance to provide a 'future-proofed' framework for decision-making, to build the capacity needed to take action through the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), the Green Economy Coalition and the Stakeholder Forum

The event was chaired by A4S with high-level speakers from each of the three agendas:

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales (via video message) , Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK - Paula Caballero, Director for Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombia - Majid Al Suwaidi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United Arab Emirates - Dasho Karma Tshiteem, The Secretary of the Gross National Happiness Commission of the Royal Government of Bhutan - Oliver Greenfield, Convenor of the Green Economy Coalition - Paul Druckman, Chief Executive Officer, International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) - Ernst Ligteringen, Chief Executive, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) - Philippe Joubert, Senior Advisor, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

The event focused on the three major proposals in the negotiating text:

  • The momentum for a set of goals at the global level that focus on sustainable development
  • Proposals for a set of national performance metrics that go beyond GDP
  • The call for more integrated and robust corporate reporting that helps to redefine business value

For these metrics to be transformational, A4S proposes that the metrics be aligned with the same broad objectives, so they may drive change.

As we are moving to the sustainable economy we so urgently need, a new frame of reference for decision-making is required, involving new ways to measure progress at the global, national and corporate level. A measurement framework that incorporates economic growth, social equity and wellbeing, and environmental sustainability, is needed; one that, at the same time, provides a common set of goals for action by business and governments at the local, national and international levels.

There is a need for greater collaboration between those working on each area, so that the resulting measurement systems work together to deliver a sustainable economy. By aligning the information used by governments, businesses, investors and other stakeholders around the same broad objectives, decisions made at each level of our economy should reinforce, rather than contradict, those at other levels.

Positive outcomes:
Mr Dasho Karma Tshiteem, the Bhuthan representative will propose to the UN Conference participants - to promote well being and happiness for the world, a programme aiming at a psychological sustainability, fair distribution and greater efficiency in the use of resources.

Mr Philippe Joubert proposed a system that rewards good behavior of corporations, as a huge change of behavior/performance within corporations needs to take place.

We must establish a strategy that takes into consideration the global situation.

BK participants: Sister Jayanti, Ken, Valeriane, Patricia from Peru, Patricia from Brazil and Teresa

People met: Sister Jayanti met Ms Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, Ms Paula Caballero, Director for Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombia. On her way out, Sister Jayanti met Mr Dasho Karma Tshiteem, The Secretary of the Gross National Happiness Commission of the Royal Government of Bhutan. He paid a lot of attention to Sister Jayanti's words and he was in agreement.

Italian Pavilion
At the Italian Pavilion at the Parque dos Atletas (Athletes Park), opposite RIO+20 RioCentro, the Ministry for the Environment, land and sea of Italy - Corrado Clini, hosted a reception. The President of the Lombardi region spoke extensively on the EXPO 2015 that will be in Milano on the theme of "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life".

This was a great opportunity to for Piero Musini, coordinator of Casa Sangam in Gubbio (Umbria region of Italy) and a yogic farmer, to meet and connect with the executive Director, Alberto Mina, and to foresee the possibility of BKWSU having a platform to present the yogic agriculture initiative.

The Expo is a non-commercial universal exposition (not a trade fair) organized by the nation that wins the candidature, with other countries participating through the diplomatic channels of the hosting nation. The first Expo was held in London in 1851 and was such a success that other nations were encouraged to organize similar events like the Paris Expo in 1889 for which the Eiffel Tower was designed and built.

Each Expo has a universal theme and is held in an area, which has been masterminded as a place of exchange and encounter to promote a unique experience for participants and visitors who discover and experiment with the theme. More than displaying major technological novelties the Expo's role is oriented towards interpreting the collective challenges to which mankind is asked to respond.

Italian Pavilion at Athletes Park


Global Survey on Youth

First Global Survey on Youth
The survey was divided in three parts: environmental issues, economic issues and global issues. The survey was conducted in 30 different countries with a total of 30,000 young people participating. The survey outcomes were presented to governments, companies and NGO's so they may understand better how the environmental issues of today are perceived by youth. It was a good resource for developing future projects.

SPREAD Sustainable lifestyles for 2050
This was an important conference for BK environment because our policy is closely related to our lifestyles. SPREAD is a social platform project that looks to improve the quality of life and create innovative changes in behaviors and lifestyles which vital to achieve economic prosperity within the limits of the planet over the long term. SPREAD pledges the involvement of all levels of society so there can be a common vocabulary among diverse disciplines while also bringing in the voice of youth. They are also questioning what drives human behavior and consumption's patterns. They are working with different organizations and governments of Europe and planning to move to North America. They finally said that their objectives and knowledge of a sustainable lifestyle are evolving until their reach their goals by the year 2050.

UNEP: Beyond GDP. BK Juan Vazquez Milling opened with "Well being cannot be measured by economical assets alone," citing examples of Canada's well being measures and Bhutan's happiness measure as an alternative to the regular measurement of growth.

The prime minister of Denmark stated that greening our economies can be good business, specially in turbulent times like current Europe. However the most important message was that progress in human development cannot be achieve at the cost of the next generations.

What Comes Next? An Interactive Dialogue on Youth Movements Beyond Rio
This conference was organized by SustainUS and the panel comprised 8 youth from different parts of the world, sharing their ideas and examples of sustainable actions.

A young American entrepreneur is launching a construction company offering eco-local and ethically responsible products and services. A young American entrepreneur is launching a construction company offering eco-local and ethically responsible products and services.

Beyond GDP - UNEP

A 20 year-old girl from Mauritius explained the importance of teaching other youth and children about sustainability, requesting the audience to reflect on why they were at Rio +20 discussing SD. A very young Chinese boy shared that he and a group of youth in their town in China were working to make university campuses 'green' through auditing and transitioning academic institutions towards the use of renewable energy. A young girl from Colombia who was the delegate for SustainUS for COP 17 shared that, after being very involved in the environmental movement in Miami, she returned to her city of birth, Medellin Colombia. There, she created a program to increase awareness among young people to live sustainably for the benefit of future generations, involving many different companies and levels of government. The result of this campaign was very successful and she further created the campaign Rio+You. The side event was full of energy and clearly demonstrated the capacity of the youth to work together and create actions that create change. Youth can learn from each other and work together to engage in real action.

What comes next? An interactive dialogue on Youth Movements Beyond Rio

Resilient Cities - Fostering Local Action for Sustainable Development was a Side Event organised by UNISDR, and sponsored by the Co-Chairs of the Group of Friends of Disaster Risk Reduction (Governments of Indonesia, Australia, Peru and Norway). This panel discussion was moderated by Ms. Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Ms. Wahlström clearly explained that the vulnerability of cities is increasing and requirements are changing rapidly, as the world's rapidly expanding population are tending to move to cities. To manage the increased needs and changing vulnerabilities of our urban spaces and populations, we need to broaden partnerships inclusively, within cities bringing together local governments, communities and the private sector (business). Cities are even more important than nation states when considering disasters. Organic growth of cities and urban societies comes naturally to human beings, however they are growing extremely fast. We have to consider the challenges that come with increasing urban populations and rapid economic growth... Local government often has the solution, although they lack political voice at the decision making table.

Ms. Mary Jane Ortega, Mayor spoke about the need to decentralize power in our cities. This requires good governance, financial support and trust to enable city-to-city cooperation. When we have resilient people we will have resilient cities. We need to upscale alliances within our cities, and our city-to-city cooperation.

Dr. Guiteau Jean-Pierre, Director General of the Haiti Red Cross teaches public health and has seen how communities contribute to resilience building. People have been the main strength of Haiti's recovery. Despite many living on the streets, Haitians have been combining their different capacities to make parks into safe public spaces again.

Hon. Saber. H. Chowdhury, Member of Parliament, Bangladesh works for peace, and non-proliferation of arms. He stressed the need to recognize disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation as an integrated topic. People are the focal point in this. Disaster Risk Reduction is the first action you take on the ground when it comes to climate change adaptation. Moving from sustainability to DRR has been quite easy as the two are intrinsically connected. Create early warning systems, engage with community, build shelters, enhance community preparedness, and raise awareness. But unless local governments are brought into the process there will be little to no reform.

Graciela Ortuzar Novoa, Mayor of Lampa municipality, Chile said "I'm engaged and in love with this topic." In Feb 2010 75% of health system network was destroyed in our earthquake, many people were missing and dead. My main point is to try to socialize about the strategy and consider the different types of actors, political social etc. to discuss this topic and its importance. After working with community leaders, I've seen that social networks are very important. We need to work with solidarity networks like indigenous people, farmers, communities and schools to generate the required social capital, to generate a network of confidants. It must also involve universities and civil society.

Peter Gruetter, Representative of the Private Sector and Distinguished Fellow reminded us that when Jesus Christ and Mohammed taught in Middle East, we were 300 million people. 200 years ago the population reached 1 billion. Now we are 7 billion. We are in the Collaboration Age. Let the private sector and businesses be your partner in resilience building. Cities are highly complex systems and so highly vulnerable. We won't create resilience unless we exchange knowledge and technical expertise. Using the example of a recent alliance between CISCO and Microsoft, Peter stated the need to consider the power of networks and their growing importance.

Sir John Beddington is chief scientific Advisor, to the British Government. Vulnerability is increasing dramatically and it is not going away. Current trends tell us that despite our best intentions . . . things are going to happen anyway. The effect of climate change is already here. Green house gases already present will determine where will be in 25 years, while the world populations will be 8 billion in 13 years time.

How can science help?

  • Science is better at predicting than it was, although geophysical events are hard to predict except in short time scales.
  • Physical and biological sciences in terms of improving way we communicate risk.
  • Social and behavioral sciences offer solutions about resilience, teaching and awareness raising.

The question is . . . how do we learn to ask the right questions?

Dr. Tamasin Ramsay, anthropologist and UN Rep for the Brahma Kumaris asked the question, "are cities and local governments ready to partner those who are experts in developing and teaching inner resilience, like faith-based communities?" While there were murmurs of approval from the audience, the questions remained unanswered by the panel. It seems that spiritual and religious communities may still be stigmatized, regardless of the genuine expertise they offer. Still, even posing these questions to high-level panels is a step forward in continuing the important conversation about the role of communities with specialized expertise in disaster risk management and climate change.

(Reporter: Tamasin)

The Australian Government hosted a side event to launch the initiative "One Place, Many Stories: Our Country". The Australian Government is working with Australia's Indigenous peoples to understand how to take care of the land, preserve indigenous culture, sustain and care for country with an appreciation of the interdependence of all living beings.

Hon Julia Guillard, Prime Minister of Australia. We want to honor the spirit of the land and ancestors past and present in the spirit of reconciliation and indigenous people and lands and what they are custodians for. This year marks an historical event when the right of indigenous people as caretakers of national land was ratified through the Mabo decision of 1992.

We acknowledge immensely critical work linking ancient traditions to modern practices. Custodianship, guardianship and connection with the land . . . each of these is important and intense. Ecosystems are critical to sustainability as is cultural protection and history.

Indigenous perspectives from South America, Australia and New Zealand:
"Please look at the tropical rainforest. It's is what I've come here to ask you. Look at the rainforest and the people who live there." He then sang the rainforest.

Guaranee People of the Rainforest, Brazil. We live in the tropical rainforest of Sao Paulo and Rio. This is one of the most threatened areas. What future do you really want? You say you want a 'balance' between progress and conservation. This claim has changed the balance that nature had. Now we need to reverse that. Each of us live in a different forest. Nature is a whole and we have withdrawn ourselves from nature because we think and speak as if we are something bigger. All other living beings have no voice but we have to hear them. If we don't listen we will all fall down together, with our own book of reasons. Each step we take is reflected in the reality of our future. Please stop making the mistakes of the past.

Connections of culture, history and tradition are important in sustainability. Acknowledge the sky father and the earth mother. Allow the spirit of humanity to dwell amongst us. Transfer this knowledge from our old people to our young people.

Final Indigenous Statement: "We walk towards the future on the pathways of our predecessors because they have the truth, they know what green economy wash is because they've stepped on the ground and breathed the air. Now theories are made but not lived. If you want a future, step on the ground, breathe the air, and protect and sustain our mother nature."

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