Message from the Chair (CEESP)
Commission on Environment, Economic & Social Policy (CEESP)
Aroha Te Pareake Mead
During the final 1992 Preparatory Committee meeting of the UN Conference on Environment Development (UNCED), negotiations for The Forest Principles stalled, over amongst other things, a reluctance by some States to accept any text that suggested that trees and forests were living. The refusal to acknowledge the integrity of life spilled over into the Earth Charter negotiations as a similar resistance to accept any text using the term ‘mother earth’ or earth as a living being or system resulted in changing the once poetic peoples’ Rio Earth Charter into the ‘UN-speak’ Rio Declaration. For many, this was an omen that despite the intention of UNCED for governments to pledge to a future based on sustainable development, the power/wealth sectors of the international and global community were not yet ready to commit to the ethical and equity shifts that sustainability requires.
Since UNCED, poverty has increased and access to clean water as a basic human right has deteriorated. We are now experiencing a food crisis, clean water crisis, climate change crisis and economic crisis. Climate change and the scarcity of clean water and food for all has been a serious issue for many years, but it is the economic crisis that has provided the wake-up call that all of these crises are inter-related. To fix one requires addressing the others.
Seventeen years after UNCED, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution initiated by Bolivia and co-sponsored by 50 other countries to designate April 22nd as International Mother Earth Day. General Assembly President d’Escoto said the world body was sending a special message of hope with Mother Earth Day. Even as scientists and biologists sounded the alarm that the world may already be at the “tipping point”, at which the damage wrought on the environment might be irreversible, the United Nations had moved “to put people and the well-being of the planet at the centre of our attention and recognize good stewardship of the planet and our dwindling resources as a shared responsibility”. “It is only right that we, as sisters and brothers, take care of Mother Earth as Mother Earth, after all sustains our very humanity,” Mr. d’Escoto said. He urged listening to the voices of indigenous people, who, despite all odds, had sustained their profound links with nature. He urged support for the world’s small farmers and food producers, who, with sustainable farming methods, could provide us with healthy food, while not being driven into poverty by unfair trade policies and the actions of rapacious agro-industries. “Our decision today marks one more symbolic step in changing the dominant mindset that has brought us so close to self-destruction,” he said.
Perhaps now, the world is ready for a more integrated approach to environmental, economic, social and cultural policies. CEESP is uniquely placed as a global multi-disciplinary network with proven experience and expertise in making these very linkages able to contribute to local, national, regional, global and international processes. CEESP members include academics, indigenous and local community researchers and leaders, government and UN agency policy and programme staff and interested global citizens. We have much to offer to the elaboration of sustainable development.