African leaders tackle environmental goals

LIBREVILLE, Gabon — When addressing issues of climate change, we need to adopt a holistic perspective, said the Baha’i International Community at a recent meeting on the environment that convened leaders in Africa.

“We have to look at the spiritual and material dimensions. How do we live with nature harmoniously?” asked Solomon Belay, Representative of the BIC Office in Addis Ababa. “We need a coherent view of environmental issues and a plan based on that.”

The meeting in Gabon from 10–11 June 2017 brought together around 45 representatives from United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the PanAfrican Climate Justice Alliance, African Union Commission, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), and the Pan-African Parliamentarian’s Network on Climate Change, among others.

The BIC has been engaged in a conversation with UNEP about the contribution faith-based organizations can make to the UN’s environmental goals, and this month’s meeting was an opportunity for African leaders to build consensus around environmental issues in preparation for the third meeting of the UN Environmental Assembly at the end of the year.

Participants at the seminar in Gabon discussed innovative environmental solutions that would accelerate the implementation of the UN’s sustainable development goals in Africa. While this meeting signals yet another advance in efforts to protect the environment, the conversation on the environment still remains relatively fragmented, said Dr. Belay.

The Regional Consultation meeting for Africa Major Groups and Stakeholders from 10-11 June 2017 in Libreville, Gabon. BIC Representative Solomon Belay is sitting 3rd from the left.

“The spiritual dimension is almost completely missing,” he commented.

At the meeting, the BIC Office shared its statement, “Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing Our Global Future Together,” which was originally prepared for COP21, the UN Conference on Climate Change, in December 2015.

“Our relationship with nature should be examined at all levels,” said Dr. Belay, drawing attention to portions of the statement that call to individuals, institutions in society, and the community as a whole to embrace responsibility for change.

“Establishing sustainable patterns of individual and collective life will require not only new technologies, but also a new consciousness in human beings, including a new conception of ourselves and our place in the world,” the statement reads.

Following June’s meeting in Gabon, there are plans to hold another gathering with a greater emphasis on the contribution of faith-based organizations to environmental issues.

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