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  Summaries & Documents
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 Wednesday, 17 July 2002
Time Title
09:00-09:30 Plenaries: Guest Speakers Session
09:30-11:00 Plenaries: On-going Forum: open discussion
11:30-13:00 CS & International Orgs: Participation in the elaboration of inte...
11:30-13:00 Indigenous, Women & Dev: Role of indigenous knowledge in developm...
11:30-13:00 Info Society: E-Commerce and tele-medicine
11:30-13:00 Enviro, Trade & Sustainable Dev: Sustainable management and protection of...
11:30-13:00 Health: Vulnerable populations and access to hea...
11:30-13:00 CS-Private Sector: Private sector and human rights
11:30-13:00 Peace & Disarmament: Protection of civilians against violence...
11:30-13:00 Peace & Disarmament: Protection of civilians against violence...
11:30-13:00 Self-determination & Conflicts: Which factors influence the implementati...
14:00-15:30 CS & International Orgs: Strengthening field cooperation
14:00-15:30 Health: Indigenous peoples, health and tradition...
14:00-15:30 Health: Indigenous peoples, health and tradition...
14:00-15:30 Info Society: The Pioneering Role of Women in the Info...
14:00-15:30 Enviro, Trade & Sustainable Dev: Impact of international trade on sustain...
14:00-15:30 Human Rights & Law: How to strengthen complementarity and co...
14:00-15:30 Peace & Disarmament: Conflict transformation: how civil socie...
14:00-15:30 CS-Private Sector: Private sector and labor standards
14:00-15:30 Self-determination & Conflicts: National mechanisms for the implementati...
16:00-17:30 CS & International Orgs: Reaching out to people: access to UN inf...
16:00-17:30 Info Society: Communication Privacy
16:00-17:30 Enviro, Trade & Sustainable Dev: Impact of international trade on human d...
16:00-17:30 Health: The role of cultural factors in health i...
16:00-17:30 Human Rights & Law: How to strengthen the effectiveness and ...
16:00-17:30 Peace & Disarmament: Terrorism and beyond
16:00-17:30 CS-Private Sector: Ethical investments
16:00-17:30 Indigenous, Women & Dev: Land rights and access to natural resour...
16:00-17:30 Indigenous, Women & Dev: Land rights and access to natural resour...
18:00-17:00 Internet requiredVisits & Presentations: Visit to the World Health Organization
18:00-19:30 Info Society: Media and crisis management
18:00-19:30 Info Society: Accountability
18:00-19:30 CS & International Orgs: Millennium Declaration's follow-up
18:00-19:30 Enviro, Trade & Sustainable Dev: The role of trade unions in internationa...
18:00-19:30 Human Development: Religion, spirituality and the environm...
19:30-21:00 Regional Meetings: The role of civil society organizations ...
19:30-20:30 Cultural: Steven Wallace
20:00-21:30 Other sessions: Indian music: Natarajan's family

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Summary: Information / Discussion

Religion, Spirituality and the Environment: A Key Component for Johannesburg (WSSD)

Time: 17 July 2002, 18:00-19:30
Location: ITU K
Moderator(s): • Ms. Astrid Stuckelberger, Geneva International Network on Ageing (GINA)
Presenters/ Participants: • Mr. Gonzalo Oviedo, World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA)
• Mr. Eugenio Poma-Anuguaya, World Council of Churches (WCC)
• Mr. Rudolph Schneider, Institute for Plenary
• Dr. Alfredo Sfeir-Younis, Special Representative to the UN and WTO, World Bank
• Ms. Diane Williams, Temple of Understanding
Reporter: Edith Rojas (ICVolunteers)
Language: English
Key words: Spirituality, spiritual values, environment, sustainable development, sacred sites, indigenous people

This session outlined the importance of the spiritual dimension in reaching a sustainable development and encouraged the spiritual perspective within the international community. Spiritual values have to do with compassion, love, friendliness, enthusiasm, a feeling of belonging and oneness with all life, commitment, service and responsibility. Speakers stressed that an emphasis on spirituality is a key factor in providing common solutions to the societal ills of the modern world, such as human rights violations, lack of distributive justice, inner and outer poverty and the destruction of the planet.

Mr. Eugenio Poma-Anaguaya, Secretary for Indigenous People Issues of the World Council of Churches emphasized the link between spirituality and the land, especially for indigenous people. An harmonious relationship with nature is central in the indigenous spiritual way of life. Mr. Poma-Anaguaya's message was clear: the land is important and needs to be conserved and protected, indigenous people have much to provide for a sustainable development. He said that the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (24 August to 4 September 2002, Johannesburg) should take into account that when talking about development and progress, it is inevitable to speak about spirituality.

Ms. Diane Williams (Temple of Understanding) followed Mr. Poma-Anaguaya’s argument: spiritual principles are central in the development process for a sustainable development. The development process needs moral conditions such as strength, courage, caring and solidarity in order to be performed in a sustainable way. People need to explore non-material means to achieve well-being.

Mr. Rudolph Schneider of Institute for Plenary added that the money system currently in place, constantly in search for profit and economic growth, denaturalises society, engenders pollution and deforestation, and enhances selfishness and speculations. The system is thus unsustainable. Society needs to develop spiritual qualities such as humanity, love and sharing, in order to helps sustainability. In order to take care of our personal health, both physical and psychological, Mr. Schneider said that three interconnected components are needed: good will, trust and peace. As he pointed out, the UN can be used to ensure the health of the planet, but it is necessary to apply the principle of goodwill in negotiations, best instrument to reach collective rules.

The World Commission on Protected Area, represented by Mr. Gonzalo Oviedo, fights for the protection of sacred natural sites of indigenous and traditional people. Mr. Oviedo pointed out that traditional cultures have established natural sacred sites, where human activities are restricted. Why are these sites sacred? Because of access restrictions and regulations, because they are reservoirs of biological diversity and the best conserved areas in the world, because there is a huge diversity of these sites in terms of size and biodiversity. As Mr. Oviedo stressed, taken alone, the significance of smallest sites may be quite limited, but taken together they can represent sizable protected areas. It is estimated that there are between 100,000 and 150,000 sacred groves throughout India. Which are the problems? Many sacred sites are not legally protected, but just conserved by their creators; Government agencies have taken them over from traditional owners. What is the solution? Sacred sites need to be recognised as integral part of protected area networks and above all, indigenous/traditional people should have the right to manage their lands.

Dr. Sfeir-Younis of the World Bank stated that it is important to bring spirituality into public policy in sustainable development. According to him, everybody knows what sustainability is, but nobody is doing enough to make it happened. He pointed out four fallacies:

  • Environmental degradation is not due to economic industrialisation and exploitation;
  • Human beings are adaptable and the situation is not so problematic;
  • Technology is going to solve the problem;
  • There is a clash of values. 

Dr. Sfeir-Younis believes that a big debate needs to take place at the conceptual level, in order to define the real meaning of sustainable development. According to him, it means “spiritual capital” and whether it is possible to change the course of humanity with a “spiritual view” that is, through sustainable being, empowerment and the capacity of oneself to self-realisation. In order to reach a sustainable development, a 200% committed society is needed, otherwise positive environmental changes are not likely to happen.

Surprising issues
A participant estimated that it is important to invest in young people, as it is easier to transfer good and spiritual values to them. Dr. Sfeir-Younis stated that teaching alone is not sufficient, what is actually needed is self-realisation. Another participant stated that spiritualism can be very destructive. For instance, it can bring to fundamentalism.

In general terms, all speakers were calling for a higher level of consciousness, responsibility and commitment, in order to improve the state of the world and reach a sustainable development. Speakers encouraged the audience to share information and understanding, to participate and collaborate through the creation of a platform.

Presenters' Documents Available

Word17.33_oviedo_gonzalo.doc (26 K)
PowerPoint17.33_oviedo_gonzalo.ppt (51 K)

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