New Partnerships between Religions and International Organizations Tackle Sustainable Development

Via One Country, the Newsletter of the Bahá’í International Community:

BRISTOL, UK — The images of religious leaders in diverse garb, marching behind colorful banners with symbols of the world’s major faiths, conveyed a sense of the sacred nature of a meeting held in this historic English seaport in September 2015.

But at the head of the procession was an ensign with the logo of the United Nations — an institution generally concerned with more worldly affairs.

The juxtaposition, however, conveys well the theme of the meeting and its agenda, which was to develop a series of action plans by faith communities in support of Agenda 2030, the new global development plan adopted by the UN later in the month.

The faith community action plans, which include things like pledges to develop microcredit programs for the poor, increase access to education, plant trees, invest in clean energy, and establish green pilgrimages, were welcomed by officials from the United Nations, who were present at the meeting.

Click to read more on faith communities and sustainable development from One Country >>

Mothers Promoting Values for Sustainable Development @ UN CSW

UN Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Implementation of the Global Goals: Contributions from the Mothers of Values to Create Awareness for the Economic, Social and Environmental Dimensions in the Gender Perspective and Women and Girls Empowerment



March 23, 2016 @ 8:30am
SA Auditorium, 221 East 52nd Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenue, New York, USA


  • Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely, Community Mayor of Harlem, Ambassador of Goodwill to Africa


  • Mr. Peter Smith, Chief Administrative Officer to the United Nations for Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC)

Mother of the Day and Key Speaker:

  • Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, Hon. Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development


  • Grove Harris, Acting Executive Director, Temple of Understanding


  • Justina Okogun, Executive Director, OO Safewomb International Foundation (OOSAIF)
    • “All Nations Unite to Advance Women and Girls: SDGs a Panacea”
  • Claudine Mukamabano, Executive Director, Why Do I Exist
    • “The Power of Social Media and its Benefit to Women and Girls”
  • Grove Harris, Acting Executive Director, Temple of Understanding
    • “Women, Water and Development for Justice”

PDF flyer >>

Food Sovereignty, Women & Sustainability, 3/18/16 at UN CSW

Food Sovereignty, Women & Sustainability:
The Roots of System Change

2016 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
Friday, March 18, 2016
Salvation Army (SA), 221 E. 52nd St., New York
8:30 AM in the auditorium

Chantal Line Carpentier, Nina Simons, Jen Kopec, Grove Harris

Chantal Line Carpentier, Nina Simons, Jen Kopec, Grove Harris


This panel explored access to healthy food as a lens toward understanding the interconnections of all our equity and sustainability issues. Ensuring sustainable food for all is clearly both a practical and a moral effort; faith communities have long been committed to this. Access to decent food can be seen as a crosscutting issue through all the Sustainable Development Goals; it touches on justice, sovereignty, health, climate change, water, economy, faith and world peace, and women’s leadership in all these arenas. The nourishment, health, economics, sustainability and peace of families, communities and nation states improve as the leadership and literacy of women increase.

Panelists reflected from their diverse perspectives on specific strategies towards food sovereignty for all, as well as what sustains them in their work, both in literal food and in spirit. Meeting this most basic human need can illuminate a path towards a healthier and more just future.


Chantal Line Carpentier, chief, New York UNCTAD Office
Nina Simons, co-founder of Bioneers
Jen Kopec, intuitive healer, consciousness in food and body


Grove Harris, Representative to the United Nations, Temple of Understanding


Temple of Understanding
Parliament of World’s Religions
Mining Working Group
Feminist Task Force

Click for a printable flyer >>

TOU Events at the Parliament of the World’s Religions Conference

Faith at the United Nations: Sustainable Development Goals, Peace and Interfaith Understanding

October 19th, 2015, 8:30-10:00am Ballroom A

The Panelists:

Grove Harris is an environmental activist at the United Nations, representing the Temple of Understanding. She works with the Mining Working Group towards SDGs based on human rights, rather than exploitation. Previously, she was the Program Director for the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, and she consults, speaks, and writes about religious diversity in
America and the interfaith movement. She works on an organic farm, and paints spiritually with recycled materials.

Azza Karam is an Egyptian, and serves as a senior advisor on culture at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) where she also coordinates a UN Inter-agency Task Force on Engaging with Faith-Based Organizations. She has previously managed international programmes and written extensively on democratization, conflict and gender related issues.

Denise Scotto is an attorney at law, policy advisor and international speaker. She also represents the International Federation of Women in Legal Careers and other NGOs at the UN. Denise’s background includes working in the United
Nations Department for Economic & Social Affairs (DESA), serving on the executive board of the UN Staff Recreation Council Enlightenment Society and the Values Caucus at the UN. She is an interfaith minister.

Monica Willard represents the United Religions Initiative at the United Nations. She is co-chair of the International Day of Peace NGO Committee at the UN and works with the UN Department of Public Information to organize the annual Student Observance of the International Day of Peace (Sept 21). As president of the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN from 2011-13, she was instrumental in establishing World Interfaith Harmony Week events at the UN, including two in the
General Assembly sponsored by the President of the General Assembly. Monica was a founding member of the Tripartite Forum for Interfaith Cooperation for Peace and Development that included United Nations Member States, Agencies and Religious NGOs.

Peter Adriance is the representative for Sustainable Development, U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs, 13201 19th St. NW, Suite 701, Washington, DC 20036, 202-833-8990,,
Mr. Adriance has represented the Baha’is of the U.S. nationally and internationally on issues of sustainable development for more than two decades. He helped to found and administer several civil society networks in preparation for UN conferences and related events. He works to build understanding and appreciation for the ethical and spiritual dimensions of sustainability. He serves on the governing board of the International Environment Forum – a Baha’i-inspired organization addressing the
environment and sustainable development.


Community Resilience: Peace, Justice, Food and Water

Friday October 16th, 12:15-1:45pm, Exhibit Hall 3


Grove Harris, Vandana Shiva, Laxmi Shah, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati


The Panelists:


Dr. Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmentalist and activist. In 1991, she founded Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote organic farming and fair trade, serving more than 500,000 men and women farmers. Dr.Shiva’s work spans teaching at universities worldwide, to working with peasants in rural India, to serving on expert environmental groups for governments around the world. For the last two decades, Navdanya has worked with local communities and organisations, serving more than 500,000 men and women farmers, conserving more than 3000 rice varieties from across India, and establishing 60 seed banks in 16 states across the country.

Starhawk is the author of many works celebrating the Goddess movement and Earth-based, feminist spirituality. She’s a peace, environmental, and global justice activist and trainer, a permaculture designer and teacher, a Pagan and Witch. In her twelfth book, The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups, Starhawk draws on four decades of experience in circles and collectives to show us how to foster connection, clear communication, and positive power in ourselves and our groups.

Grove Harris, Moderator, Main Representative to the United Nations, Temple of Understanding

RIO+20 – Interfaith Response to Sustainable Development

RIO+20, 17 JUNE, 2012

Faith and EcologyInterfaith Response to Sustainable Development: A Vision of Ecological Civilization

by Sr. Joan Kirby, Main United Nations Representative

The Temple of Understanding presented a Side Event together with co-sponsors at the Rio+20 Conference. Rabbi Soetendorp, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Sr. Jayanti and Joan Kirby were panelists and Grove Harris moderated.


What does religion have to do with sustainable development? The Interfaith Consortium for Ecological Civilization works toward the transformation of consciousness needed to make necessary life-style changes to assure sustainability. Religions help people shape their worldview and and act on their values.

Governments need the guidance of an awakened civil society to make radical changes. Corporations need an awakened civil society that will insist on a sustainable consumption. Inspired by the work of Thomas Berry CSP and the world’s religions, this presentation explored the spiritual resources for transformation and current manifestations of such transformation.

Rabbi Soetendorp’s representative, Michael Slaby, spoke of Juliet Hollister’s vision–different faiths working for justice, which includes eighty percent of the world’s population today. It is religion’s duty to mend and heal the world. The message throughout the conference was do not wait for governments to write laws to save the earth. We count on religions to shape human behavior by speaking to and educating hearts. We spiritual beings are writing earth consciousness into our hearts.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya, a network of seed keepers in India, asked for right action by pointing in the direction of:

  1. Open Source SEEDS to be collected at all religious sites thus forming Community Seed Banks, an appropriate way to respect God’s creation. Seeds are God’s creation; we need to protect them;
  2. Resistance to Monsanto GMO’s, genetically modified organisms, (or “God Move Over” according to Shiva) that replace God’s creative action. Religions can express respect and reverence for the SEED by saying what is right and what is wrong;
  3. Open Dialogue without subservience. Let us join hands, People of Faith know the importance of networking to get the work done – we cannot do it alone.

Sister Jayanti, Brahma Kumaris Director, invited us to return to the spiritual awareness needed to change consciousness. We are stewards and trustees of the sanctity of creation. When we act from the heart and speak from the heart we will change the heart of the “other.”

Inspired thus to speak from the heart, we agreed to network with Global Transition Movements and the Widening Circle as important methods to move a civil society motivated by religion.

Reflections on the Commission on Sustainable Development

Report by Joan Kirby, Representative to the United Nations

The Final Earth Negotiation Bulletin, CSD – 19 (Monday 16 May 2011) reports the failure of the latest Commission on Sustainable Development. It cites numerous causes of the disaster – overemphasis on the environment to the exclusion of social and economic concerns, the absence of finance ministers who are replaced by environmentalists representing governments, the absence of enforcement conditions for CSD -17, and, above all, a politicized debating format leading to language refinement but not to action.

Despite considerable consensus on every item, the governments declined to endorse the Chairman’s text leaving the road to Rio 2012 full of holes and pitfalls.

The problems were technical and structural but at the heart of the failure I find the familiar inability to heal the division between the developed and developing states – not only different but disruptive values and expectations separate them. The divisive issue of developmental rights has prevailed for 20 years. The developing world (the south) claims its right to develop resources without restrictions in order to emerge from poverty, while placing strong emphasis on the responsibility of the developed world to provide adaptation and mitigation of the effects of the industrial age.

Meanwhile the developed world (the north) demands collaboration and shared financing from the south to repair the damage to the earth. These differing expectations and values interrupt common accord and progress appears to be impossible.

A holistic ethical vision for the earth is absent. That we are not separate, that we are one earth has not been sufficiently articulated in our ethical philosophy or by religions.

Carl Safina, in The View from Lazy Point (2011), reminds us that migrations of birds and fishes take us from the Arctic to Antarctica and across the tropics from the Caribbean to the West Pacific. There is only one Earth and we live on it. On this delicate piece of the universe our life survives and our challenge is to nurture and to share it with generations to come. The world is brimming with vitality but it is changing dramatically as it receives a human imprint that often enough destroys the wise pattern of nature.

Safina holds that we are running our world with ancient and medieval ideas; our philosophy, ethics, religion, and economics were all devised many centuries ago. They lack the ability to incorporate what we have learned about how life operates. “All life is related by lineage, by flows of energy, and by cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen; resources are finite and creatures fragile. The institutions haven’t adjusted to the new realization that we can push the planet’s systems into dysfunction”.

What we need is an ethical rebirth. “The geometry of human progress is an expanding circle of compassion, and, if the word “sacred” means anything at all – the world exists as the one truly sacred place”. Someday, the enormity of what we are risking will dawn on government decision makers. So far, it hasn’t penetrated politics. Environmental policy will need to accommodate the needs of people from developing and developed countries – and will have to be based on decisions and actions of a vast number of stakeholders and not just the nation states that have traditionally dominated environmental diplomacy.

In collaboration with the United Nations UNDP, UNEP, FAO, CoNGO Committee on Sustainable Development and the Religious NGOs, the Temple of Understanding attended the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change in Cancun in December 2010. Click here to read our position paper.