From October 8th to 14th, I was in India to attend a number of workshops and meetings organized by the Center for Environment Education (CEE), an Earth Charter International (ECI) affiliate. It is always inspiring to visit India and to learn from a diversity of efforts that are going on there.

In Ahmedabad

The first two days I was in Ahmedabad visiting the CEE headquarters, meeting with their staff and offering a workshop on the Earth Charter and Education for school teachers. The Times of India wrote an article about this workshops (find it here).  We explored ways that the Earth Charter can be infused as part of current efforts. 

In Hyderabad during the CBD COP-11

Then we traveled to Hyderabad to participate in the International Conference on Biodiversity Conservation and Education for Sustainable Development, from October 13th to 14th October, organized by CEE. The purpose of this meeting was to stress that the Conference of Parties (COP) process should really look at the importance of education in the process of implementing the CBD and in linking the UN efforts on ESD with Education for biodiversity. This event was attended by about 280 participants.

The outcome recommendations of this Conference, (find them here), were shared and discussed with members of COP 11 at a side event on October 17th, with the participation of the Indian and French Minister of Environment as well as the head of the CBD Secretariat. Point 17 of this outcome document emphasize the Earth Charter as an important ethical framework to use in education, it states:

Re-affirming the overall goal of the UN DESD, which is to integrate the values inherent in sustainable development into all aspects of learning to   encourage changes in behavior towards a more sustainable and just society for all. In this context, we recognize and strongly encourage the promotion and adoption of the Earth Charter as an important ethical framework for sustainable development within the new CBD educational strategy.”

During this conference I had the opportunity to talk about the Earth Charter while chairing a plenary session on ESD and Values, which was attended by Mr. R. Rajamani, former Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, Bernard Combes, UNESCO, Esther Kelechi Agbarakwe, youth leader from Kenya, India's Leading Biologist Padma Bhushan, and Dr. P.M. Bhargava, founder and former Director of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Vice Chairman of National Knowledge Commission. This was a very enriching panel that stressed the need of bringing ethical values into education experiences.

Judicial Colloquium on Biodiversity

Another important activity that I was able to attend was the Judicial Colloquium on Biodiversity, organized by the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Secretariat of the CBD, and other partners.   In this activity, Kartikeya Sarabhai, CEE Director, and I had the opportunity to share the Earth Charter with participants, some Judges from Asian countries and academics from WCEL.  This event took place on October 13th. 

Experiences with Montfort Social Institute Center on HR and SD Education

On October 11th, I dedicated the day to learn about the projects of our ECI Affiliate in Hyderabad, the Montfort Social Institute (MSI) and their Center for Education on Human Rights and Sustainable Development, which is led by Varghese Theckanath.

It was inspiring to see what they are doing especially because they are working on ESD from a human rights entry point. I think this is quite a unique project given that the majority of ESD efforts start from an environmental angle. The Montfort Social Institute has a number of schools in India and also works with this Center that is focused on empowering and supporting underprivileged people in India. For instance, they have a project that offers leadership and empowerment workshops for domestic workers in Hyderabad. To complement this, they are also helping the process of drafting stronger national laws to strengthen the rights of domestic workers. 

This Center for Human Rights and Sustainable Development Education is also undertaking projects to help communities on their right of housing and also on the basic right for potable water. I saw part of their actions on this topic at the Moosa Nagar Slum Community.

MSI organized two events where I shared the Earth Charter, one of them with students of St. Francis College, and the other with Little Flower College. More than 100 students participated in each event with a number of professors and the university head. 

Mirian Vilela
Earth Charter International Secretariat