Engaging People in Sustainability--Roundtable Discussion in New York
On May 12, 2008, SGI UN Representative Hiro Sakurai, in his capacity as bureau member and immediate past president of the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN, chaired a roundtable discussion on "Engaging People in Sustainability: the Role of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue" at the Church Center for the UN in New York. The meeting, a related event of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), was attended by some 40 representatives of UN agencies, NGOs and faith organizations from around the world.
The discussion highlighted that people are hungry for an understanding of sustainability, and the need to make information locally and culturally relevant as well as accessible. It was also emphasized that efforts must be made to enable people at the grassroots to participate in decision-making so that the knowledge they do have can be utilized. Within their local communities, religious organizations have a vital role to encourage learning processes, communicate "sustainable development" from a faith perspective, and promote individual choices which embody respect for the common good. By the same token, it was stressed that religious organizations need to "come down from their religious castles" and stand with the people if we are to reinvigorate the resourcefulness of the local community. Among the people there are local resources and local solutions: sustainable development is, as one person put it, "something that exists within ourselves."
The discussion was jointly sponsored by the Committee of Religious NGOs and the CSD Education Caucus. Speakers included Pamela Puntenney, co-chair of the Education Caucus; James Sniffen, information officer of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP); Zak Bleicher of the UN-Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS); Carol Zinn of the Sisters of St. Joseph and chair of the CONGO Education Committee; Gaim Kebraeb of Norwegian Church Aid; and Lucy Mulenkei of Kenya, executive director of the Indigenous Information Network.
[Adapted from reports by Joan Anderson and Esther Castain, SGI Office of Public Information; photo courtesy of Tomoko Wada]