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Tokyo, Japan – Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist association, issued a proposal on June 6 stressing that empowerment of individuals and communities is vital to achieving a sustainable global society. The proposal puts forward ideas related to the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development opening in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 20.
Ikeda states: “It is unacceptable to consider the pursuit of sustainability as simply a matter of adjusting policies in order to find a better balance between economic and ecological imperatives. Rather, sustainability must be understood as a challenge and undertaking requiring the commitment of all individuals … constructing a society that accords highest priority to the dignity of life.”
The proposal, entitled “For a Sustainable Global Society: Learning for Empowerment and Leadership,” emphasizes that education is key.
Ikeda was a strong advocate of establishing the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) which ends in 2014, and he now calls for a successor framework, an educational program for a sustainable global society to start in 2015, focused on fostering agents of positive change. Such a program should give rise to empowerment, and beyond that, to leadership, if it is to generate real transformation.
Ikeda puts forward ideas for far-reaching institutional reform of the United Nations agencies responsible for development and environmental protection. He suggests the consolidation of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and related agencies to create one integrated “global organization for sustainable development.”
He proposes a more substantial collaborative relationship with civil society and a “committee of the future generations” as a forum through which youth representatives could advise the new organization on its annual plans and policies.
Ikeda also stresses the need for a set of sustainable development goals, with a focus on the local community as a site of both lifelong learning and action.
Examples of proactive engagement might include tree planting, disaster prevention efforts, strengthening local production and consumption, promotion of recycling and encouraging the introduction of renewable energy.
Ikeda’s view of humanity’s place on our planet is ultimately hopeful. He comments: “Although physical resources are finite, human potential is infinite, as is our capacity to create value. The real significance of sustainability is as a dynamic concept in which there is a striving or competition to generate positive value and share it with the world and with the future.”
In connection with the Rio+20 Conference, “Seeds of Hope: Visions of sustainability, steps toward change,” an exhibition co-organized by SGI, the Earth Charter International and the City of Rio de Janeiro, will be shown in English and Portuguese at the Planetarium of Rio de Janeiro from June 16 to July 15.
A 10-minute film, “Nurturing Seeds of Hope in the Amazon,” highlighting the environmental education work of the Amazon Ecological Conservation Center founded by Mr. Ikeda in 1992 will be launched at the Planetarium on June 15.
At the Rio+20 Conference, a roundtable discussion on learning for empowerment, pooling experience from education related to sustainability, peace and disarmament and human rights, will be hosted by SGI and other organizations on June 20.
Daisaku Ikeda is a Buddhist philosopher, author and peacebuilder. Since the 1970s, he has engaged in dialogues and issued proposals related to peace and environmental protection.
Image Courtesy of Daisaku Ikeda