SHRGs Written Statement for the United Nations Economic and Social Councils High-level Segment (13 July 2021 – 16 July 2021)

SHRGs Written Statement for the United Nations Economic and Social Councils High-level Segment (13 July 2021 – 16 July 2021)

Topic: Strengthening ECOSOC at its 75th Anniversary for Sustainable and Resilient Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic and Advancing the 2030 Agenda.

United Nations Economic and Social Council

2021 session 13 July 2021 – 16 July 2021 Agenda item 5 ECOSOC High-level Segment

Statement submitted by organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council*The Secretary-General has received the following statements, which are being circulated in accordance with paragraphs 30 and 31 of Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

Sikh Human Rights Group

COVID-19 has led to considerable disruption in communities and development agendas. It has devastated communities and pushed poverty further and weakened resilience. Recovery will be a hard challenge. Communities need to be empowered and trusted to lift a lot of the weight to recovery with assistance from State and international institutions. One of the obstacles is the universalist approach to development, ecology and environment.

Consequently, we will address the international community on matters pertaining to SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 17 (partnerships in depth).

We firmly believe that there is a tendency amongst the international environmental protection community and/or prominent environmental protection organisations and agencies, towards universalising ethical values and attempting to form environmental protection Conventions, Treaties, Regulations and Agreements based on a false assumption that there is one universal set of collective values. This type of so-called universalism is the idea that one universal ideology of ethics can justifiably permeate all International Agreements and is therefore directly applicable to all civilisations and cultures around the world. That this universalistic outlook is the key to solving all of the environmental issues that currently persist around the globe.

However, what the above model fails to include is the fact that different people, cultures, civilisations and countries have different approaches, which also change over time, to political, economic, social policies based on historical and cultural influences that determine their governance and/or their individual approaches towards tackling environmental issues.

Modern environmental thinking is not the first time that human beings have thought about their relationship with the environment. Therefore, we need to stop assuming that environmental threats have suddenly dawned on us and that humanity has lived in a state of blissful ignorance until the sudden advancement of modern technology, lifestyles and environmental science.

Almost all cultures, civilizations and community belief systems have some concepts, rules and taboos that can inform us about the human relationship with the environment. However, what has occurred through dominance of colonial legacies is that many environmental organisations and agencies marginalize the wisdoms that cultures and beliefs carry about human relationships with nature and which were embedded in traditions, customs, festivals and outlooks. Therefore, in pursuit of imposing a universal rule of law and colonial mentality as a philosophical basis to the political doctrine underpinning our global societies, dominant culture has displaced and disenfranchised peoples’ own value systems that have served the close coexistence between nature and human societies since the dawn of humankind.

Therefore, we respectfully submit that it is only when people rediscover the reverence for nature, biodiversity, and other life forms in their own way, through their own customs, beliefs and cultures that our global societies will act with greater passion for the protection of our environment and move away from what is currently found under the prevailing utilitarian, legalistic and rationalistic approach. This submission is further supported by the fact that none of the biodiversity related targets with a 2020 timeline have been met.

Author: Mr Carlos Arbuthnott (Human Rights Officer & Project Coordinator).