Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals
Report and summary from a recent workshop on the Millennium Development Goals provided by the United Religions Initiative at the United Nations Cooperation Circle.
Dear URI friends,
Throughout the year the United Religions Initiative at the United Nations Cooperation Circle has hosted a number of dialogues on the Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals. Last month we co-sponsored a successful workshop for the annual conference of Non-Governmental Organizations with the Department of Public Information at UN Headquarters, drawing participants from many countries.
Dr. Noel Brown, president of the Friends of the United Nations and former head of the UN Environment Programme for the North America Region, gave a keynote address that was followed by a stimulating discussion loosely based on the Appreciative Inquiry format.
Below is a report on the program.
The interactive workshop structure can be used as a model to engage your constituency and others in your region in a similar program about the Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We encourage you to facilitate this kind of conversation to stimulate global action for the MDGs. Thoughtful debate about issues pertaining to our global future will help engage people of different faiths in collaborative work for a better world.
We welcome your feedback, as well as reports of your activities that pertain to the MDGs or other UN-related issues.
May Peace Prevail on Earth! [From Deborah Moldow]
The United Religions Initiative at the United Nations Cooperation Circle www.uri-un.org
THE 57TH ANNUAL DPI/NGO CONFERENCE Midday Workshop, 10 September 2004
Report by Deborah Moldow, Facilitator The United Religions Initiative at the United Nations
The theme of the 2004 DPI/NGO Conference at the United Nations headquarters from 8-10 September was "The Millennium Development Goals: Civil Society Takes Action." The conference, which boasted 1,800 participants from at least 79 countries, was organized by a committee chaired by Sr. Joan Kirby of the Temple of Understanding and member of the council of the United Religions Initiative at the United Nations CC, known as URI-UN.
This annual conference is traditionally enlivened by a selection of midday workshops organized by NGO groups to allow more active participation in a variety of topics related to the theme. On Friday, Sept. 10th, the URI-UN and our friends on the newly-formed New York NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns hosted an interactive workshop entitled "The Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals."
The workshop was well attended, with about 75 people filling the small conference room. Deborah Moldow, facilitator of URI-UN, welcomed everyone and requested a Moment of Silence, followed by an invocation prayer led by Audrey Kitagawa, co-facilitator of URI-UN. Monica Willard, URI Representative to the UN, then introduced the Keynote Speaker, Dr. Noel J. Brown, president of Friends of the United Nations and former head of the UN Environment Programme for the North American Region.
Dr. Brown delivered a rousing and inspiring address. He characterized the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as "the moral expression of the hopes of the leaders of the world at the dawn of the new millennium." He spoke of the "singular erosion of the moral order" in a "climate of terror and a culture of fear." He warned that" the war against terror has eclipsed the war against poverty," and asked, "How do we build a global political ethos?" He stated that, despite many setbacks, the UN still has a moral capability that must be engaged.
Dr. Brown offered a number of practical suggestions for moving forward, including the following:
- Propose a Millennium Development Day, to provide a focus of attention and measure progress across the globe;
- Produce textbooks and curricula to bring the MDGs into the educational process. Create a children's version of the MDGs and games in which they can be achieved. An MDG scholarship was also suggested;
- Prepare a report on the Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals and submit it to the Secretary-General. Organize NGO Millennium Development Partners to work with the United Nations.
Dr. Brown's remarks were warmly received. After one or two questions, it was time to move on to the interactive segment of the workshop. Participants were asked to move into groups, each of which would focus on one of the MDGs. In a process that drew inspiration from Appreciative Inquiry, each group responded to these instructions:
Question for each group member: (10 minutes) How do the ethical and spiritual dimensions of this MDG empower your NGO's work? Introduce yourself and your work.
Group discussion: (10 minutes) Which are the key ethical and spiritual principles that underlie or support this MDG? Principles from religion, ethics, morality, history, etc.
Group Statement: (10 minutes) What statement would your group make to summarize the ethical and spiritual dimensions of this MDG? One sentence, please.
After a half-hour of lively discussion, the groups reported back to the whole gathering. Remarkably, the groups had managed, in the short time, to come up with rather cohesive statements, as follows:
GOAL 1: ERADICATE EXTREME POVERTY AND HUNGER — Barbara Valocore, facilitator Poverty and hunger diminish human dignity. We are one human race, so what affects the poorest affects us all. Do something every day — take it personally.
GOAL 2: ACHIEVE UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION — Nickolai Parker, facilitator It is crucial for children especially to develop images of themselves that inculcate values of friendliness, love, compassion, respect for diversity, generosity, justice, fairness, peace, kindness and acceptance in their lives. As part of this process, we suggest incorporating these values into children's games and play, and to create children's versions of the MDGs that include these ethical, moral, and spiritual dimensions to imbue young people with the worth and importance of the development goals.
GOAL 3: PROMOTE GENDER EQUALITY AND EMPOWER WOMEN — Monica Willard, facilitator Our goal is to create a Culture of Peace in which the equality of women and men would redress the imbalance that arose historically with a Culture of Violence that has included trafficking of women and other abuses. The qualities of this Culture of Peace include unity, partnership, balance, communication, compassion, and receptivity, qualities that are valued by women as builders of society.
GOAL 4: REDUCE CHILD MORTALITY — Frances Edwards, facilitator GOAL 5: IMPROVE MATERNAL HEALTH — John Clausen, facilitator (combined report) We value all life on earth and acknowledge that each human life has a unique purpose. We honor women as the sacred chalice that gives birth to the child. As such, her health and well-being are vital and she should be surrounded by beauty.
GOAL 6: COMBAT HIV/AIDS, MALARIA AND OTHER DISEASES — Martha Gallahue, facilitator All spheres of society are affected by the infectious diseases of HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and emerging & re-emerging diseases (i.e. sand flea parasite and polio). Business and academia have a duty to engage with the international community of government and NGOs in the study, recommendation and deployment of solutions to MDG #6 (with cognizance of the other MDGs). The bond of covenant transcends gender, religion and geography. Infectious disease knows no boundaries, so it is incumbent upon all members of humanity to create and implement compassionate policy.
GOAL 7: ENSURE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY — Noel Brown, facilitator It is our sacred duty to revere and care for the world to preserve the beauty and abundance of nature that is the birthright of all humanity.
GOAL 8: DEVELOP GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT — Diane Williams, facilitator
- Do unto others as you wish done unto you;
- Develop a new spiritual consciousness on how to be a responsible global citizen in the world today, and awaken a spiritual (r)evolution driving global partnerships;
- In an interdependent world, global partnerships serve the material needs of citizens in developing countries and provide an opportunity in the richer countries to share resources to meet the needs of all the people in the world.
We celebrated with an enthusiastic round of applause.
After some encouraging remarks by Dr. Brown, Diane Williams, chair of the New York NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns, delivered a closing statement, reminding us that the very values that underpinned the work of Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are the same as those that move us to support the Millennium Development Goals.
As we closed with a final Moment of Silence in gratitude, a participant requested that we all join hands — a sight not often seen in a United Nations conference room. Together, we affirmed a sincere prayer: May Peace Prevail on Earth!
Later on, in the main conference hall, Laurence Singer of the NGO Global Family for Love and Peace, presented a summary of our workshop to the closing session of the conference. His excellent report is below:
PRESENTATION OF THE WORKSHOP ON"THE ETHICAL AND SPIRITUAL DIMENSIONS OF THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS" THE 57TH ANNUAL DPI/NGO CONFERENCE
In order to best implement the MDGs and insure sustainability of the goals, we must explore and include the ethical, moral, and spiritual dimensions of friendliness, love, compassion, respect for diversity, generosity, justice, fairness, peace, kindness and acceptance. The real power of the United Nations is the moral force that distinguishes humans from other living beings. It is the ethical, moral, and spiritual forces, the foundations of the world's religious and spiritual traditions, which can transform political inertia into the political will necessary to achieve and surpass the Millennium Development Goals.
For children especially, it is crucial for them to develop images of themselves that inculcate these ethical, moral, and spiritual values in their lives. As part of this process, we suggest incorporating these values into children's games and play, and to create children's versions of the MDGs that include these ethical, moral, and spiritual dimensions to imbue young people with the worth and importance of the development goals.
The results of incorporating ethical, moral, and spiritual dimensions into the MDGs will enable us to create a culture of peace where each human life is valued, that each of us understands we come here with a purpose, and we all acknowledge our sacred responsibility to care for each other and the world.
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