Monday, June 1, 2020


How do we speed the process towards a sustainable global society?


Mukhtar Ogle, Secretary for Strategic Initiatives, Office of the President, Kenya


Mr Ogle invited the conference to reflect on a statement by ecologist Paul Robbins, illustrating the destructive impact of waste disposal on Africa:

 ‘I am watching a small army of people disassemble radios amidst a pile of electronic trash that has been dumped in this neighbourhood of Accra in Ghana, a slum infamous for its role in processing tons of waste from around the world from baby chairs to truck engines, to radios, to computers. Mountains of trash due to violent ecologies of global inequality. The smell and the pall of smoke arising from the melting lead distilled by hand from batteries scavenged from the countless devices. A dark sky over the neighbourhood from the burning rubber and plastics. Blackened faces of young men and women from the slums as part of the processing workforce. Lunch and dinner prepared in countless open pots. The ecology of the scene is rooted in a far-ranging politics of waste disposal with unquestionable grim implications for the environment and residents.’


He continued:

I am thrilled to be in India. I always wished to see this amazing country. When I attended the Harvard School of Government, six of the eight innovations we studied came from Indian scholars or villagers.


I work in peacebuilding and resilience, and particularly in countering violent extremism. This is driven in Kenya by global jihadism and their recruitment of disillusioned youth who feel excluded from the national conversation.


Inclusion is difficult to practice. In 2014 there was a trust deficit with government. To overcome this I worked with Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, Chair of the National Integration and Cohesion Council, the Kenyan Red Cross Society and the Kenyan Human Rights Commission.


We dialogue with communities as we are doing here – connecting people to catalyse action for change. Preparing the next generation of change-drivers. Gaining a better understanding of ourselves, and understanding what drives extremists and organised criminals so as to craft a shared responsibility for a peaceful, prosperous Kenya. This was a very satisfying enterprise for me and my team.


Transformation does not come easily and this has been a learning process. We are now engaged in agribusiness to address Kenya’s huge youth unemployment. We mentor young people who have lost hope as a result of political mismanagement or the ravages of climate change or hatred planted and sustained by the other.


Over the last two years climate change has been part of that narrative. In securing our planet, we have learnt that leadership matters, but individual action matters more.


The politics and ethics of migration takes us to a different level. I come here to see how together we can address global fear-mongering and negative nationalism, to examine climate terrorism, and to look at issues of corruption – how it shapes our leadership, how we vote for our leaders, what corruption does to us.


In my country is a huge forest, host to multiple rivers, which has been dissipated by the logging and deforestation of multiple cartels. My President made a commitment to restore the Mau forest. In doing so he risked his political life, as corruption fights back. To restore our planet demands leadership and individual commitment.


Our generation must disrupt the madness we face. That means relearning the requisite ethics, politics and language of power to reimagine inclusive and progressive communities. Let us reflect on the wisdom of our forefathers, leverage on our institutional memory and deploy our leadership to shape a better tomorrow.



Himanshu Kulkarni, hydrogeologist and Executive Director at ACWADAM, working in India and its neighbourhood


Nearly a thousand cubic kilometres of water are extracted from the earth each year, and India extracts 25% of this amount. There are over 5 million springs in India, and 60-70% of Indians depend on water from them. But climate change is drying up our water resources. The Himalayas have experienced a 25% decrease in precipitation over the past 115 years. And 60% of our springs are drying.


This is a crisis. The depletion of aquifers is leading to depletion of springs, to large-scale contamination of groundwater, and depletion of the flow in most of our rivers. All this can lead to competition and conflict. So, it is important to recognise that water is a common-pool resource. We need to demystify the science of water, so people recognise that the water beneath my land may have come from underneath my neighbour’s land or even further. Then we can bring communities to the table where democratic decision-making can lead to solutions that are sustainable, just, equitable and fair to all.


ACWADAM, the organisation that I lead, works closely with Grampari (the rural development programmes based at the IofC centre, Asia Plateau). The cooperation between communities which began in one village spread to other villages. They understood that water binds them together. With Grampari’s help, they developed a formal/informal aquifer-based federation, a cooperative on aquifers. This was one of the first in the country, and is a seminal example on how solutions to water management can work. There are several such examples now and emulating them would be a good way forward, not only in India but also in other world regions.


I intend to devote the next five or six years to working with the government, with communities and with organisations like Grampari, to establish a mission-like approach to the revival of aquifers in general, and springs in particular.



Irina Fedorenko, Managing Director of the Caux Dialogue for Environment and Security


I started as an activist in Vladivoskok at the age of 14. Soon I was leading Russia’s largest youth environmental movement at that time. For our generation there is no more important issue than climate change, and this conviction took me to Oxford.


In the first year of my doctorate I was invited to attend the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security. I wondered what land had to do with security at first and I didn’t feel qualified to speak about that. With speakers from NATO and UN agencies, I wasn’t sure I would fit in. But I fitted exactly, because the Dialogue made clear that land and environment is everyone’s business. Conflict forces people to move, migration puts pressure on democracies, and that gives rise to populism – and land degradation is often the original driving factor.  Our work is showing that in arid regions such as northern Kenya, warring communities can resolve their differences, trust can grow, and this can enable land restoration, strengthening wellbeing and stability among the people of the region.


This link between trust-building and environmental restoration is vital, and we are determined to expand, especially among young people. We started a youth project incubator, and 50 emerging leaders have taken part so far. With the Geneva Centre for Security Policy we established a Summer Academy. We created a Round Table for decision makers to affect policy change. Members of our network are working on variety of restoration projects across Africa and South East Asia, that are impacting thousands of people and engage tens of thousands of small-holder farmers.


We have to move faster. We have only five years to keep global warming to two degrees Celsius. Unless we can do that, the consequences will be devastating. We are focusing on solutions and scaling up. We have changed our name to the Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security to emphasise our wider outreach. We will continue lobbying at climate change conferences, the World Economic Forum and biodiversity forums. Sustainable living is a key pillar of Initiatives of Change. Everyone has a part to play.



Dr Alan Channer is on the Executive Committee of the IofC programme Initiatives for Land, Lives and Peace, a Senior Fellow of the Global EverGreening Alliance and the Director of For the Love of Tomorrow Films.


When I was a child, growing up in India, I was struck by the song: ‘Kal to roti milegi Pitaji so jaane se pehele?.... Will there be food tomorrow, Dad, before I go to bed?’


The song has less pertinence today than it did in the 1960s - India has much greater food security than it did then. Considering that the population has more than doubled - to 1.35 billion – that is an incredible achievement.


Is food security in India sustainable? Theoretically, yes. However, if there is a collapse in the provision of so-called ‘ecosystem services’ – notably clean water and fertile land– then the answer is no. All the projections about climate disruption and ecosystem service collapse tend to agree that those countries which have (a) a large dependence on agriculture, (b) a history of conflict and (c) significant levels of political exclusion, will suffer more. One of these countries is India.


Sustainability can’t be achieved without trust-building, collaboration, inclusivity and attention to human rights. Our work with ‘Initiatives for Land, Lives and Peace’ consists of  building these human-centred approaches into ecosystem restoration. There is a Sanskrit word that describes this holistic approach - samagrata. It involves inner work, work with the community and work with the Earth.


These three prongs at the heart of Grampari, the rural development centre hereat Asia Plateau. They are also at the heart of IofC-inspired development initiatives in Burundi, Somalia and elsewhere.


In Kenya, ‘land, lives and peace’ initiatives have been developing over the last eight years. I first had the pleasure of meeting Mukhtar Ogle in Kenya in 2016, at a ‘Dialogue on Land Security’ which ILLP co-organised on the invitation of the Government of Baringo County. The dialogue brought together national government, local government, faith leaders, scientists, and agriculturalists in the common cause of building collaboration to safeguard the land.


In his keynote, Ogle shared how he had been travelling across Kenya with his colleague Rev Dr Sam Kobia, listening to people and reporting back to the President. He cited hope-giving  examples, such as when, in December 2015, after Al Shabaab had hijacked a bus in the north-eastern part of the country, Muslim passengers defended Christians who were on the bus. One Muslim lost his life defending them.


At the time of the ILLP-inspired Dialogue in neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet County in 2017, there were fatalities in a clash between Pokot pastoralists and Marakwet farmers, less than 30 miles away from the meeting venue. All the participants at the Dialogue lit candles for those who had lost their lives in land-based conflicts in the region. The candlelit ceremony was broadcast on national television news.


Human beings need to collaborate to safeguard the environment on which we all depend. At the same time, the vital importance of safeguarding our environment can bring us closer together. Central to collaboration is trust.


In northern Nigeria, thousands of people have lost their lives in recent years during clashes between Fulani pastoralists and settled farmers. These conflicts often take on an ethno-religious dimension, but usually they are about access to land and water.  The peacemakers Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye recently sealed an end to a particularly deadly conflict between pastoralists and farmers in Kaduna State.


Inspired by their participation at the Caux Dialogues on Land and Security, Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye are now encouraging the two communities to work together to restore the land through ‘farmer managed natural regeneration’. It is a ‘win-win-win’ for the two communities and environment. They won a UN Award for Intercultural Innovation for this work in 2018.


The ‘father of farmer managed natural regeneration’, Tony Rinaudo, has also been a regular contributor at the Caux Dialogues on Land and Security. Rinaudo emphasises the importance of community and trustbuilding in land restoration. If he was with us today, he would no doubt be asking why, while a thick forest of indigenous trees has regenerated naturally on the grounds of Asia Plateau, the surrounding hillsides remain predominantly bare. How could this area be re-afforested? One key would be multi-stakeholder collaboration: forest department officials sitting down with sarpanchs (village heads), farmers, scientists, community leaders and faith leaders, to identify the constraints to re-afforestation (such as fire) and to formulate a shared vision for the landscape, and the agreements needed to implement it.


I feel a sense of calling to this ‘land, lives and peace’, holistic, samagrata approach. I am committing the next 15 years of my life to fostering teams, catalysing approaches, designing courses and advocating through the media, in order to safeguard the earth for future generations.