Baha'i International Community and International Organizations
The active relations which the Baha'i International Community has long enjoyed with governmental and non-governmental organizations at the international level show a steady evolution in relation to the following bodies and concerns, which provide the subheadings for this article.
- The League of Nations
- The United Nations (1945-70)
- The United Nations (1970-93)
- Human rights
- Advancement of women
- Public Information
- The Environment
Bahá'u'lláh, in letters to the kings and rulers of his time, advocated over a century ago gatherings at which governments would deliberate and form treaties, implying the creation of an international assembly to lay the foundation for enduring world peace (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 30-31). `Abdu'l-Baha specifically advocated the formation of such an association and welcomed the League of Nations, while acknowledging its inadequacies (Selected Writings of `Abdu'l-Baha, 227-306).
With the establishment of the League of Nations, Baha'is began to create more formal relations with such international organizations. The Baha'is closely followed the development of the League of Nations and participated in certain of its activities. They were present from the beginning at the founding of the United Nations (UN) and have participated with ever-increasing commitment and depth in a wide range of United Nations activities relating to the major areas of concern of the worldwide Baha'i community. More specifically, the Baha'i International Community has been among the most active of the international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations in promoting peace, advocating human rights, calling for the advancement of women, contributing to the shape of development theory and action, and stimulating efforts to make such development sustainable. This engagement with the United Nations has occurred at the headquarters of the UN Secretariat in New York, and also around the world as Baha'i representatives have participated in numerous United Nations conferences, regional commissions and, at the national level, in various in-country UN projects, observances, and activities.
1. The League of Nations
At the seat of the newly-formed League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, an International Baha'i Bureau was established in 1926. The Bureau served as a gathering place for Baha'is traveling to Geneva for the activities of the League and of other international organizations, and published an international magazine.
Baha'is used the international instruments created by the League. The first formal appeal by the Baha'is to the League of Nations came from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Iraq, which sought protection in 1928 for the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad. The issue was accepted for consideration by the Council of the League of Nations and a decision was made in favor of the Baha'is, but this was never implemented.
Individual Baha'is were active participants in the international activities of the League. Two Baha'i women contributed notably to the early work with governments and with non-governmental organizations. Martha Root and Laura Dreyfus-Barney attended public sessions of the 1930 League of Nations Disarmament Conference in Geneva. For over three months, Root met statesmen from more than fifty countries, spoke with them about the Baha'i principles and gave them Baha'i literature, including Shoghi Effendi's "Goal of a New World Order." Dreyfus-Barney was active in the International Council of Women and a vice-president of the Disarmament Committee of Women's International Organizations, which represented fifteen organizations with branches in fifty-six countries. The International Baha'i Bureau was maintained even after the League of Nations ceased to function.
2. The United Nations (1945-70)
Baha'is have had an interest in the United Nations since its inception in 1945. When the allied nations met in San Francisco, at the close of World War II, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States and Canada sent two official observers to witness the drafting of the Charter for the United Nations. Two years later, that same national assembly was listed with the United Nations Office of Public Information (later the United Nations Department of Public Information) as a national non-governmental organization (NGO), qualified to be represented through an observer.
Shoghi Effendi urged Baha'is to support all United Nations activities that were in accordance with Baha'i principles. Among the first United Nations-sponsored activities to engage Baha'i communities worldwide were celebrations of United Nations special days and years.
The official name Baha'i International Community was first used by Shoghi Effendi in 1948 when he broadened Baha'i involvement with the United Nations to include the eight National Spiritual Assemblies then existing (Baha'i World Vol. 12, p. 597). Collectively they were registered with the United Nations Office of Public Information as an international non-governmental organization under the name Baha'i International Community. These eight Assemblies designated the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States to act on their behalf. This National Spiritual Assembly appointed a Baha'i United Nations Committee. Mrs. Mildred Mottahedeh, who was appointed by Shoghi Effendi in 1947 to serve as the accredited Baha'i Observer at the United Nations, held this post as a volunteer for almost twenty years (BW 12:597-98).
While the Baha'i International Community was represented by an observer at the UN, opportunities arose to share Baha'i views. In 1947, the UN Special Committee on Palestine asked Shoghi Effendi, as head of the Baha'i Faith living at the Baha'i World Centre in Haifa, for the Baha'i attitude towards the future of Palestine. Shoghi Effendi's reply, dated July 14, 1947, offered no advice on a political solution for Palestine. Rather, it set forth the non-political character of the Baha'i Faith and expressed the desire of the Baha'i community for universal peace and justice and for reconciliation between Jews and Muslims (BW 12:43-44). The Baha'i community presented statements on human obligations and rights (1947), proposals for UN Charter revision (1955), endorsement of the Genocide Convention (1959), and a report on the application of Baha'i teachings to help people in developing nations interact with the forces of modernization (1960). Campaigns were launched to protect the Baha'is of Iran in 1955 and Morocco in 1962, when their human rights were threatened (see 4 below).
The Baha'i International Community began to pursue a more active role at the United Nations in 1967. A permanent office was established in New York in 1967, and the first full- time Baha'i Representative to the UN, Dr. Victor de Araujo, was appointed, responsible directly to the Universal House of Justice. At that point the Baha'i International Community began to take the steps necessary to become more integrally involved in the work of the United Nations.
3. The United Nations (1970-93)
In 1970 the Baha'i International Community was granted consultative status (category II) with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Consultative status is granted to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) deemed able to contribute significantly to the work of the UN. Category II consultative status allows the Baha'i International Community to offer its views, both orally and in writing, at sessions of ECOSOC's various commissions, committees, and working groups. Sessions (annual or biannual) of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies which were attended by Baha'i representatives between 1970 and 1985 include Commissions on Human Rights, Human Settlements, Narcotic Drugs, the Status of Women, Population, and Social Development; regional Economic Commissions for Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe, and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities; and Committees on Crime Prevention and Control, and Non-governmental Organizations. In 1976, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) also extended consultative status to the Baha'i International Community.
Beginning in 1970, the Baha'i International Community was represented at sessions of UN bodies addressing a wide range of issues of particular interest to Baha'is, including human rights, social development, the status of women, the environment, human settlements, agriculture, science and technology, new and renewable resources, population, the law of the sea, crime prevention, narcotic drugs, children, youth, the family, disabled persons, the aging, the United Nations University, disarmament, the elimination of racial discrimination, and exploration and peaceful uses of outer space. It offered statements and published brochures on many of these topics and furnished information to the UN about related Baha'i activities.
By the 1970s, national Baha'i communities had become increasingly involved in the UN work, particularly at the regional level. On several occasions, when the UN called a regional or global conference, the National Spiritual Assembly of the host country participated in preparatory and follow-up activities. At such regional UN conferences and seminars, the Baha'i International Community was often represented by Baha'i experts from the region. Meanwhile, national and local Baha'i communities continued to observe United Nations days and years.
By 1983, the New York office staff had grown to nine full-time employees and several volunteers. Although the Baha'i International Community was involved throughout this period with a broad range of UN concerns including international peace and disarmament, two issues assumed particular importance: human rights (especially relating to the situation in Iran, see 4 below) and the advancement of women (see 5 below).
Between 1986 and 1993 the Baha'i Faith received increasing attention from the public and from governments. High-level policy makers, including heads of state, sought Baha'i views on social and economic problems in their countries, as well as on broader issues of world peace. The Baha'i International Community was represented at well over a hundred United Nations consultative sessions and international conferences and submitted to various United Nations bodies more than one hundred statements and reports. Assuming increasing responsibility within the UN/NGO community in New York, Geneva, and Vienna, Baha'i representatives served as officers on NGO committees dealing with human rights, the family, women, human settlements, economic development, youth, public information, and children.
As the Baha'i Faith emerged from obscurity, specialized Baha'i International Community offices were created to handle different aspects of the international external affairs work. The United Nations Office continued responsibility for relations with the UN. An Office of Public Information (see 6 below) was established (1985) with headquarters in Haifa, Israel, and a major bureau in New York. Other bureaus were opened in Hong Kong (closed in 1993), London, and Paris. An Administrator-General was appointed (1986) to be responsible for directing and coordinating the administrative support systems of the offices of the Baha'i International Community in New York and Geneva, and to carry out a number of other functions on their behalf. An Office for the Pacific Region, opened (1991) in Suva, Fiji, was closed (1993) for relocation. By the end of 1992 two issue-specific offices had been added: the Office of the Environment (created in 1989, see 8 below), and the Office for the Advancement of Women (created in 1992, see 5 below). Headquartered in New York, these offices were given responsibility for relating to international organizations, including the UN, and to the Baha'i community on issues of sustainable development, including education and health; and women, respectively. Opened and closed during this period were Refugee Offices (1984-1991) in Canada, Pakistan and Switzerland.
On the eve of the United Nations International Year of Peace (1986), the Universal House of Justice addressed to the Peoples of the World a message entitled The Promise of World Peace. Distributed widely as a Baha'i contribution to the year-long global discussion of peace, this document was translated into more than ninety languages and studied carefully in Baha'i communities the world over. It was presented to hundreds of thousands of individuals, including some 200 heads of state or high-ranking government officials, many through their UN Ambassadors.
Baha'is supported UN initiatives -- national, regional, and international--throughout the International Year of Peace, and the Baha'i International Community participated in all major United Nations meetings on peace and disarmament. This support was recognized in 1987 by the United Nations Secretary-General, who designated the Baha'i International Community and five of its National Assemblies -- Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Kenya, and Lesotho -- as "Peace Messengers,"an honor bestowed upon 300 organizations worldwide.
Baha'is around the world have assisted the Baha'i International Community to carry out its work. Volunteers helped strengthen ties with the UN Center for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs in Vienna, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) in Nairobi, and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in Rome. Other volunteers represented the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations Regional Economic Commissions for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile; and to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Baha'i International Community was particularly supportive of UN education efforts during International Literacy Year (1990) and was involved in the planning and organization of NGO participation in the World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand (1990). Baha'i communities were encouraged by the Universal House of Justice to use International Literacy Year (1990) to renew their commitment to ensuring literacy in Baha'i communities. In preparation for the World Conference on Education for All, which was sponsored jointly by four UN agencies, the Baha'i International Community published a Survey of Baha'i Education Programmes and drafted for round-table discussions papers on educating girls, the role of teachers, delivery systems for education, and the Baha'i experience with basic education. The Baha'i International Community representative served as the NGO representative on the bureau of the World Conference and, after the conference, assumed leadership in establishing the Education for All Network to help governments and NGOs work together to realize the goals set by the World Conference.
As Baha'i communities, particularly in Africa, increasingly initiated primary health care projects, efforts were made to link UN agencies with Baha'i communities. In 1989 the Baha'i International Community established working relations with the World Health Organization (WHO). The Baha'i International Community sponsored the development of a model training program for volunteer community health care workers. It supported education for health by distributing the booklet Facts for Life, produced jointly by WHO, UNICEF and UNESCO, to thirty national Baha'i communities, providing over 5,000 copies of the booklet in four languages.
As of 1994, the Baha'i International Community had a full-time staff of 33 in New York and Geneva, with dozens of part-time and volunteer representatives at the regional and national levels, making the Baha'i International Community one of the largest and most active of the consultative NGOs within the UN system. Its diverse and wide-ranging activities have won it wide respect.
4. Human Rights
Through its relationship with the UN, the Baha'i International Community has sought both religious freedom for Baha'is and recognition of the Baha'i Faith as an independent world religion. When a wave of persecution was unleashed against the Baha'is in Iran in 1955, appeals for protection of their human rights were lodged with the United Nations. The last-minute intervention of the Secretary-General surprised the Iranian government and helped to avert a threatened massacre of Baha'is (BW 13:789-91). Another appeal was lodged with the UN in 1962 when a number of Baha'is were arrested in Morocco (BW 13:794). In 1967 a campaign was launched to persuade governments to acknowledge the independent, global character of the Baha'i Faith. A special edition of the Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh, letters written one hundred years earlier to the kings and rulers of his time, was presented to fifty-six heads of state through their permanent representatives at the United Nations. Many national Baha'i communities also supported the International Year for Human Rights (1968) in various ways.
Escalating persecution of the Baha'is in Iran in 1979 led the Baha'i International Community to focus its human rights activity on protection of that community. At the direction of the Universal House of Justice, the Baha'i International Community coordinated a global effort, at both the national and international levels, to bring attention to the arrests, disappearances, executions without trial, and other forms of human rights violations being visited on the Baha'is in Iran. The Baha'i International Community, National Spiritual Assemblies, and individual Baha'is, working in concert, took the case to the United Nations system and to the public worldwide, appealing to UN member states to exert pressure on Iran. In 1980, the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities (hereafter the Sub-Commission) passed a resolution condemning Iran for its violations of human rights, mentioning explicitly the violations of the rights of Baha'is. This act set in motion a process of review by the UN and its agencies that was still in operation fourteen years later.
As the plight of the Baha'is in Iran worsened, more time and resources were devoted to conveying accurate, verifiable, up-to-date information about their situation to the appropriate people and agencies. A branch Baha'i International Community United Nations Office was established in 1981 near the headquarters of UN human rights activities in Geneva. The Baha'i International Community office in New York coordinated the human rights efforts under the guidance of the Baha'i World Centre, and the Geneva office carried out the day-to-day work.
The schedule of human rights work revolved around the annual sessions of the Commission on Human Rights, the Sub-Commission, and the UN General Assembly. Documents attesting to violations of the human rights of Baha'is and verifying the religious nature of the persecutions were conveyed regularly to UN officials. Press releases were distributed informing the media of new developments. Three times a year the Baha'i International Community provided sympathetic governments and experts with updates on the situation of the Baha'is in Iran and appealed to them, either directly or through the National Spiritual Assembly of that country, to use the United Nations human rights machinery to exert pressure on the Iranian government. Resolutions condemning the Islamic Republic of Iran for violations of human rights, with specific mention of the Baha'is, were passed repeatedly by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (in every year between 1982 and 1993), the United Nations General Assembly (in each year of the period 1985-1990, 1992, 1993) and later sessions of the Sub-Commission (in each year in the period 1980-85, 1987- 1993). These official expressions of concern for the welfare of the Baha'i community in Iran have continued unabated.
Efforts to secure protection for the Baha'is in Iran by using the UN human rights machinery began to yield results, and execution of Baha'is dropped off dramatically in 1985. Blatant discrimination and arbitrary arrests continued; consequently, the Baha'i International Community has continued to keep the UN and members of the Commission and Sub-Commission abreast of the situation of the Baha'is in Iran. In 1984, the Commission on Human Rights requested its chairman to appoint a Special Representative to investigate human rights abuses in Iran. In 1990 he was allowed for the first time to meet with witnesses inside Iran, including members of the Iranian Baha'i community. His first-hand reports verified the grave and systematic oppression of the Baha'is in Iran and censured the offenders.
The Baha'i International Community, as a member of the NGO community at the UN, participated actively in promoting a broad range of human rights during this period. For example, the Baha'i International Community was represented at both World Conferences to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, held in 1978 and 1983, respectively. It delivered statements to both conferences, one of which included the outline of a model curriculum for teaching the oneness of humanity in schools throughout the world.
The Baha'i International Community's efforts to promote human rights in general continued through participation in the Commission, Sub-Commission and the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights. Baha'i statements called for a more equitable international economic order; respect for the rights of minorities, women, children, and the disabled; human rights education; religious tolerance; the elimination of torture and racial discrimination; and recognition of the indivisibility and universality of human rights. The Community participated in a study on minority rights, in working groups drafting conventions on the rights of both minorities and children, and in the working group on indigenous populations. Many national Baha'i communities encouraged their governments to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and conventions against torture, genocide, racial discrimination, and discrimination against women.
5. Advancement of Women
Baha'is see the emancipation of women as a prerequisite for world peace and social progress. Therefore, the Baha'i International Community has accorded high priority to supporting UN efforts to improve the status of women worldwide.
Baha'is took full advantage of opportunities created by United Nations International Women's Year (1975). The Universal House of Justice appointed two women to represent the Baha'i International Community at the historic World Conference on Women held in Mexico City between 19 June and 2 July 1975. Nine Baha'is were appointed to represent the Baha'i International Community at the NGO Tribune held parallel to the World Conference. Baha'is participated fully in the Tribune activities, sponsoring an exhibit and holding a reception.
As International Women's Year (1975) and the ensuing UN Decade for Women (1976-85) turned the world's attention to women's participation in society, the Baha'i International Community took a careful look at itself, conducting a survey on the status of women in Baha'i communities worldwide. The results of that first survey, based on the replies from eighty-one national assemblies, were reported to the United Nations in 1974 as a Baha'i contribution to preparations for International Women's Year (1975).
The Decade for Women saw the Baha'i International Community become increasingly involved in the work of the UN/NGO community. As members of NGO committees on the Status of Women in New York, Geneva, and Vienna, Baha'is attended and helped plan parallel activities for NGOs at the World Conferences in Copenhagen in 1980 and in Nairobi in 1985. They participated fully in regional preparatory conferences in Cuba, Japan, Switzerland, and Tanzania prior to the end-of-Decade World Conference in Nairobi. In the process, they established close working relations with representatives of major international women's organizations.
At the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Baha'i International Community was represented every year by both women and men. Baha'i statements to the Commission set forth equality of the sexes as a fundamental value and addressed such concerns as violence against women, women's involvement in social and economic development, the role of women in peace, the education of women, and the status of the girl child.
A second survey, conducted in 1984, indicated that during the Decade Baha'i communities had become more aware of equality as a spiritual principle and had made real strides towards promoting the full participation of Baha'i women in the life of society and towards changing attitudes both inside and outside Baha'i communities. By 1985 when the Decade ended, the Baha'i International Community was recognized within the NGO community as genuinely committed to improving the status of women. In Nairobi in 1985, nine Baha'is, both women and men, appointed by the Universal House of Justice, represented the Baha'i International Community at the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women. The report of the second survey on the status of women in the Baha'i community was submitted to the UN and became an official document of the conference. Over fifty Baha'is attended the NGO Forum held parallel to the Conference. During the Forum, Baha'is disseminated information about the Faith at an exhibit, sponsored a workshop, and, in cooperation with the National Spiritual Assembly of Kenya, held three receptions for conference and forum participants.
The 1988 Baha'i statement to the Commission caught the attention of officials at the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), who in turn suggested a joint project, developed by the Baha'i International Community and funded by UNIFEM. The project, Traditional Media as Change Agent, sought to generate support among men and women for improving the status of women. With the Baha'i Office of Social and Economic Development, selected National Spiritual Assemblies, Baha'i consultants and UNIFEM, the Baha'i International Community developed a project using such traditional media as music and dance to stimulate village-wide discussions about the status of women in their communities. Implemented with notable success in Bolivia, Cameroon, and Malaysia, this pilot project marked a new level of Baha'i cooperation with a UN agency.
In 1988, the Baha'i International Community, a founding member of the Advocates for African Food Security: Lessening the Burden for Women, became its convenor. A coalition of international and national non-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies and intergovernmental organizations, the Advocates was formed in 1986 to speak at the United Nations on behalf of farm women in Africa, who produce 80 to 90 percent of the food for domestic consumption. The Advocates promoted awareness of women farmers' concerns, including health care, and clean water; promoted access to credit; and encouraged women's participation in decision-making. They conducted a survey of the status of food security in Africa and produced educational materials, including a video entitled "A Day in the Life of an African Woman Farmer." The Advocates raised awareness through symposia held annually in New York from 1986 to 1992. In 1992 the focus shifted to Africa, where seminars were held for women policy makers and farmers in Ghana (1992) and in Tanzania (1993).
The Office for the Advancement of Women, the newest of the Baha'i International Community offices, was established in December 1992. Support for UN efforts to improve the status of women, which had been carried out for twenty years by the United Nations Office, continued uninterrupted under the auspices of this new office. At annual sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, statements addressed appropriate topics on the agenda, such as partnership between women and men, the status of girl children, the participation of women in decision making, partnership for development, and the human rights of women.
6. Public Information
This office, set up in 1985, assumed responsibility for both public information and public relations for the Baha'i International Community. It produced press releases about newsworthy events in the Baha'i world, distributed specialized press materials on such Baha'i undertakings as the building of the "Lotus"Temple in India, developed informational materials about the Baha'i Faith in several languages, and provided displays and pamphlets for other Baha'i International Community offices.
The Office built relations with a number of international organizations. For instance, in 1989 the Baha'i International Community collaborated with the World Wide Fund for Nature's Network on Conservation and Religion in launching an "Arts for Nature" project with a gala dinner in London at which both Rhyyih Khnum and H. R. H. The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, were featured speakers. The Office cultivated relations with the press through membership in the New York Foreign Press Association and the Religious Public Relations Council.
In early 1989, the Office of Public Information began to publish a quarterly newsletter, which it distributed to prominent and influential people and organizations. One Country, focused on news about Baha'i efforts in the fields of development, education, human rights, the environment, and other social issues. Published first in English, then in French, Chinese, Russian, German, and Spanish, One Country went from an initial circulation of 2,242 in February 1989 to an English-language circulation of over 20,000 in 1993 (circulation in other languages was more than 5,000). Articles or news items were reprinted in at least eight non-Baha'i publications: six in English-language publications, and two in French-language publications. One Country received two awards for quality in 1991 and three more in the following two years. The most significant was the "Grand Award"bestowed in July 1991 by the APEX '91 Awards for Publications Excellence, in which One Country was ranked against publications from a number of major American non-profit organizations.
A global information campaign about the Baha'i Faith was orchestrated by the Office and carried out in the year leading up to the Second Baha'i World Congress, held in New York City in November 1992. The Office of Public Information trained and provided information to a worldwide network of National Public Information Officers in 125 countries. A monthly bulletin and 16 regional meetings stimulated efforts to communicate to the media in every country a consistent, simple message about the nature and aims of the Baha'i Faith.
Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, more than 10,000 Iranian Baha'i refugees were resettled in other countries through the combined efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, numerous government agencies and Baha'i National Spiritual Assemblies. The International Baha'i Refugee Office, established first in Canada in 1984, was moved to Geneva in 1989, and was supported for a time by a companion office in Pakistan. As the flow of refugees decreased, the refugee offices were closed, and responsibility for monitoring refugee affairs was assigned to the Baha'i International Community's United Nations Office in Geneva.
8. The Environment
The Office of the Environment was established in September 1989, just before the UN General Assembly called for a United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), known popularly as the Earth Summit.
The Earth Summit convened heads of state in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 to consider the need for global cooperation to stem the tide of environmental degradation and to assist all countries to adopt sustainable development practices. Throughout the preparatory process for the Earth Summit, the Office of the Environment shared Baha'i principles related to the environment and resource development through statements and interaction with agencies and individuals. The Baha'i statement "The Most Vital Challenge" was one of 13 NGO statements read before heads of state at the Earth Summit Plenary. Throughout the Earth Summit process, the Office of the Environment worked in close partnership with the National Spiritual Assembly of Brazil. Together they created a strong and visible Baha'i presence at the Global Forum, the non-governmental organizations' conference held concurrently with the Earth Summit. They produced and distributed to heads of state Tomorrow Belongs to the Children, a book of pictures and messages from children around the world. As a permanent gift to the people of Rio de Janeiro the Baha'is presented a five-meter high Peace Monument with the inscription: "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. -- Bahá'u'lláh."
During this time, national Baha'i communities began to consider ways to integrate concern for the environment into their activities. With encouragement from the Office, some established committees to foster and coordinate such national environmental activities as tree planting, environmental education, and advocacy.
The Office represents the Baha'i International Community at the UN with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Commission on Sustainable Development. A working partner of the Centre For Our Common Future, the Office maintains relationships with such international NGOs as the World Wide Fund for Nature's Network on Conservation and Religion and the Environment Liaison Centre International (ELCI). In 1993 the Office for the Environment was given responsibility for a broad range of issues, including environment, development, education, and health -- all as part of the concept of sustainable development.