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THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT

 

Dr. Malik S. Khan

 

It was a great pleasure to have attended Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit conference, known formally as the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED).  This was a dynamic opportunity to meet worldwide leaders of ecology and environment, scientists, technologists, and NGOs.  The environmental experts gathered in two formats:  They had an exhibition held at Flamingo Park, where they had an array of booths with multifaceted dis­plays, and at Rio Center, where the United Nations body held its sessions with delegates from every country.  The United Nations had invited governmental bodies and also bodies semi‑associ­ated with the government, institutes, and associations from all over the world, who sat in the preliminary sessions.  The NGOs were going back and forth between Flamingo Park and Rio Center, which were fifty kilometers apart. 

 

Every country had a booth in a big convention hall where some of them were distributing their literature.  An unbelievable amount of documentation and paperwork was distributed.  The NGOs had a booth where they had a facility to have meetings and to gather information and produce some paperwork.

 

Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration, the internationally famous document, was signed by 153 countries.  There were speeches by heads of state.  The President of the United States delivered in his speech commitment that he will help and finance programs for poor countries on their own merits at U.S. discretion, but the United States did not sign the biodiversity agreement.  There were many suggestions and environmental programs.  Almost every country and many organizations came up with a specialized program for the environment.  But unfortunate­ly, there is a big gap be­tween the poor states and the rich states.  There were sugges­tions for the Northern states, of which a majority are rich states, and the Southern states, which are poor states, to have joint ventures by developing and implement­ing the programs.  It was suggested that the North will provide the South technology and finance, and they will develop an envi­ronmental program, or implement the programs to make the world environmentally safe. You know in the past such cooperation has been very much abused.  The poor countries put themselves in debt, and the Northern states took 80% of the so‑called aid back to their own countries on the name of technology and interest.  Ten percent landed in real programs, and the rest under corruption landed somewhere else.  It is true that human health is at risk.  Taking into consideration air pollution, ozone depletion, contaminated water, sanitation, accumulated solid waste, toxic chemical combinations, biological and chemical combination of food, land degradations, and deforestation contributing to global warming, we have a com­plex problem on hand which needs special attention to solve.

 


There is a GEF, Global Environmental Facility, a new fundamental mechanism intended to finance the global efforts at protecting and restoring the environment.  It is a suggestion that .07% of every country's GNP be spent on the environment, which becomes trillions of dollars globally.  It will produce job opportunities, and it will create a market for rich states to invest in poor states.  There is no doubt that it will stir up the economies worldwide.  This churning will benefit the Northern states.  How much will the Southern states really benefit?  One thing is for sure:  education is the most important of all to make the public in every country to be part of the program in order to make a successful implementation of ecological programs. 

 

There were also exhibitions of Ecotech, Eco‑Art, and many others around Rio. A lot of people who were not NGOs also landed at the Global Forum.  There were also quite a few Democrats from the United States, who kept their party line politics at the forum.  People of all points of view landed at the Forum and did their publicity to recruit and convert people to their way of life.  It was interesting to see that all religionists and many varied associations had booths.  Some of these booths belonged to meditational groups, musical parties and dance, homosexuals, and others who were trying to confuse the issue with their ways.

 

The NGOs have done dynamic work and participated despite their difficulties.  They were not facilitated.  The documents were provided to them late, and most of the time the documents were not available for them, whereas the press and government delegates had reserved documentation and access to every summit gathering.  They were provided limited seats, and most of the time the seats were given away, where the other organizations which came under the press had access to everything. 

 

Many of those who attended and sat on the podium did not even know the topic:  environment or ecology.   I think the accredited NGOs should have been given access only to Rio Center.  It would have been better, and all NGOs would have enjoyed and contributed. Indeed, they have contributed.  Every major work which can be combined into one global policy matter has been done by NGOs, whereas every country which has provided its booklets has been concerned only about its own problems and solutions.  There was a lack of teamwork between them.  For one thing, one country is industrialized and polluting the atmosphere and at the same time is enjoying the world resources, where the poor country, whose resources have been taken, doesn't even receive the benefits from the state to which the resources were taken.  For proper and sound technology to be developed and transferred to make the indigenous programs and resources more effective and better will be better than implementing foreign technology which may not work on this environment.  It will create chaos, unemployment, strikes, and anarchy against the government because some technology came from outside and destroyed the local culture.

 

At the Global Forum people came with all kinds of ideas, and each one of them was putting himself forth, in his own way and manner, that he is the best pundit to make the world a paradise.  It was very unfortunate that the Muslim `ummah did not gather at one place or had any meeting of any kind nor any literature on environment from the Islamic point of view to be distributed, though Islam is a complete code of life.  They were all running around individually discussing their problems, and were in groups of non‑Muslims.  They did not make any strategy to combat the environmental problems.

 

 I devoted my time successfully to gathering the information, to receiving worldwide material, literature, and addresses, es­pecially of Muslim scholars, scientists, etc., and meeting people, so we may benefit by bringing the Muslim `ummah under one umbrella to come to a conclusion to help and implement safe envi­ronmental programs. 

 


     Unfortunately this conference was not designed and facilita­ted for the Muslim  NGOs and governmental delegates to get toge­ther. But for us Muslims it was a very important conference.  I believe that the time has come for our Muslim organizations to gather and develop our own programs and pool our resources to help one another. The Islamization of technology and environment is the best to give the benefits to the Muslim `ummah.  In fact, an article to that effect appeared in this month's Time magazine. 

 

I feel it is very necessary for Rabita, Motamar, and World Council of Muslim Communities to play their role and gather Mus­lims in a conference with similar characteristics under OIC, where the `ummah's interest can be protected and a dynamic pro­gram can be implemented.  Of course this will be an expensive proposition.  I got the information and knowledge, and we can organize it.  We will need funds for this purpose.  I put my suggestion to you.  Now how can we succeed?  It is very much needed.  OIC had a delegation.  There were many Islamic republics who had been provided booths, but nobody came into these booths to show the representation of that Islamic republic.  Among the new Muslim republics, only Azerbaijan had somebody in one booth, and one booth was at the NGO Forum for Kazakhstan represented by some non‑Muslim woman from New York.  I was standing by and listening, and she was telling people that the Kazakhs are very weak in Islam.

 

I found out that 500 years ago Islam was quite active in Brazil.  There is ample information on this subject available.  Unfortunately the Roman Catholics have cleaned up even their records.  We also found out that Brazil is a very ripe environment for Islamic da`wah work.  There is a mosque at Rio de Janeiro which was blessed by the Muslim countries with funds.  Unfortunately the funds were channeled to one individual who put the mosque and built it on his name, and the matter is in the court against the gentleman for income tax evasion.  A beautiful mosque stands near the Rio Center.  There is a small community of Muslims at Rio de Janeiro. 

 

There is no central body in Latin America where the interest of Islam could be fully guarded and protected.  Five hundred years of Islam on this continent has left traces, and its records were cleaned up by non‑Muslims.  There was a time in history when Muslim slaves were brought from Sudan, Mali, and other parts of Africa.  I was shown the evidence of documentation, for which I grieved as a Muslim.  It is very necessary that the Islamic interest be guarded.  The non‑Muslims also know today that Islam is the answer for their problems of drugs, AIDS, and alcoholism.  Their corrupt environment can be straightened; otherwise, they will vanish with these epidemics. 

 


Now are we to implement and organize ourselves into this vast subject, which involves everything human beings have around themselves in life?  I am waiting keenly for your kind reply so I can start going in that direction.  I suggest that the next con­ference of this nature under the Islamic umbrella of OIC, Rabita, Motamar, or World Council of Muslim Communities be held in a country where we have good facilities to accommodate such a conference.  There is no doubt that we had political conferences.  The time is ripe to get involved in putting together something of this nature for a change.  We do need our Islamic world body to bring in Islamic scholars, scientists, environmental experts, geologists, social and political scientists, religionists, and others.  They all have to work in a teamwork to achieve the goals of Islamization.  Just barely religionists are not enough to solve the problems of the world.  We have to dynamize the works of our great scholars and reformers in the light of Quran, Hadith, and fiqh.  We have to do similar by Islamization of tech­nology in Muslim environment.  Just barely staying with same rhetoric with no change will leave us with the colonialist left‑over environment, which has been a factor in destroying us.

 

This topic is too vast.  I can go on and on and write a book, and I will never be able to finish.  I tried to summarize what happened at this conference.  Every country has a problem of environmental abuses.  The level varies between rich and poor countries, each one proportionate to its environmental abuse.  The cure is so small in proportion to the abuse, that what they are doing looks almost negligible.  After looking into Brazil and U.S.A. and many other countries, I have seen that none of these countries has developed or cultivated its natural resources to the fullest.  If they all do, for the next hundred years there is no need of family planning.  Brazil alone or America alone is capable of feeding the rest of the world.