Yesterday, nature had a voice at the United Nations in a first of its kind dialogue about what it will take to live in harmony with nature, and what role the United Nations must play.

The all-day interactive dialogue, sponsored by the Plurinational State of Bolivia, was packed with global UN delegates. In his opening remarks, Bolivian Ambassador to the UN (and 2011 Global Exchange Honoree), Pablo Solon said,

“Humanity finds itself at a crossroads: Why should we only respect the laws of human beings and not those of nature? Why do we call the person who kills his neighbor a criminal, but not he who extinguishes a species or contaminates a river? Why do we judge the life of human beings with parameters different from those that guide the life of the system as a whole if all of us, absolutely all of us, rely on the life of the Earth System? Is there no contradiction in recognizing only the rights of the human part of this system while all the rest of the system is reduced to a source of resources and raw materials – in other words, a business opportunity?”

Leading civil society thinkers, activists Martin Khor, Vandana Shiva, Cormac Cullinan and others spoke about the need to promote a holistic approach to sustainable development in harmony with nature. Scientists also shared their national experiences on criteria and indicators for measuring sustainable development in harmony with nature.

This dialogue stands as the first step toward what many believe will culminate in the adoption of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, and as Maude Barlow, water activist and Chairperson for the Council of Canadians says, history will serve as “a companion piece to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as one of the guiding covenants of our time.”

The Council of Canadians, Global Exchange, and the Fundacion Pachamama also released our book The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. Copies were made available to all UN missions.

Contact Global Exchange for your own copy of the book: Rights of Nature. Or make a donation of $50 or more to Global Exchange, and received your own signed copy of the book.