United Nations Headquarters

We neeed a new ethic by which every human being realizes the importance of the challenge we are facing and starts to take action through changes in lifestyle and attitude. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

United Nations Department of Public Information


United Nations System Resources

UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs
Division for Sustainable Development

Commission on Sustainable Development


Art and the Environment


The Art Changing Attitudes Toward the Environment seminar will focus on a top priority for the United Nations: climate change and the environment. The seminar will contribute to keeping the spotlight on the issue from a different perspective and will be an important contribution and forum to reach out to the general public. The seminar will be held on 8 May 2008 at United Nations Headquarters, New York.

Partnership: The Needs of Our Earth

The first Unlearning Intolerance Seminar of 2008 will center on the intolerance of the needs of our earth and the attitudinal and behavioral changes that must be made in order to protect it. The topics of global warming and environmental preservation are currently at the heart of the development agenda, with governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses and civil society all faced with the challenge of saving our environment and achieving true human security on a global scale. In the current era in which scare tactics are frequently used to generate social action, an alternative approach is needed to inspire the public to take responsibility for our collective future. Artistic expression inspired by our natural environments is a strong alternative approach in efforts to strengthen community engagement in conservation and preservation. This approach will be demonstrated at an international symposium and concurrent art exhibit.

Art as a Catalyst

The event aims to demonstrate to the international public that the universal language of art serves as a catalyst that can unite people in thought and action, and can empower individuals, communities, and leaders to incorporate environmental values into social, economic, and political realms. The proposed panelists, seven visual artists and four world-renowned environmental and social activists, will inform the audience about their unique and innovative approaches to drawing worldwide attention to the needs of the environment in two sessions:

1) Confronting Environmental Intolerance: Art, Action, and Human Security

The first session - Confronting Environmental Intolerance - will focus on the general need for more creative approaches to climate change, and will detail what those approaches look like from the perspective of globally recognized artists and activists. Human security in its holistic sense will be examined through an artistic lens, and it will be emphasized that the protection of our environment must be habitual if true human security is to occur. The participants, including three artists and two activists, will showcase slides of their work and explain what inspired their efforts, detail what they aim to express to the wider public, and provide information related to the impacts that the artists and activists have already made in their communities and the world at large.

2) Art for Change: Vehicles for Environmental Action

The second session - Art for Change - is aimed at sharing strategies related to ways in which communities and governments can deliberately use art to promote changes in their own social contexts. The participants include two activists and four artists, who will showcase slides of their work in a similar fashion as the panelists in the previous session. Concrete ways in which artists can continue to shape the world will be shared and expounded upon.

Art Exhibit

The Seminar, to be held at United Nations Headquarters, will be complemented by a contemporary art exhibit of the works of the participating seven artists representing six global regions, including Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and North America, and Western Asia. The exhibit will be open to the public 9 May to 31 May, 2008.


May 8 Seminar Programme


9:00 - 9:45 a.m.
Registration of panelists and invited guests.

9:15 - 9:50 a.m.
Press event and photo op at the exhibit featuring Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information and the artists.

10:00 - 10:20 a.m.
Opening Remarks: Kiyotaka Akasaka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox, Deputy Director, UNEP Regional Office for North America (on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme).

10:20 - 10:30 a.m.
Keynote: Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity

10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Panel I: Confronting Environmental Intolerance - Art, Action, and Human Security

Moderator: Kiyotaka Akasaka, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information
Artists: Noor Al-Bastaki, Ichi Ikeda, Cecilia Paredes
Panellists: Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Christie Brinkley

Open Discussion between all panellists and the audience

3:00 - 5:30 p.m.
Panel II: Art for Change: Vehicles for Environmental Action

Moderator: Eric Falt, Director, Outreach Division, UNDPI
Artists: Catherine Chalmers, Subhankar Banerjee, Philippe Pastor
Panellists: Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox, Deputy Director, UNEP Regional Office for North America; Michael Polsky, President and CEO, Invenergy, LLC

Open Discussion between all panellists and the audience

5:30 p.m.
Closing remarks


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