This is a contribution of Awraham Soetendorp, Chairman of the Board of Green Cross Netherlands.
Awraham Soetendorp was involved with the foundation of the global Earth Charter Initiative. He is a member of the historic Earth Charter Commission.
Some fragments from the contribution of Awraham to the book for the commemoration of Ruud Lubbers:
“The necessity of a Charter in which the inclusive, holistic responsibility of humanity for the Earth and all life forms, is expressed in a sustainable vision for action, is being felt for decades. The way was paved by the Brundtland report “Our Common Future”, in 1987. An impressive world-conference followed five years later in Rio de Janeiro. A design-resolution for an Earth Charter fell in action during the meeting of government leaders, for lack of consensus. Among the NGOs, present in large numbers, who were being kept at a distance from the meeting room like usual, the feeling dominated that we should take matters in our own hands. Maurice Strong, the Secretary-General of this conference, took the initiative to the formation of the Earth Council. Mikhail Gorbachev, who shortly before had to give up his presidency, accepted the invitation to hold the position of chairman of Green Cross. This request was directed at him by the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival.
During an international conference of this organization about the environment, held in Moscow in 1990, Gorbachev as the president called for the formation of a Green Cross organization during his final speech in the Kremlin.
Like the Red Cross mobilizes itself for the health and safety of people, Green Cross should mobilize itself for the health and the safety or the Earth.
Back in The Netherlands, Ruud Lubbers received Erica Terpstra and me – we were both involved in the creation of Green Cross. Ruud spoke with his typical humor about this meeting at my farewell as officiating Rabbi of The Hague. How could he refuse his cooperation, when a Rabbi who has been fighting for the rights of Jews in the Soviet Union and the liberal Erica disclosed themselves as supporters of Mikhail Gorbachev?
Ruud, who was standing so close to the ambition of Brundtland, saw the possibility – in what he considered the final period in his premiership – to form the connection between idea and deed. And this handwork was entrusted with him. At first, the speed was enormous. He pledged support for Green Cross and steered the process towards collaboration with the Earth Council. Several months later, Gorbachev was received in The Netherlands for the first time as the brand new president of Green Cross, founded in Kyoto. The research instigated by him quickly demonstrated that the joining of forces of both organizations would be made possible.
This intense process took up to five years and was full of suspense until the last moment. In the early morning after the finalization of the last meeting before the press conference in the UNESCO building in Paris, June 2000, Steven Rockefeller – the gifted chairman of the Earth Charter Commission – dared to change the first sentence of the preamble: “We stand at a critical moment in human history”, into “We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history”. A striking illustration of the openness which was aimed for in regards to the progressive insight. In June 2000 we were allowed to offer the Earth Charter to Queen Beatrix in the Peace Palace.
The Earth Charter is not set in stone. It is a living organism. The thrilling feeling of unity in diversity. The last words of the Earth Charter, ‘the joyful celebration of life’, express the essence of the primal desire of the soul, which was embodied in the Earth Charter. Especially in the gorgeous diversity of cultures and life forms becomes visible that we are one human family and one Earth community, with a shared purpose. And this brings irrepressible joy.”