Bellerive - By Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan



By Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan

From the headier pursuit of Groups de Bellerive "to the grass roots" projects of Alp Action, Rural Technology and Animal Welfare, a review of the past year's activities at Bellerive Foundation reveals their inter relatedness.

Extraordinary shifts in the world order provided a hopeful context for Groups de Bellerive's sixth International Colloquium, "Non-Proliferation in a Disarming World: Prospects for the 1990s," held in Geneva in June. Paradoxically, the fact that reducing nuclear weapons had become more possible made doing so less urgent. Speakers at the colloquium stressed that we not lose the opportunity to further the case of peace as we approached the Fourth Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But regional differences were heating up as the Cold War cooled down. So, many emphasised also the ominous risks of "horizontal proliferation" of all types of weapons nuclear, chemical, biological-in an increasingly "multipolar world."

Less than two months later, the proceedings of our colloquium newly published, the phrase "in a disarming world" rang ironically. The Gulf Crisis had erupted, and the region, like a powerful magnet, was rapidly drawing a multinational force into a new confrontation. The sobering speeches of those colloquium participants who warned of regional tensions had proved prophetic. No longer strident, but wise, their insistence that policies to contain the spread of all weapons must be sought.

By the time this news letter is published, the tense situation may well have changed again. But what will not have changed is the necessity that we look seriously at what so many cynically have called the crux of the crisis: oil, and our dependence on it for energy. At issue is our whole attitude toward natural resources, our energy needs, and the health of our planet, so overburdened by our-escalating demands. International security is not merely political. Without greater environmental security, all the rest scarcely matters.

Political change in Eastern Europe has allowed shocking ecological revelations. Catastrophic levels of pollution and acknowledgement of numerous "unsafe" nuclear power reactors "not marginally off, but incredibly far off" accepted standards are reportedly pushing environmental concerns to the top of priority lists. Environmental issues once considered fringe have become mainstream topics of conversation and front page newspaper and magazine cover stories.

Concerns about the state of the Alps claimed the cover of Newsweek a few months following Bellerive Foundation's launch in February of Alps Action. Deforestation is not a problem exclusive to Africa or the jungles of Brazil or Borneo. We cannot help developing countries to manage their environments unless we show ourselves in the developed countries to be better stewards. Alp Action has succeeded in initiating a number of projects, made more sustainable through the involvement of the private sector. Business is turning green.

In East Africa, the problem of deforestation is being seen more often from the point of view of women. Gathering ever scarcer wood becomes for them an increasingly time consuming and heavy burden. Through our Cooking to Conserve education programme in Kenya, we promote good energy saving techniques. The success of this project can be gauged by the enthusiasm shown for it by Ministry of Education officials. The Education Department has proposed strategies for covering the schools of each district where we work, the number varying from fifty schools in one arid area to 700 in one highland district.

The growth of our institutional cookstove programme in Kenya continues steadily, with bilateral support from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and from Britain's Overseas Development Agency (ODA) in three new districts. Work in Tanzania is underway: A survey of health in institutional kitchens has been completed and the first institutional kitchens installed in schools. The programme "Green Islands" is growing in every sense. To support it, "Trees for Life," an educational programme and funding scheme, has been launched by the Conservation Foundation in the U.K.

The African elephant is enjoying a reprieve from the relentless poaching of the last decade. The ivory trade bans resulting from the decision made at CITES just over a year ago have caused ivory prices to plunge and markets to dwindle. Bellerive's launch of a travelling exhibition on elephants for school children at Geneva's Natural History Museum maintained the momentum begun at our "Save the Elephant" campaign during the CITES Conference last year.

Indeed, the concerns of Bellerive Animal Welfare have captivated public attention throughout 1990 with extensive media coverage, both independent of and linked to our own initiatives. My wife's and my appearance on Brigitte Bardot's SOS Animaux on French TV highlights our ongoing concern to protect fur-bearing animals. Plummeting fur sales worldwide reflect the extent to which attitudes have been enlightened although much remains to be done to address attitudes of the Asian market.

The plight of dolphins and whales in capacity has absorbed much of our dedication and energy in 1990, with the focus being the international symposium Bellerive hosted in July. We were gratified by the extensive media coverage given to the event with the horrifying realities held up for closer public scrutiny. A strong network of concerned organisations and individuals has been established. 1991 should see concrete projects spring from these good beginnings.

In October, we launched the book, The Rose-Tinted Menagerie, on abuse of animals in captivity - in dolphinaria, zoos, and circuses. Written by consultants to Bellerive Welfare, William Johnson it exposes the cruelty and deprevation lurking behind the glitter of dolphin shows and circuses.As a philosophical work, it puts the exploitation of animals for human entertainment into the much broader context of global environmental destruction and humankind's ailing relationship with the planet.

I traditionally take stock in this end-of-the-year newsletter editorial, but there is no-end-of-the-year punctuation for Bellerive's on-going programmes. 1991 poses many challenges and promises many achievements for Bellerive and fellow organisations working to shape a sounder world ecology. May I thank all of you who have worked with us this year to make possible exceptional progress. I ask all of you for your support in the year to come.