Take some internationalists and socialists with a desire to rule the world and they’ll come up with a plan on how to achieve their goal. If they succeed, We won’t have any more rights than a tree……..if we’re lucky!
In 1945, Barbara was asked to stand in Britain for Labour. She would not do so. But in those
days she spoke for Labour. Her espousal of bold government intervention, as with the Marshall Plan, and her link not only with British Fabian socialism, but with American liberalism – what Donald Tyerman called “a freer, Chester Bowles, Adlai Stevenson sort of world” – was never diverted but steadily modified by experience.
Transcending divisions: work for the Stockholm Conference Maurice Strong
Even before I met her, Lady Jackson, more widely known as Barbara Ward, was an important
influence on my life. She was the most articulate and persuasive champion of the poor, making
in her books and lectures a compelling case for the rich to be more responsive to the needs
of the poor. It was therefore with great excitement and anticipation that I first met her in Ottawa,
at the home of her friend, Tom Kent, Policy Advisor to Lester Pearson, whom she had come
to Ottawa to visit. At that time, I had just accepted the invitation of the UN Secretary-General
U Thant to organize the UN Conference on the Human Environment, to be held in Stockholm in
1972. I was preparing to leave my position as President of the Canadian International Development
Agency and was eager to seek Barbara Ward’s counsel on how to respond to the concerns of
developing countries that the newly emerging preoccupation of more developed countries with
the environmental issue would divert attention and resources from their overwhelming priority to
raise their people out of poverty through development.
This was clearly the most important challenge I would face in my new responsibilities for the
conference, and some key developing countries had already threatened to boycott it. I had
taken on the challenge because of my own conviction that concern for the environment and the
need to enlist the cooperation of developing countries in meeting this concern could give new
impetus to support for their development needs. I wanted to test my view with Barbara that
environment and development needed to be, and could be, mutually reinforcing.
When I met Barbara Ward in Tom Kent’s living room, I found her to be deeply interested and
responsive to this prospect. While she had not previously been active in the environmental
movement, she had a keen intellectual understanding and appreciation of its relevance to
developing countries. Her brilliance and enthusiasm ignited my hopes for the conference and
excited my spirits. This emboldened me to ask her for help. Her immediate acceptance gave
me the most effective and influential ally that I could possibly have had. For me, the prospect
of working closely with Barbara Ward was a dream come true.
The dream unfolded rapidly. Barbara designated her brilliant and resourceful assistant, David
Runnalls, to be the link between us. One of my first acts when I took over my new responsibilities
at UN Headquarters in New York was to seek her help in convening a group of influential leaders
of the development movement to consider how best to create a more positive synthesis
between development and environment. All were her disciples or admirers. With her convening
power, we met in New York in what was a first step in the long process of confronting the policy
and political differences that separated advocates of development from those of the environment,
which was the central theme of the Stockholm Conference and beyond.
The team that Barbara assembled to meet with me in New York included Gamani Corea from
Sri Lanka, Enrique Iglesias from Uruguay, Mahbub Ul Haq from Pakistan, and Jim Wolfensohn,
then an Australian investment banker and later to become President of the World Bank. With
Barbara’s help, we reached out to others to participate in our continuing dialogue, notably to the
Brazilian economist, Miguel Osorio de Almeida, the Polish/French development guru with broad
experience in Brazil and India, Ignacy Sachs, and Kuwait’s leading expert, Abdalatif Al-Hamad.
As Barbara was then living in New York, we met regularly with the continuing support of David
Runnalls. Most of all, I enjoyed and valued our one-to-one dinner meetings, always over a bottle
of her favourite indulgence, Dom Perignon champagne.
In parallel with the network Barbara helped us to develop, I enlisted the advice and support of a
visionary scientist, Carroll Wilson, then a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),
who had already convened a pioneering study of climate change. He arranged a meeting for me
with his “Brain Trust” at MIT, which then guided my approach to the conference preparations. I was
delighted at the synergy between Barbara and Carroll Wilson. With their networks and leadership,
we prepared the intellectual and policy underpinnings for the formal programme of the conference
and translated them into the documents I submitted to the preparatory committee of government.
By according developing-country experts a primary role in our preparations, developing-country
representatives at the political level were reassured that their interests would be addressed –
and the movement to boycott the Stockholm Conference receded. The fact that Barbara was
now so clearly and visibly involved in the process was also extremely helpful to me in recruiting
the other star of the conference, India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi. She was a great fan of
Barbara Ward, and when she agreed to attend the conference and to allow me to make this
known, it gave the participation of developing countries new and much needed impetus. My
main colleague in orchestrating the increasingly extensive and complex network we were
developing with Barbara’s guidance was an extraordinarily talented and well-organized Swiss
development specialist, Marc Nerfin. He took the lead in organizing a meeting of key participants
in this network in June 1971 in the village of Founex near Geneva as the culmination of our
consultations. This spirited and often divisive dialogue produced a document articulating in
compelling terms the essential nature of the environment–development relationship as two sides
of the same coin. It made the point that the environment is both the basic resource for development
and a product of development, and that these two dimensions of the process must be brought
into a positive synthesis. The Founex Report proved to be a milestone in preparations for
Stockholm and the evolution of the movement we now call sustainable development.
The other milestone event in which Barbara’s role was central was the book I commissioned for the
conference, Only One Earth, co-authored by Barbara and René Dubos, the distinguished French
scientist then also a resident in New York. It seemed an unlikely combination of personalities, with
her extraordinary intellect manifested in a vibrant personality contrasting with his quietly authoritative
manner. When I first brought them together, they knew of each other, but had never met, and I
was apprehensive. However, their shared interests and mutual respect created an immediate
bond between them, which grew into a full partnership and an enduring friendship. The manuscript
was reviewed by a stellar group representing a variety of leading world experts. It became not
only the principal resource for the Stockholm Conference, but a best-seller in more than 12
languages, disseminating the main themes and messages of Stockholm throughout the world.
At the conference itself in June 1972, Barbara was the guiding star of the many non-governmental
organizations that for the first time were given a significant role in a United Nations conference.
Maurice Strong was Secretary-General of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment
and of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit).
BARBARA WARD AND THE ORIGINS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS
Vancouver, 31 May – 11 June 1976
D. Land (Agenda item 10 (d))
1. Land, because of its unique nature and the crucial role it plays in human settlements, cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes. Social justice, urban renewal and development, the provision of decent dwellings and healthy conditions for the people can only be achieved if land is used in the interests of society as a whole.
2. …Public control of land use is therefore indispensable to its protection as an asset and the achievement of the long-term objectives of human settlement policies and strategies.
3. To exercise such control effectively, public authorities require detailed knowledge of the current patterns of use and tenure of land; appropriate legislation defining the boundaries of individual rights and public interest; and suitable instruments for assessing the value of land and transferring to the community, inter alia through taxation, the unearned increment resulting from changes in use, or public investment or decision, or due to the general growth of the community.
Land Resource Management (a) Public ownership or effective control of land in the public interest is the single most important means of improving the capacity of human settlements to absorb changes and movements in population, modifying their internal structure and achieving a more equitable distribution of the benefits of development whilst assuring that environmental impacts are considered.
UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS