The Values project began as ValuesQuest, a collaboration with the influential international think-tank the Club of Rome in 2012. This initiative was subsequently commissioned by the United Nations as ’Culture, Creativity and Values’, a programme contributing to the drawing up of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals following on from the Millennium Development Goals.
In 2015 it was the impetus behind the President of France holding a major conference on Conscience and values, in advance of the Paris COP Climate change negotiations in December.
In 2016 phase 2 of the Valuesquest programme launched, moving from theoretical exploration of the role of values to a more pragmatic approach: key organisations have begun to recognise that values are as or more important than finances. What Valuesquest needs to do is help make the values approach more obvious, efficient and effective. Link here for more details.
"Not so long ago values were not really an issue [in international development decision-making]" said head of Valuesquest and former deputy director of the Club of Rome, Karl Wagner.
"Than it was straightforward financial value and everything else was relative. But recently decision-makers started to accept that society is run by values, and they need to deal with that."
There are many examples of this change of thinking, including the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
, which has commissioned a series of key papers, one of which is on the relationship between values and land.
"Decision-makers all around the world are probing the issue," Wagner said. "We hope to be able to help them make it work."
||Olav Kjørven, UN Assistant Secretary General, addressing the ARC international meeting at Ise, Japan
“There is no question: values is the new driving concern or topic in international development,” said ARC’s Martin Palmer. “It’s clearly vital that in international discussions people talk about not just how but why people will give their time, energy and (where appropriate) money to make this planet better for all life.”
It doesn’t seem to matter how much information about environmental damage there is, however, nor how many practical strategies are available to tackle the problems, it is always human motivation (or the lack of it) that decides whether things happen or not.
ValuesQuest’s Culture, Creativity and Values programme is an attempt to distil the learning from ARC's experience working with faiths and to bring together ideas from people involved in ‘values-based’ areas such as the arts, media, sports and scientists as well as the faiths to better understand their underlying values. The aim is to understand how these may be used to inspire communities towards the positive changes needed to ensure a safe and prosperous 21st century.
How did it start?
In 2012 the Club of Rome celebrated its 40th anniversary and invited Martin Palmer to submit a thought-provoking paper on a subject of his choosing. He responded with How beliefs, values, ethos and inspiration are essential for saving the world, a blog challenging the exclusion of these important forces for change from public debates. The impact of this groundbreaking paper led to a collaboration with Club of Rome’s Director of External Relations Karl Wagner that produced ‘ValuesQuest’, a more detailed discussion paper. After its publication in 2013 the paper was launched through a series of debates at a major ‘festival of ideas’ in the UK as the beginning of a program of informal and formal debates aiming to draw out values and the narratives that express them.
How did the UN become involved?
Coming at the same time as the need to revisit the UN’s Millennium Development Goals it had always been an aspiration that the fruits of the ValuesQuest project could in some way contribute to this important and influential process. Discussions with Olav Kjørven, Assistant Secretary General of the UN led to a recognition of the potential value of the ValuesQuest approach in adding a potentially missing dimension - that of Culture, Creativity and Values - to the understanding of human needs and resources for change behind the new Sustainable Development Goals. As a result of these discussions, Olav Kjørven was able to announce the coming together of the two processes when he attended the ARC-organised international meeting in Ise, Japan, in June 2014.
What happens next?
The programme for ValuesQuest’s Culture, Creativity and Values is in development. As a first step, however, a Values page has been added to the UN’s ‘World We Want’ consultation site and contributions of any kind - including inspirational stories, poems or images - are very welcome. They can be added to the site at any time.
UN/ARC Bristol Event
Why Do I Care: Paris 2015
Martin Palmer’s original blog: How beliefs, values, ethos and inspiration are essential for saving the world.
Download ValuesQuest discussion paper
Club of Rome’s ValuesQuest webpage
UN ‘World We Want’ Values consultation page
More information about launch of ValuesQuest
More information about launch of ValuesQuest Culture, Creativity and Values
Huffington Post article by Olav Kjørven: Can There Be Development Without Spiritual Capital?