Tzu Chi Foundation USA’s application for observer status with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was approved on 9th January 2019. With the new status, the Foundation will receive information on UNEP meetings and also attend relevant and important UNEP meetings as an observer. Besides, it will also submit its annual report to the UNEP as stipulated in the treaty.
As a UNEP meeting observer, Tzu Chi’s responsibilities and scope of work include the followings:
- Provide effective environmental protection plans and strategies from the perspective of an NGO and invite governments and NGOs to jointly work with the Foundation to implement environmental protection programmes.
- Bring up the implications of policies related to environmental protection and call on the United Nations to take effective actions that benefit the environment during the general assembly.
Tzu Chi’s founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, said that the gradual destruction of the environment was caused by the imbalances of the Four Elements (earth, water, fire, and wind) on Earth, which had brought about the many natural disasters that plagued the world.
In 1990, at the end of a speech she delivered in central Taiwan, the Master started appealing to the audience to do recycling with the hands they applauded her with, to protect the environment. This kick-started the efforts of Tzu Chi volunteers in Taiwan and abroad, to practise environmental protection in daily life so as to “coexist with Mother Earth”.
Having promoted its Mission of Environmental Protection for nearly 30 years, Tzu Chi now has numerous recycling stations and points, and more than 100,000 recycling volunteers worldwide. In addition, Tzu Chi’s Da.Ai Technology’s research and development efforts made possible the production of consumer products, such as blankets, clothing and other daily necessities using recycled materials. The company’s environmentally friendly manufacturing process helps to boost the green industry.
Master Cheng Yen also advocates vegetarianism to protect the environment. Apart from that, she urges people around the world to live a simple and frugal life, cut back on waste at the source, and care for the environment and the earth, in the hope that everyone will take action to protect the planet besides having a common goal and consensus.
The United Nations Environment Programme recognises and affirms Tzu Chi’s efforts in protecting the environment, and also its volunteers’ unwavering spirit in practising Buddhism in daily life and serving as living bodhisattvas around the world. It accredited Tzu Chi USA with observer status to allow the organisation to speak out on the topic of environmental protection at the general assembly and other important meetings. The UN also encourages cooperation among government, non-government and religious organisations in conserving the environment, and currently, Tzu Chi is one of the 514 NGOs that have been accredited the status.
List of organisations accredited by the United Nations Environment Programme with observer status: https://www.unenvironment.org/civil-society-engagement/accreditation/list-accredited-organizations
Tzu Chi USA website: https://tzuchi.us/