Green Cross International’s roots can be traced back to President Mikhail Gorbachev’s time in office as Head of State of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a period during which he spoke repeatedly about the interrelated threats humanity and our Earth face from nuclear arms, chemical weapons, unsustainable development, and the man-induced decimation of the planet’s ecology.
In October 1987, five years before the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Mikhail Gorbachev addressed a gathering in the Arctic city of Murmansk, and for the first time linked the concepts of environmental protection, nuclear disarmament, broader security concerns and development. On 19 January 1990, in Moscow during an address to the Global Forum on Environment and Development for Survival, Mikhail Gorbachev suggested creating an “international Green Cross that offers its assistance to States in ecological trouble.” In other words, the world needed a body that would apply the medical emergency response model of the International Committee of the Red Cross to ecological issues, and expedite solutions to environmental problems that transcend national borders.
On 6 June 1992, six months after leaving office, the Rio Earth Summit civil society delegates appealed to Mikhail Gorbachev to create and launch Green Cross International. At the same time, Swiss National Council parliamentarian Roland Wiederkehr, founded a “World Green Cross” with the same objective. The organizations merged in 1993 to form Green Cross International. Green Cross International (GCI) was formally launched in Kyoto, Japan, on 18 April 1993. On the invitation of Mikhail Gorbachev, many renowned figures joined and continue to serve on its Board of Directors and Honorary Board. To gain practical traction, it is important that Green Cross International established national offices, which enjoy the autonomy to conduct national projects, while also participating in at least one of GC’s international programmes: Water for Life and Peace, Environmental Security and Sustainability, Social and Medical, Smart Energy and Value Change. The first Green Cross National Organizations (GCNOs) formally joined GCI in The Hague, The Netherlands, in the Spring of 1994. These included Japan, The Netherlands, the Russian Federation, Switzerland, and the United States. Today, the Green Cross network operates in more than 30 countries.
Green Cross International enjoys consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. GCI is an admitted observer organization with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. It also cooperates directly with the UNEP/OCHA Environmental Emergencies Section, UN-HABITAT and other international organizations.
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev :
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (born 2 March 1931) is a Russian and formerly Soviet politician. The eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union, he was the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991. He was also the country’s head of state from 1988 until 1991, serving as the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1988 to 1989, chairman of the Supreme Soviet from 1989 to 1990, and president of the Soviet Union from 1990 to 1991. Ideologically, he initially adhered to Marxism-Leninism although by the early 1990s had moved toward social democracy. Of mixed Russian and Ukrainian heritage, Gorbachev was born in Privolnoye, Stavropol Krai to a poor peasant family.
Growing up under the rule of Joseph Stalin, in his youth he operated combine harvesters on a collective farm before joining the Communist Party, which then governed the Soviet Union as a one-party state according to Marxist-Leninist doctrine. While studying at Moscow State University, he married fellow student Raisa Titarenko in 1953 prior to receiving his law degree in 1955. Moving to Stavropol, he worked for the Komsomol youth organization and, after Stalin’s death, became a keen proponent of the de-Stalinization reforms of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. He was appointed the First Party Secretary of the Stavropol Regional Committee in 1970, in which position he oversaw the construction of the Great Stavropol Canal. In 1978 he returned to Moscow to become a Secretary of the party’s Central Committee and in 1979 joined its governing Politburo.
Within three years of the death of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, following the brief regimes of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, the Politburo elected Gorbachev as General Secretary, the de facto head of government, in 1985. Although committed to preserving the Soviet state and to its socialist ideals, Gorbachev believed significant reform was necessary, particularly after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. He withdrew from the Soviet-Afghan War and embarked on summits with United States President Ronald Reagan to limit nuclear weapons and end the Cold War. Domestically, his policy of glasnost (“openness”) allowed for enhanced freedom of speech and press, while his perestroika (“restructuring”) sought to decentralize economic decision making to improve efficiency.
His democratization measures and formation of the elected Congress of People’s Deputies undermined the one-party state. Gorbachev declined to intervene militarily when various Eastern Bloc countries abandoned Marxist-Leninist governance in 1989–90. Internally, growing nationalist sentiment threatened to break up the Soviet Union, leading Marxist-Leninist hardliners to launch the unsuccessful August Coup against Gorbachev in 1991. In the wake of this, the Soviet Union dissolved against Gorbachev’s wishes and he resigned. After leaving office, he launched his Gorbachev Foundation, became a vocal critic of Russian Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, and campaigned for Russia’s social-democratic movement.
Widely considered one of the most significant figures of the second half of the 20th century, Gorbachev remains the subject of controversy. The recipient of a wide range of awards—including the Nobel Peace Prize—he was widely praised for his pivotal role in ending the Cold War, curtailing human rights abuses in the Soviet Union, and tolerating both the fall of Marxist–Leninist administrations in eastern and central Europe and the reunification of Germany. Conversely, in Russia he is often derided for not stopping the Soviet collapse, an event which brought a decline in Russia’s global influence and precipitated an economic crisis. “If what you have done yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today” Mikhail Gorbachev.