Arthur Lyon DAHL
Summary Curriculum Vitae

 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve
 CH-1219 Châtelaine, Geneva, Switzerland

PERSONAL: Swiss and United States citizen, married to a French citizen, two adult children
LANGUAGES: Bilingual, English and French
Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) in Biological Sciences with Departmental Honors, Stanford University, California, 1964
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) in Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1969



Five years scientific research and curatorial experience on algae, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., USA, with special interests in coral reef ecology, marine algae, and island environments, and continuing activity on various international scientific committees.

Eleven years residence in the South Pacific as adviser to governments and international organizations in ecology, conservation and environmental management, with extensive field experience, including at the grass-roots level. Three years residence in Africa and twenty-five years in Europe. Wide knowledge of the Asia-Pacific region and of small island developing States, particularly the developing countries and territories of the Pacific Islands, complemented by experience in the Caribbean and Africa, and visits to many other areas.

Thirty-five years programme management and administrative experience in the planning, organization and evaluation of international multi-disciplinary programmes of research, observation, and environmental assessment and management, including liaison with governments, organization of cooperation among international agencies, directing intergovernmental meetings, scientific symposia and training courses, and implementing the results of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992)

Producer of training and audio-visual materials, lecturer and writer (in English and French) for scientific audiences, universities and the general public on sustainable development, environment, ecology, conservation, ethics, religion and values

Consultant to many international organizations and government agencies, with special emphasis on indicators of environment, development and sustainability, coral reef and coastal zone management, conservation of nature and biodiversity, environment and management of islands, environmental education and training, rural social and economic development, and applications of science in developing countries

Academic experience including organizing, curriculum development and teaching graduate level and on-line courses in social and economic development and sustainability, Visiting Professor at University of Brighton, coordinator of UNEP/University of Geneva Environmental Diplomacy Programme, member of scientific committee for University of Geneva Certificate of Advanced Studies in Sustainable Development, Federal Technical University in Lausanne (EPFL) Certificate of Advanced Studies in Management of Development Projects and occasional lecturer for other university courses

Recent substantive interests have focussed on indicators of values, sustainability and development; international environmental governance; ethics of climate change and sustainability; information for environmental decision-making; global and national environmental observations and assessments; new economic paradigms; coral reef protection and management; and the special problems of small island developing States


Coordinator, UNEP/University of Geneva/Graduate Institute Environmental Diplomacy Programme, 2005-2010.
Retired from the United Nations Environment Programme, August 2002
Director, Coral Reef Unit, Division of Environmental Conventions, United Nations Environment Programme, Geneva, Switzerland, 2000-2002
Coordinator, UN System-wide Earthwatch, United Nations Environment Programme, Geneva, Switzerland, 1992-2000
Deputy Assistant Executive Director, Division of Environment Information and Assessment, United Nations Environment Programme, Geneva, Switzerland, 1996-1998
Deputy to the Director, Oceans and Coastal Areas Programme Activity Centre, United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya, 1989-1992
Consulting ecologist to governments and international organizations, 1982-1989, including: Government of New Caledonia; South Pacific Regional Environment Programme; Kanak Cultural, Scientific and Technical Office (New Caledonia); Office of Technology Assessment, United States Congress; International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Oceans and Coastal Areas Programme Activity Centre, United Nations Environment Programme; Institut Francais de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER); Environment and Policy Institute, East-West Center; UNESCO
Regional Ecological Adviser, South Pacific Commission, Noumea, New Caledonia, 1974-1982 (organized South Pacific Regional Environment Programme)
Associate Curator (Algae), Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1970-1974, and Research Associate, 1974-1982
Visiting Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Botany, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., U.S.A., 1969-1970
Teaching Assistant, Department of Biological Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, 1965-1966


(Click on heading to see separate curriculum vitae for each topic)


Sustainable development has been a focus of my whole career even before the term was coined, as integrating environment and development has been my goal since undergraduate studies. I have advised governments of developing countries and islands since 1969, worked for intergovernmental organizations since 1974, and taken a lead in efforts to measure and monitor sustainable development with indicators. I lectured at the first Earth Day in 1970, participated in the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, was in the secretariat for the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio Earth Summit) where I helped to draft Agenda 21, and organized several parallel activities at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012. I have also written and lectured widely on sustainable development and taught postgraduate and distance-learning courses on the topic.


I have worked on indicators for more than thirty years, starting with indicators relevant to coral reefs in the early 1970s. In the 1980s I developed a set of indicators and indices for islands. After the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 called for indicators of sustainable development, I organized the first UN expert meeting to plan such indicators and helped to design the indicators for the Commission on Sustainable Development, as well as participating in two projects on sustainability indicators for the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE). I was a member of the Consultative Group on Sustainable Development Indicators (CGSDI) in the 1990s that produced the Bellagio Principles and the Dashboard of Sustainability. Other activities have included participating in the development by SOPAC of the Environmental Vulnerability Index, consultant on indices to the World Economic Forum including participating in the revision of the Environmental Sustainability Index (2005) and development of the Environmental Performance Index (2006), and contributing to the development of the Humanitarian Response Index 2007. I was a partner in a EU-funded project between universities and civil society organizations to develop values-based indicators of education for sustainable development (2008-11), and most recently a consultant to the World Bank on the design of new indicators of development.


Since the private sector is an essential partner in efforts to implement more sustainable development, I have increasingly tried to bridge the gaps between environment and economics, government and business. This has included lectures to business groups, business schools and at institutions such as the London School of Economics, my book "The Eco Principle: Ecology and Economics in Symbiosis", participation in activities of AIESEC (the association of students of business and commerce), serving on the board of ebbf - Ethical Business Building the Future, and consultancies with the World Economic Forum and the World Bank Group.


Starting with my participation in the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm 1972) and joining the South Pacific Commission in 1974, I have worked with or been employed by international organizations, including the UN and its agencies, regional intergovernmental organizations and international non-governmental organizations, for most of my career. I organized the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and helped to oversee many other Regional Seas Programmes. I have been responsible for intergovernmental meetings, including at the ministerial level, served in the secretariat for the UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio Earth Summit), acted as a task manager for the Commission on Sustainable Development for 8 years, and provided the secretariat for a plenipotentiary meeting to adopt a convention. For a decade I was responsible for coordinating environmental monitoring and assessment across the whole UN system, including organizing the Sponsors Group for the Global Observing Systems and the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partnership. For four years I coordinated and taught in the UNEP/University of Geneva/Graduate Institute Programme in Environmental Diplomacy. Most recently, I have been Co-coordinator of the UNEP Major Groups & Stakeholders Advisory Group on International Environmental Governance. This varied experience has given me unique perspectives on international environmental governance.


I have worked on islands and advised island governments for over 40 years, starting with a report to the Governor on the environmental problems of American Samoa in 1969, and continuing with work on islands and coral reefs across the Caribbean. In 1974 I moved to New Caledonia as Regional Ecological Adviser to 22 island countries and territories in the Pacific, and organized the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). I led the IUCN Islands Task Force in the 1980s, reviewed the protected areas system in Oceania, and prepared an Island Directory for IUCN and UNEP. As Deputy Director of the UNEP Oceans and Coastal Areas Programme I helped organize regional seas programmes including all the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). In the secretariat for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development I was responsible for drafting the islands section of Agenda 21, and then contributed to organizing the Barbados conference of SIDS in 1994, as well as participating in the follow-up Mauritius International Meeting in 2005. I maintain an islands database, and am a founding board member of the Global Islands Network.


The oceans have been part of my life from my childhood in coastal California, and I naturally turned to the sea as a marine biologist, studying at Stanford University's marine station on Monterey Bay, California, at the Friday Harbor Laboratories of the University of Washington, and at the University of California at Santa Barbara where the whole campus is on the beach. The Smithsonian Institution gave me opportunities to research the complex ecology of coral reefs while diving on reefs all over the world, and in my many years advising the governments of the Pacific Islands, the issues of land and sea were totally integrated. At UNEP I developed and managed intergovernmental oceans and coastal areas programmes, supported oceans assessments, coordinated efforts to conserve marine mammals, and formulated activities to protect the marine environment from land-based activities. In the UNCED secretariat, I was responsible for the final drafting of the oceans and coastal areas chapter of Agenda 21. For the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partnership, I led the development of a Coral Reef Sub-theme and contributed to a Coastal Theme report. My last UN assignment was to lead international efforts to save the coral reefs of the world.


Much of my professional career has been devoted to the ecology, management and conservation of coral reefs and associated ecosystems. Starting with long-term reef monitoring surveys in American Samoa in 1969, some highlights of my coral reef activities have been the organization (with Ian Macintyre, Klaus Rützler and Steve Smith) of the first international integrated coral reef research programme and establishment of the Smithsonian field station on the Belize Barrier Reef in the early 1970s, preparation of the first simple coral reef monitoring methodology, founding council member of the International Society for Reef Studies, participation in all but two of the International Coral Reef Symposia, and before my retirement first Director of the UNEP Coral Reef Unit, one of the organizers of the International Coral Reef Action Network, and co-leader of the Coral Reef theme team for the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partnership.


My original scientific training was in marine botany and ecology, and in my first position as curator of algae at the United States National Museum of Natural History, my research focused on the roles of algae in the coral reef ecosystem. While my interests have broadened over the years, I have maintained my membership in the principal phycological societies and followed the literature to stay generally abreast of the field.


From birding in primary school through an honors project in biodiversity under Peter Raven as an undergraduate to surveys of regional and national biodiversity and establishment of protected areas in the Pacific, biodiversity conservation has been a lifelong interest. My experience has ranged from research and theory through international legislation and protected area design to practical aspects of nature conservation at the community level. A life member of the Sierra Club since 1964, I have collaborated with many non-governmental conservation organizations and IUCN, assisted governments, and organized regional and international conservation and protected area programmes.


I have been interested in education ever since teaching summer remedial classes for primary school students as a college student, and have frequently had occasion to develop educational and training programmes in support of my work for governments and international organizations. This has ranged from curriculum materials for primary and secondary schools and training materials in rural environmental management for use in village areas through films and other supporting audiovisual materials to in-service training programmes for professionals and graduate level university courses. I have designed and taught programmes for certificates of advanced studies in sustainable development, environmental diplomacy, and management of development projects, and on-line courses in sustainable development. Now that I am retired, I am particularly interested in sharing my experience with younger generations, and occasionally lecture to primary and secondary school classes as well as university courses and workshops.


As a scientist and a Bahá'í, I have always been interested in the harmony of the two great knowledge systems that are science and religion, so complementary yet too often antagonistic. I have tried to show the value of science to religious groups and the importance of values to scientists, exploring the ethical dimensions of our over-materialistic society and issues such as climate change. This has included over forty year's experience in inter-religious dialogue, particularly in the area of environment and sustainable development. Some highlights have been participating for the UN in the World Summit on Religions and Conservation at Windsor Castle in 1995, acting as a rapporteur for the Orthodox Church's Conference on Religion, Science and the Environment: The Black Sea in Crisis in 1997, contributing to the series of Klingenthal Symposia on Ecology, Ethics and Spiritualities, speaking on a panel on ecology and religion at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Barcelona in 2004, participating for the Bahá'í International Community in the Windsor Celebration of religious action plans on climate change with Prince Phillip and Ban Ki-moon in 2009, and contributing to the debate on ethics and climate change at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, also in 2009. I helped to found the International Environment Forum, a Bahá'í-inspired professional organization for environment and sustainable development. One special interest has been the relationship of traditional cultures and belief systems to sustainable environmental management. Another has been to develop values-based indicators. I have also lectured and written widely on these topics.


Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1971. Development, form and environment in the brown alga Zonaria farlowii (Dictyotales). Botanica Marina 14:76-112 (1971). [Integrated analysis of the relationships between cellular organization, morphology and ecology in a marine alga]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1973. Surface area in ecological analysis: quantification of benthic coral reef algae. Marine Biology 23:239-249. [Quantitative analysis of complex reef surfaces with a discussion of their ecological significance]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon, B.C. Patton, S.V. Smith and J.C. Zieman, Jr. (eds.). 1973. A preliminary coral reef ecosystem model. Atoll Research Bulletin 172:7-36. [Results of a working group of 80 scientists planning a systems model of a coral reef ecosystem]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon, and Austin Lamberts. 1977. Environmental impact on a Samoan coral reef: a resurvey of Mayor's 1917 transect. Pacific Science 31(3):309-319. (with) [Quantitative analysis of changes on a coral reef over 60 years]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1980. Regional ecosystems survey of the South Pacific area. South Pacific Commission, Noumea. Technical Paper 179. 99 p. [Classification and analysis of the distribution of island ecosystems in Oceania]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon, and Ian Baumgart. 1982. The state of the environment in the South Pacific. p. 47-71. In Report of the Conference on the Human Environment in the South Pacific, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, 8-11 March 1982. South Pacific Commission, Noumea, New Caledonia. Reprinted as UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies No. 31. UNEP, 1983. [Summary of the environmental problems in the tropical Pacific Islands]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1985. Traditional environmental management in New Caledonia: a review of existing knowledge. South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Topic Review 18. South Pacific Commission, Noumea. 17 p. Revised in 1989 as Traditional environmental knowledge and resource management in New Caledonia. In R.E. Johannes (ed.), Traditional Ecological Knowledge: a Collection of Essays. IUCN, Gland and Cambridge. 64 p. Dahl1989a and [Review of the aspects of traditional island culture concerned with resource management and the environment]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1986. Review of the protected areas system in Oceania (including Oceania island list). International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Gland and Cambridge. 73 + 239 p. [Summary of the status of conservation of species and ecosystems on the islands of the South Pacific, including a more quantitative system for evaluating conservation importance and human impact]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1990. Unless and until: a Baha'i focus on the environment. Baha'i Publishing Trust, London. 96 p. [Relates environmental issues to future development of human society] (also published in Azerbaijani, Russian, Spanish and Italian (as Ecoesperanza))

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1991. IUCN/UNEP Island Directory. Regional Seas Directories and Bibliographies, No. 35, UNEP, Nairobi. 573 p. [Compiles geographic, ecological and socio-economic data on some 2,000 islands, with comparative tables]. Revised electronic version (1998): and

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1996. The ECO Principle: Ecology and Economics in Symbiosis. Zed Books Ltd, London and New Jersey, and George Ronald, Oxford. 174 p. (1996). [Systems analysis of economics from an ecological perspective, with proposals for new economic and social paradigms] (also published in Portuguese and Spanish)

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1997. "The Big Picture: Comprehensive Approaches - Introduction." Chapter 2, p. 69-83 in Bedrich Moldan, Suzanne Billharz and Robyn Matravers (eds), Sustainability Indicators: A Report on the Project on Indicators of Sustainable Development. Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment, SCOPE 58. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester. [overview of use of indicators to measure sustainability]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 2000. Using indicators to measure sustainability: recent methodological and conceptual developments. Marine and Freshwater Research 51(5): 427-433 (2000). [Review of indicator approaches relevant to fisheries sustainability]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 2002. The Challenge of Sustainable Development and Prosperity. Paris, European Baha'i Business Forum, 2002. [relates sustainable development to economics in a business perspective]. (also translated into French and Bulgarian).

Dahl, Arthur Lyon, Alan E. Strong and theme team. 2003. IGOS Coral Reef Sub-theme Report. Published for Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) Partnership by NOAA, Silver Springs, Maryland, USA. [Strategy for the future development of remote sensing and in situ observations of coral reefs] Download pdf or IGOS Coral Reef Subtheme Report

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 2004. The competitive edge in environmental responsibility, p. 103-110. In Michael E. Porter, Klaus Schwab, Xavier Sala-i-Martin and Augusto Lopez-Claros, The Global Competitiveness Report 2004-2005. World Economic Forum. Palgrave Macmillan, Houndsmill, UK and New York. [analyzes business leaders' attitudes to the environment in over 100 countries and demonstrates the positive benefits to business from environmentally-responsible behavour]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon, and Augusto Lopez-Claros. 2006. The impact of information and communications technologies on the economic competitiveness and social development of Taiwan. p. 107-118 in Soumitre Dutta, Augusto Lopez-Claros and Irene Mia, The Global Information Technology Report 2005-2006: Leveraging ICT for Development. INSEAD and World Economic Forum. Palgrave Macmillan, Houndsmill, UK and New York. [explains the amazing transformation of the Taiwanese economy and society over 50 years]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 2007. Climate Change and its Ethical Challenges, p. 157-172. In The Baha'i World 2005-2006: An International Record. Haifa: Baha'i World Centre. [explores the ethical implications of climate change]

Depraetere, Christian, and Arthur Lyon Dahl. 2007. Unravelling the puzzling world of islands. Chapter 2 in G. Baldacchino (ed.), A World of Islands: An Island Studies Reader. Malta & Canada, Agenda Academic and Institute of Island Studies, 2007. [provides a geographic overview of islands in all the world's oceans and their significance for human settlement and dispersal]

Hak, Tomas, Bedrich Moldan and Arthur Lyon Dahl (eds). 2007. Sustainability Indicators: A Scientific Assessment. SCOPE Vol. 67. Washington, D.C., Island Press, including Chapter 2 "Challenges to sustainability indicators" (with Bedrich Moldan), Chapter 3 "Meeting Conceptial Challenges" (with Sylvia Karlsson et al.) and Chapter 10 "Integrated Assessment and Indicators", plus section introductions. [reviews the state of the art of sustainability indicators and future challenges for their development as guides to policy making]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 2008. Overview of environmental assessment landscape at national level: State of state-of-the-environment reporting: Note by the Executive Director. UNEP/GC.25/INF/12/Add.1, 45 p. [A review of all national environmental assessment and reporting since 1992, based on 196 country profiles and an inventory of 1700 reports, with lessons learned]

Hak, Tomas, Bedrich Moldan and Arthur Lyon Dahl. 2012. Editorial. Ecological Indicators, vol. 17, p. 1-3. June 2012. [Introduction as guest editors of the special journal issue on sustainability indicators]

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 2012. Achievements and gaps in indicators for sustainability. Ecological Indicators, vol. 17, p. 14-19. June 2012. [A look forward at needs for developing indicators at multiple levels of decision making]

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Last updated April 2012