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Friday, November 21, 2008

Earth Charter

The Earth Charter is a declaration of fundamental values and principles from Earth Charter International that it considers as necessary for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. Created by a large global consultation process, and endorsed by thousands of organizations representing millions of individuals, the Charter's stated purpose is to inspire in all peoples a sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family and the larger living world. It calls upon humanity to help create a global partnership at a critical juncture in history. The Earth Charter's ethical vision proposes that environmental protection, human rights, equitable human development, and peace are interdependent and indivisible. The Charter claims to provide a new framework for thinking about and addressing these issues.


The idea of a Charter originated in 1987, when the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development called for a new charter to guide the transition to sustainable development. In 1992, the need for a charter was urged by then-Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, but the time for such a declaration was not right. The Rio Declaration became the statement of the achievable consensus at that time. In 1994, Maurice Strong (Chairman of the Earth Summit) and Mikhail Gorbachev, working through organizations they each founded (Earth Council and Green Cross International respectively), restarted the Earth Charter as a civil society initiative, with the help of the Government of the Netherlands. The initial drafting and consultation process drew on hundreds of international documents.

Drafting of the Charter

The Earth Charter was created through an open and participatory worldwide consultation process.[citation needed] Many thousands of people and hundreds of organizations contributed to the drafting process. The drafting of the text was overseen by the independent Earth Charter Commission, which was convened by Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev with the purpose of developing a global consensus on values and principles for a sustainable future. The Commission continues to serve as the steward of the Earth Charter text.

The Earth Charter was completed in March 2000 and launched in a special ceremony at The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, on 29 June 2000. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands attended the ceremony. The Charter has since then been formally endorsed by thousands of organizations representing millions of people, including the UNESCO Conference of Member States, the World Conservation Union of IUCN, national government ministries, national and international associations of universities, and hundreds of cities and towns in dozens of countries. It has also been endorsed by tens of thousands of individuals, and publicly supported by numerous heads of state.

Preamble to the Earth Charter
“ We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. ”

General Principles

The Earth Charter urges environmental responsibility, peaceful coexistence, respect for life, democracy, and justice. It is organized into 16 general headings, each covering a general principle, as follows:

1. Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.
2. Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love.
3. Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable and peaceful.
4. Secure Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future generations.
5. Protect and restore the integrity of Earth's ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.
6. Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.
7. Adopt patterns of production, consumption and reproduction that safeguard Earth's regenerative capacities, human rights and community well-being.
8. Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.
9. Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social and environmental imperative.
10. Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.
11. Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care and economic opportunity.
12. Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.
13. Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision-making, and access to justice.
14. Integrate into formal education and lifelong learning the knowledge, values and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.
15. Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.
16. Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence and peace.


The Earth Charter has been publicly endorsed, recognized, or supported by people and organizations across a wide range of the political spectrum, from conservative to liberal, as well as from all major religious traditions. has received support from business corporations, grassroots activists, universities, governments, and global non-governmental organizations. Overall, reaction to the document can be characterized as overwhelmingly positive.

However, the Charter has also received opposition from many groups and governments. For example, in the United States and other countries, members of religious groups, such as the Religious Right have objected to the document on the grounds that it is secular, and espouses socialism. Some groups go so far as to complain that it contains no reference to the doctrines of Judeo-Christianity.[citation needed] In addition, some conservatives cite an informal comment by Mikhail Gorbachev that the document is "a kind of Ten Commandments", and point to the fact that at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, a copy of the document was placed symbolically in an "Ark of Hope" -- an independent project by the American artist Sally Linder. Some members of the American Religious Right infer from these incidents that the Charter is a proposed replacement for the Ten Commandments, and part of a conspiracy to establish a New World Government that replaces National Sovereignty.

Earth Charter International, the organization responsible for promoting the Charter, argues in its literature that the Earth Charter is respectful and inclusive of all religious traditions. They state that the Charter itself makes no statements to support these claims of intent to supplant any of the world's religions or to create a world government. In their opinion, the Charter is simply a statement of common ethical values that recognises humanity's shared responsibility to the Earth and to each other. It is similar, in this respect, to the work of Jacques Maritain, who discovered that all human beings could agree on basic values, regardless of the many disparate beliefs that backed them.

Some Libertarians also express numerous critiques of the Charter, including a concern that the Charter's language calling for 'economic justice' is equivalent to espousing socialism. But the Charter's leadership has stated that it does not adhere to any specific political ideology, and support for the Earth Charter has come from both traditionally "left" and "right"-leaning political leaders, in many countries.

Earth Charter Youth Initiative

The Earth Charter Youth Initiative (ECYI) ( is a network of young activists, youth NGOs, and partners who share a common interest in sustainable development and the Earth Charter.

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