Earth Charter final draft issued

Wangari Maathai, Maurice Strong and Peter Adriance in The Hague at the official launch of the final draft of the Earth Charter

PARIS - After eight years of deliberations, involving more than 100,000 people in at least 50 countries, the Earth Charter Commission issued a final version of the Earth Charter after a meeting here 12-14 March 2000.

The Charter is designed to be a universal statement of ethical and environmental principles that will guide the conduct of people and nations towards a peaceful, just and sustainable future.

The Commission, which is composed of some 25 leaders in business, politics, religion, education and the environment, hopes the Charter will be adopted by the United Nations and regarded as a primary document on a par with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The preamble offers both a stirring vision and a grave warning.

"We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future," the Charter begins. "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."

The Charter also emphasizes humanity's "universal responsibility" to and for everyone and all life, stating "we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities."

"We are at once citizens of different nations and of one world in which the local and global are linked," the Charter says. "Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature."

Fewer than 2500 words in length, the final version of the Charter spells out a broad code aimed at promoting "respect and care for the community of life," restoring "the integrity of Earth's ecological systems," encouraging "social and economic justice," and upholding "democracy, nonviolence and peace."

It states, for example, "that all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings."

It urges an "open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired" and "support [for] international scientific and technical cooperation on sustainability, with special attention to the needs of developing nations."

According to a statement from the Earth Council, which has managed the process of drafting the Charter, the "focus will now move to using the Earth Charter as an education tool in formal and non-formal education, and as the basis for business and professional codes of conduct and national development plans."

"The Earth Charter is a declaration of interdependence and responsibility and an urgent call to build a global partnership for sustainable development," said the Council. "The principles of the Earth Charter are closely interrelated. Together, they provide a conception of sustainable development and set forth fundamental guidelines for achieving it."

Throughout the decade-long initiative, the Bahá'í International Community has been an active international partner in the drafting process, giving input, hosting and participating in meetings to solicit comments, and serving on various Earth Charter committees.

"The Earth Charter has become the definitive earth ethics declaration," said Peter Adriance, who has followed the Charter process for the Bahá'í International Community since its inception. "The drafting exercise has been going on for nearly a decade and it has reached thousands of people in virtually every sector of society. The document was born out of a consultative, consensus-based process that gives it a legitimacy around the world."

Click here to read the final draft of The Earth Charter

For more information, link to www.earthcharter.org