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The Earth Charter refers to an international expression of ethical principles targeted at fostering sustainability and peace globally. Earth Charter International describes the Earth Charter as "an ethical framework for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family, the greater community of life, and future generations. It is a vision of hope and a call to action."
Development of the Earth Charter
There were calls for an Earth Charter at the Earth Summit in 1992 from NGOs, the WCED, some governments, individuals and the religious and spiritual community. However, the calls were not responded to by governments, many of which were concerned about the conceptualisation of ethical commitment. Nevertheless, it was clear that many groups and individuals were keen for this initiative to occur. As a result, a civil society initiative was launched in 1994, ending with the creation of the Earth Charter on 29 June, 2000 (launched by the Earth Charter Commission) at the Peace Palace in The Hague.
The Earth Charter does not create legal obligations. Rather, it has moral suasion, is a guiding ethical framework and is a source of inspiration for those who endorse and support it to fulfill the stated purpose described above in the introduction.
However, given the fact that the Earth Charter was created following an inclusive and participatory process considered to be the most expansive of any international declaration, and that it has been endorsed by more than 6,000 organisations (including governments), it is considered to have legitimacy as an international document. Some international lawyers consider that it may have the status of soft law, thereby being morally binding on governments.
Those who have formally endorsed the Earth Charter include:
- 250 universities worldwide
- the World Conservation Union of IUCN
- the Indian National Capital Territory of Delhi
- the 2001 U.S. Conference of Mayors; Mayor Hsu of Tainan; the cities of Corvallis (Oregon, USA), Berkeley (California, USA) and Pickering (Canada); 21 towns in Vermont (USA); Bournemouth Borough Council, UK
- Engineers Without Borders
- many youth organisations.
It is supported by various religious/faith-based organisations.
Focus of the Earth Charter
The Earth Charter focuses on:
- Sustainable ways to live
- Sustainable human development
- Ecological integrity
- Eradication of poverty
- Equitable economic development
- Respect for human rights
These focal points are viewed as interdependent and indivisible. To achieve this, the Earth Charter provides an integrated ethical framework that is focused on transitioning to a sustainable future.
Getting involved with the Earth Charter
Everyone is encouraged to participate in learning about, sharing information on and getting involved in activities related to and promotion of the Earth Charter. To this end, you can develop and run your own Earth Charter activities, with some help from the Action Guidelines for the Decentralised Expansion of the Earth Charter Movement.
- Action Guidelines can be found at: http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/content/pages/Action-Guidelines.html
Note: It would be good to see this section expanded into an article of its own, setting out the Action Guidelines and making suggestions for how individuals, community groups and regional organisations could support and implement the Earth Charter locally, as well as encouraging sharing of experiences. If this does occur, please add the link from this parent article.
Sources and citations
- Read the Earth Charter at: http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/content/pages/Read-the-Charter.html; it can also be downloaded in a language of your preference from this location.
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