Bahai News - The charter for a responsible, plural and united world: Its origin, purpose and process

The charter for a responsible, plural and united world: Its origin, purpose and process

What would a charter for a responsible, plural and united world be like? Why is it necessary and what purposes would it serve? Which are the requirements for its content? How should it be drawn up? By whom and how could it be approved? What practical effect might it have? Here we shall attempt to answer these and other questions. What is a charter for a responsible, plural and united world?

Since it was drawn up in the framework of an international citizens' initiative - the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World - the title as such comprises a whole programme.

A charter is a fundamental agreement between the parties involved. It is a reference document, more important than a constitution, than the law and laws. A charter is a document which can be signed, and by means of which individuals, countries and institutions commit themselves.

It is a reference document with which they can identify in a double sense: with the content of the charter and with others to whom they are committing themselves.

A charter for. It is not a reference document in the abstract sense of a collection of ethical principles, but a charter with a purpose. It is for the sake of a responsible, plural and united world. The criterion for evaluating it is therefore not only the truth of what it says but also, and above all, its usefulness: will such a charter contribute to progress towards a more responsible, more diverse world marked by greater solidarity? In some sense, the charter unites its signatories around this common goal. In this way it creates relations with others.

A charter for a world. So it has its place beyond the nations, even the United Nations in which the international order found expression at the end of the second world war. "World" means that it comprises both the relationships within humankind and the relationships between humankind and the biosphere. "World" implies a specific reference to the ongoing process of globalization, to which we shall come back. It takes a stand on the nature of globalization. "World" means that it has its place, on the one hand, beyond the rights and dignity of individuals contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and beyond peace between the nations contained in the charter of the United Nations, on the other. It embraces them within a greater whole: a responsible, plural and united world.

A charter for a responsible world. In this case, a responsible human race. Right from the beginning, the charter refers to a new, considerably broader definition of responsibility. Firstly, it is not only concerned about responsible individuals but about a responsible world, a responsible human race. It recognizes the collective dimension of responsibility, because the impact on society and the environment is to a large extent the consequence of the sum total of our behaviour.

Responsibility also refers to the possibility of awareness. When trying to deny one's responsibility one can always claim, "I did not know" - to which the reply is, "It was possible to know". This is the responsibility characteristic of consumers, scientists, shareholders, company directors and professionals. They can always claim they were not aware of the impact of their actions, but responsibility is broadened to include the duty of becoming aware.

This responsibility then relates to the impact of an action irrespective of the intention behind it or the precise nature of the action. This kind of responsibility does not question the purity of intentions or the legality of the action performed; it is only concerned about the result. Such a view of responsibility is essential for all who shape or guide public opinion. They cannot limit their own responsibility to the internal deontology of their context. The purity of the scientist's intentions, his or her scrupulous attention to truth, however necessary, does not exhaust the impact of his or her action and hence the question of his or her responsibility.

Responsibility also refers to the possibility of enjoying the freedom to act and the possibility of exercising power. As with awareness, it is always a matter of potential and not only of the "reality" of the situation. One can always claim - and we frequently do as ordinary citizens, scientists, company directors and shareholders "There was nothing I could do about it", "I was totally impotent in the face of mechanisms beyond my control." To take an example from the university, where this point is very important: every university and faculty can consider itself dependent on some institutional or economic logic beyond its control; but this does not lessen its responsibility to do everything possible to build up networks able to speak out on crucial issues facing society today. As early as 1993, with the platform for a responsible and united world, we set out this principle of responsibility, underlining the fact that each person's responsibility is involved in proportion to their knowledge and their power. Similarly, our responsibility is engaged in proportion to the rights which we enjoy.

A charter, finally, for a plural and united world. The significance of the two terms "plural" and "united" is that both relate simultaneously to stating a fact and affirming a value.

A plural world. This recognizes the diversity of the world with its societies, cultures and ecosystems. But this diversity is also claimed as a right, the right to difference, and as a value for the community as a whole: the right to be what one is, and the diversity of humankind and of the biosphere as wealth and common property.

A united world has the same double meaning. Solidarity has both a technical and moral content: a technical content in the sense of the solidarity of a building: the recognition of being part of a whole, in which the relations with others determine the solidity of the whole. It has a moral content in the sense that solidarity is not charity given to the poor but rather the awareness that what affects others, positively or negatively, affects oneself.

Thus a charter for a responsible, plural and united world is one element contributing to a transition from the present state of a globalized society to an awareness of a world community information.

Why a charter? Necessity, purpose, requirements

A gradual growth of collective awareness and a diversity of initiatives

The idea of the need for a "third pillar" in international life, in addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which emphasizes the dignity of individuals and their rights) and to the Charter of the United Nations (with its emphasis on peace and development), is neither specific to the alliance nor new. The need for a third pillar emerged with the beginning of an awareness of environmental problems. It was during the follow-up to the first world conference on the environment at Stockholm in 1972 that the initial discussion took place of the idea of a third pillar, an earth charter. At the time the interest focused mainly on the relations between humankind and the biosphere. This idea was taken up again at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. The organizers hoped that the summit would be an opportunity for the states to reach agreement on an earth charter of this kind. Their hopes were dashed.

The need for a third pillar is also based on three other considerations: the profound transformation of the state of the world, to which I shall return; the essentially Western nature of the first two pillars; and the necessity of balancing talk about rights by talk about responsibilities.

A need linked with the changes in the state of the world over the past fifty years These changes have had a considerable effect on the nature of the problems involved, the scale of the problems, the role of the actors and the importance of dialogue between different civilizations.

The first two pillars of international life, especially the United Nations charter, were drawn up in an intellectual and philosophical context which Kimon Valaskakis, the former Canadian ambassador to the UNO, described as the "Westphalian order". He meant by this a system of thought resulting from the treaty of Westphalia which put an end to the thirty years war in the 17th century. This Westphalian order sets the sovereignty of the state above all else, confines the nation and its economy to a specific territory, and makes relations between states the sole foundation for international relations. But, on all these levels, the changes which the world has undergone in the past fifty years have been considerable.

a) The sovereignty of the nation-state has lost much of its meaning. While it was still the main political actor and enjoyed a quasi-monopoly in defining and managing the public good, its legitimacy unquestioned, the nation-state has been the primary aim and the first beneficiary of the many struggles for independence. But today, each of its traditional characteristics is subject to major questioning: the main attributes of its sovereignty have disappeared, bureaucratic methods are criticized, corruption has spread and is often notorious in the highest spheres of politics and government, and other actors, both public and private, are competing with it for the management of the public good.

b) The nation-states are no longer the only, nor even the dominant, actors controlling the world. Actors who \do not belong to the traditional political scene now occupy the front of the international stage. On the one hand there are the multinational enterprises and, on the other, the multinational non-governmental organizations. Both are active on a world scale and intervene in realms which traditionally belonged to the public sector, such as the management of natural resources or even diplomacy and security. Both have equipped themselves with means for observation and expertise on an international scale, often more sophisticated, and more credible in the eyes of the population, than those of the states and the international institutions. Since they are more mobile than the public systems, have a good command of international information systems and establish joint interests with the media, companies and NGOs have become actors capable of laying down the conditions for debate and of defining the norms. Because of their impact and the nature of their activities, multinational companies and NGOs influence the nature and management of public assets. This produces a cleavage between the actors and what they handle. The old contrast between public actor and public good, on the one hand, and private actor and private property on the other no longer applies. The responsibility of the players should now relate not only to their nature but also to their influence. A private actor whose influence extends into the public realm can no longer claim his or her "private" status in order to avoid duties of a public nature.

Finally, the multinational enterprises and NGOs, the new players who dominate international life, have their own system for evaluation and sanction - shareholders and paid employees in the case of the companies, members and financial supporters for the NGOs. This situation, which is alien to the classical workings of diplomacy, implies that new control mechanisms must be found.

c) The nature of real power has changed. In an increasingly complex world, the power of expertise, and of proposing solutions and courses of action, often gains the upper hand over the decision- making power itself which belonged traditionally to politics. And this power, which comes from having expertise and being in a position to propose courses of action, is concentrated more and more in, if not monopolized by, professional bodies and techno-structures: within international institutions, states, companies, and even in the NGOs. Such professional bodies are indeed the masters of the technical language for the debate, of evaluating the risks and proclaiming the norms. Their own interests may even be opposed to the actors themselves, as can be seen in the case of civil nuclear power. The conflict of interests is all the stronger when careers cause the members of these professional bodies to circulate from one type of structure to another. These players are hard to identify because they are not tied to a particular institution, but they too have become decisive.

d) The nature of the problems has changed. Unequal access to natural resources and technologies has become more severe from year to year. The development myth, conceived just after the second world war as a strategy for the poor countries to catch up with the leaders among the developed countries, has collapsed. The consumption of natural resources now far exceeds the renewal capacities of the biosphere. The inability of the rich countries at the Earth Summit in 1992 to set out the problem of resource-- sharing clearly is a heavy burden on the future of international relations.

e) The life of society and the economy can no longer be identified with a territory or with factors of physical production. Just after the second world war, the economy, although it was already based on sophisticated scientific and technical systems, was predominantly an economy for processing and circulating goods. Since then the information revolution has taken place, spread throughout the living world by the progress of genetics and molecular biology. This information revolution is also a revolution of knowledge, with an increasing number of persons in the world having access to global knowledge and information - whether diversified or not. But the rules for sharing information and knowledge are diametrically opposed to the rules for sharing matter, because the former multiply as they are shared, whereas the latter divides when shared.

f) The impact of science and technology has grown considerably, to the extent that one can claim, as has the mathematician Nicolas Bouleau, that the essence of the risks we face today is the product not of nature but of the interaction between technological systems. This has produced a profound change in the perception of risks and of innovation.

All these changes have outdated the great implicit or explicit social contracts which came into existence just after the second world war. We may look at three examples: science, universities and development.

The social contract related to science was forged symbolically in the dialogue between the American President Franklin Roosevelt and the president of the association of American engineers, Vanevar Bush, towards the end of the second world war. Their dialogue quite clearly sets out the terms of the contract: lasting peace will depend on social cohesion; the latter will depend on growth which will depend on technical innovation which will depend for its part on basic research, on the condition that this is free and supported by the public authorities.

The social contract related to the universities is of the same kind. This can be seen very clearly, for example, in the founding document of the International Association of Universities (IAU) which underlines that research must be freely supported whatever its consequences may be. The autonomy of research workers and teachers is the final guarantee for their social utility, and this also justifies public support.

Finally development, the central concept just after the war, is based on the guarantee that the poor countries will catch up with the rich countries by respecting the principles of modern life in the West.

All these contracts are subject to major questioning today. The extent of the impact of science and technology calls for reflection on their links with democracy and on the principle of caution; the gap between rich and poor societies and the negative consequences of the present forms of development demand a profound revision of the conceptions of modernity and of the relation between material development (the accumulation of possessions) and human development (the full development of human beings).

A necessity linked to the establishment of legitimate world governance

In the course of the past fifty years there have been numerous bloody conflicts, and international relations have been punctuated by crises. Nevertheless the two pillars of international life, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the charter of the United Nations, have provided a framework of reference and made possible an undeniable progress in organizing international relations. In particular, quite considerable intellectual and legal work has been done, on the basis of the human rights declaration, with the introduction of second- and third-generation rights and with, for example, the recent establishment of the International Criminal Court.

Numerous intergovernmental or world treaties have been drawn up and ratified within most realms of international life. Nevertheless, one cannot fail to be struck by the growing gap between the extent of worldwide interdependence and the relative weakness of the regulatory mechanisms which have been established. These mechanisms are caught between the numerous agencies of the United Nations, and give rise to many contradictions between the policies adopted so that, in practice, first place is given to free trade. Progress in organizing international life is now handicapped by the absence of common foundations and by the lack of real negotiations on what is at stake globally, what are the agendas and priorities. This means that many countries, and especially those among the developing countries, do not see any real legitimacy in the workings of the international community; they find no real equity there, enjoy only a second-rate status and hence give only lip-service to membership within it.

One of the first urgent tasks is to re-establish the legitimacy of world regulations, a legitimacy extending beyond mere legality, and this is only possible by jointly defining the functions to be fulfilled by the international community, taking account of the sensitivities of the different civilizations involved, the conditions necessary for it to work, and the way in which the agenda and forms of negotiation should be drawn up. All of this presupposes a common ethical foundation which goes beyond the legal frame-work of a constitution.

The requirements of a charter for a responsible, plural and united world

The requirements for the content of a charter stem from these points, and comprise the following four elements.

a) The charter must address the major challenges to humankind in the next century. It must not be a document of the moment, limited to a particular field of human activity such as the environment, for example. In the Platform for a Responsible and United World (drawn up in December 1993), we identified a threefold crisis of new dimensions described as a "crisis in relations and interaction": between societies, between people and between human beings and their environment. The charter must provide a framework for getting to grips with this threefold crisis. The platform also points out how the powerful tools humankind has developed - science, technology and the market - tend to impose their own laws. The charter must offer solid ground for gaining control of them.

b) The earth charter must serve as a firm basis for gradually building up a legal, political, institutional and social system, creating new rules for our societies. It must enshrine general principles which can gradually be applied more specifically to the whole range of persons involved - individuals, governments, companies, and so on and spheres of human activity.

c) The earth charter is a charter of humankind's rights and responsibilities in view of the challenges of the 21 st century. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter dealt mainly with the rights of individuals and of peoples. In our time, the impact of human activity on the family of humankind and on the biosphere demands that the focus also be on the duties and responsibilities of individuals, governments and humankind as a whole, taking account of human beings, future generations, other living things, and the planet.

d) The earth charter must enshrine universal principles. Is universal applicability a practical possibility? Is it even theoretically conceivable? The question cannot be avoided. The universality of human rights is a very vexed issue. The quest for universal truths and fundamental principles common to all people often permeates the dialogue between civilizations, between philosophical and religious traditions: as human beings living on the same planet, do we not share a universal human truth?

Without underestimating the importance of this quest, which has inspired the alliance's draft of a charter, we recognize that we are faced today with a practical imperative. The world population keeps on growing; what we do has a decisive impact on the functioning of the biosphere. If we are not to be doomed to perish, we must agree on a set of principles for the joint management of the only planet we have. Formulating universal principles is now more than just a key philosophical and anthropological exercise; a statement of common principles of management has become a paramount necessity, even if we are not sure what we have in common.

A charter related to a philosophy of globalization "mondialization"

The fundamental question today concerns the very nature of the civilization which is now emerging. A real division is coming to light between two quite different views of globalization and of the humanization of world structures. The dividing line runs both upstream and downstream from the political debate in the traditional sense; it is more profound: it is a parting of the ways set before us and challenging every individual, every society, every nation and the emerging world community as a whole.

At the root of this parting of the ways is the definition of globalization itself. In the press, in speeches and debates, one can observe a revealing vagueness in the use of terms; in French mondialisation and globalisation are used interchangeably. In English and American "globalization" covers a wide diversity of phenomena: internet technology, trade and its liberalization, the universal spread of American culture, the greenhouse effect, and so on. But despite the confusion in terminology, it is becoming clear that we are dealing with two radically different matters: the process of humankind discovering its inter-relatedness with all other life forms and the planet itself, which I term (following the French) mondialisation; and globalization, an essentially economic process through which mechanisms of free trade are becoming ever more pervasive and dominant on a global scale.

"Mondialization" is the reality and awareness that humankind shares a common destiny which is both inseparable and profoundly diverse. The awareness of being together in the same boat - a boat with finite limits, a boat full of people and fragile, a biosphere in which all the parts are linked - where the urgent issue is the need to move on from having a sense of common humanity to constructing a real world community.

As for economic globalization, it is a belief, propagated mainly by the rich countries, according to which the common progress of humanity is automatically guaranteed by free trade; by converting everything into marketable goods and by the progress of science and technology.

The worldwide inter-relationships pointed to by mondialization are unavoidable, a source of crisis but also a fantastic opportunity for human progress; they are forced upon us and require us to make immense changes in our ways of thinking and our institutions. Globalization, as any economic or political doctrine, must be judged by its effects, and subjected to a critical debate about its conceptual and cultural bases and practices, not only by official bodies with a direct interest in its development but also by the nations and social groups which experience its practical effects, both negative and positive.

The dividing line runs between those who consider that "mondialization" and globalization are different aspects of one and the same reality, where "mondialization" reflects its irreversible nature and globalization its mechanisms and motive forces; and those who think that the terms point to two different realities which are certainly related, but also profoundly different: the internet is both a tool for the globalization of trade and a tool for building awareness of a common destiny.

This difference gives rise to two radically different views of how we might "humanize world structures". In the first it is merely a matter of completing globalization by correcting its imperfections, namely poverty and damage to the environment. In the second it is a question of building up a worldwide human community capable of taking charge of its own destiny and of directing critically the necessary changes in the conceptual foundations of globalization.

In a sense, for the first view it is almost possible to do without either values or governance, limiting oneself to a belief in "truths" (scientific truths, or the principle of the free market raised to the level of a natural law) and to procedures enabling these values to triumph. Our view, on the contrary, is that common ethical principles, and organizing the regulations guiding the world order, are all the more necessary. This conviction forces us to challenge the theories and concepts behind all attempts to harmonize "mondialization" and globalization.

How can such a charter be drawn up? Who must approve it?

At this point I can only retrace the procedure we have followed since the early 1990s, firstly in formulating the Platform for a Responsible and United World and then within the work of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World which developed from the platform, and was devoted to the emergence of a new system of values. From the beginning the drafting of the charter has been based on the double need for unity (establishing common foundations) and for diversity (starting from radically different cultural, linguistic, economic, political and ecological contexts). This has required spiral movement, a gradual attempt to compile elements of convergence.

The first cycle of this "repetitive" approach began at the beginning of the 1990s, increasing the number of intercultural dialogues and leading up to the "seven common values" for the 21st century stated in the Platform for a Responsible and United World.

Starting in 1995, we engaged in the second cycle through a series of "human forums". This process, led by Andre Levesque, started from the concrete, everyday realities experienced in different societies, then identified the common principles among them. This gave birth to the first draft of the Earth Charter (as it was then called) in 1997 and 1998.

Our initial objective is to create a gradual process of consensus on the charter within the Alliance. Then we envisage the charter being examined and approved by governments and the United Nations' general assembly. This approach would be in line with the spirit of the Alliance, and would correspond to a third stage in the process of building up a universal civil society.

The first stage in this second cycle was one of opposition, with "non-governmental" being defined in contrast and opposition to "governmental". The second stage could be described as one of critical accompaniment. It was typical of the 1990s: a civil society, increasingly well-organized on the international level, participated critically in the various international conferences, playing a growing role in voicing proposals and priorities, but remaining tied to the international agenda. This third stage, now beginning, presupposes a quite different goal. Following others is not enough; we must take initiatives to set the agenda itself. Resistance is not enough; we must define the changes to be introduced, and suggest what their prospects might be. Campaigns directed to specific targets are not enough; we must build alliances among the NGOs to deal with problems of extreme complexity. And in all this it is not enough to affirm the unity of the world; we must take account of the different dimensions of its diversity.

The structure of our present proposal for a charter

To understand the third cycle of our process it is helpful to be aware of the latest version of the charter for a responsible, plural and united world.

The Charter

(Proposed wording at the end of stage one - March 1999)

The earth is our one and only, irreplaceable home. Humankind, in all its diversity, belongs to the living world and is part of its evolution. Their fates are intertwined. We have inherited this earth from our forebears, and acknowledge our personal and collective responsibilities towards the human species, the living world and future generations.

Wielding power and knowledge, humankind is wreaking irreversible changes on its environment. If, through lack of foresight, greed, selfishness, thoughtlessness, pride, ignorance or indifference, we shirk our responsibilities and duties of fellowship with others and the earth, we are fated to self-destruction.

The scope and pace of change through which humankind has lived in the past century, rapid population growth, offences against the diversity of cultures and people, the steady depletion of its resources and their unequal distribution between people, inequalities between and within societies, mean that there is an urgent need for a new pact between human beings to seal their partnership in ensuring the survival and development of humankind and preservation of the planet.

This pact, intended to promote harmonious relations between people, societies, humankind and the planet, is rooted in our traditions and wisdom. It is based on five core principles:

1. There must be a balance of unity and diversity at all levels to preserve the abundance of humankind and the integrity of the planet;

2. The basis of relations and peace is acceptance of difference;

3. The exercise of freedom depends on the acceptance of constraints to preserve the common good;

4. Material betterment must serve human development;

5. Change is not an aim in itself, but a means of serving human development and preserving the planet.

The third cycle of our process started in 1999 with a stage focusing on diversities and testing the benefits of the approach. We use the expression diversities rather than diversity; the Alliance has been taking account simultaneously of "geo-cultural" diversity (different contexts), "collective" diversity (different communities and players), and "thematic" diversity (different spheres of human activity). The charter has to be tested in these three dimensions in the context of a two-way process: starting with a region of the world, community or issue to identify the principles involved, and starting with the draft charter and applying its principles to a context, community or issue.

These principles must guide the conduct of people, governments and the international community.

These were the dynamics behind the collective efforts to draft an earth charter in Africa and Asia, with the plan for "codes of conduct" for higher education, scientific activity and public authorities and applying the principles of the charter to world governance, water management, and other matters. The hope is that these efforts will spread, accelerate and be systematized in the course of the year 2000 and will lead up to a new phase of synthesis at the end of the year.

This approach which emphasizes ethics in relationships must also be linked to the crisis of "one-dimensional" human beings. The relentlessness with which our forms of reflection and power reduce human beings to only one of their dimensions can lead us only to dead ends, as is clearly shown by homo economicus. We are not merely beings inspired by "economic reason", which causes us to see only our material interests and to view progress only in terms of the unlimited accumulation of possessions. We have long been familiar with the perverse nature of one-sided development measures expressed only in terms of gross national product, that is purely and simply in increasing an interchange measured in monetary terms. Human beings are, fortunately, much more complex; they are moved by passions, they cultivate impulses and are motivated by egoism. But even in so-called "materialistic" societies the quest for the love, esteem and admiration of others are much more powerful and universal forces than the quest for material wealth - which is really seen only a means of winning this love, esteem and admiration.

The same could be said of homo scientificus, who is supposed to conceive of progress only as an unconditional accumulation of scientific knowledge in which innovation as such is good, irrespective of its effects. The challenge to the economy is the relation between being and having; the challenge to science is the relation between innovation and caution. In both cases it is not a matter of opposing the two aspects, but seeking new balances between them. In the economic field this requires us to recognize that development has not worked as intended, has not made the dream come true that the poor would catch up with the rich - on the contrary, it has increasingly tended to serve a minority. This points to the need for economic solidarity. Similarly the links between economic development and the conservation of natural resources require us to deal differently, in our forms of production, consumption and trade, with the finite resources of the planet and with the infinite resources which make up human creativity.

Similarities and differences between the charter for a responsible, plural and united world and other like-minded initiatives

As I stated at the beginning, the work of the Alliance in drafting a charter is part of a vast movement of growing awareness. Naturally our objective in this common enterprise was not to be original. That would be inconsistent with our aim of arriving at common principles. I myself was a member of the commission for drafting the earth charter, led by Maurice Strong on behalf of the Earth Council and Mikhail Gorbachev for Green Cross International. In this context I did all I could to bring these two approaches together so that they could at least be mutually enriched. Nevertheless, we must admit that the approach of the present charter differs quite considerably from the other initiatives in both process and structure. At this point in the process I would like to identify four specific features of the charter.

The first is that drafting the charter within the Alliance is only one part of a much broader process of preparing for the changes which are necessary for the century which has just begun. I believe it is essential to add the ethical approach to the broader whole. Indeed ethics is not an end in itself; it has effects on all human activities. This is a well known factor in the teaching of ethics on the professional level: the addition of specific teaching on ethics leads nowhere unless each discipline includes ethical reflection in its own field. By examining the practical questions arising in each particular context and activity, one can best identify the ethical dilemmas which are the basis for ethics themselves. It is always risky, of course, to start from abstract reflection of the moral philosophers rather than starting with the concrete dilemmas in people's lives. For example, in September 1999 we organized an inter-religious encounter in Geneva which brought together representatives of ten different religious traditions (Taoists and Confucians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, various Christian confessions, Jews, Baha'i) to reflect together on the content of a charter. But we did not proceed by questioning the participants about the ethical principles each tradition might wish to emphasize. We started, rather, from the concrete responsibility of religions in the contemporary world, asking which ethical principles applied to the religions themselves as they shoulder this responsibility.

The second specific characteristic of our charter is that it explicitly affirms the need to separate the declaration of general principles from their various applications, and stresses the importance of linking the two. For this reason the attempt to apply the charter concretely to the realms of science, higher education, business, religions and public authorities is being undertaken at the same time as the effort to spell out general principles. The main criterion for evaluating the charter and its fruits is: does it, in fact, cause divisions when it is applied to the main fields of human activity?

The third specific feature (although this one is less evident than the others) is that it continues to affirm the need for such a charter to be taken into account on the level of the United Nations. We know this will take time, and that is why it is essential for the charter not to be limited to specific contexts. We believe it should play a role parallel to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and be able progressively to influence not only legal and constitutional decisions and processes, but also the broader realms of conscience and practice within the various fields of human endeavours.

The fourth feature characteristic of our charter - as I have already underlined - is that it specially emphasizes the relations between values rather than the values themselves.

In conclusion, I am convinced that the charter for a responsible, plural and united world can play a decisive role as humankind shapes its next centuries on this planet.

* Pierre Calame is founder member of the charter for a responsible, plural and united world and director general of the Charles Leopold Mayer Foundation for the progress of humanity. This is the edited text of a presentation to the colloquium on human coexistence and sustainable development in the third millennium, Montreal, 23-27 July 2000.

©Copyright 2000, World Council of Churches

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