Never before have human beings had such far-reaching impacts
on one another's social, political, economic and cultural lives. Never
before has humankind possessed so much knowledge and power to change
Even with the immense possibilities opened up by these
ever-increasing interrelations and humankind's new potential,
unprecedented crises are emerging in many areas.
Widening economic gaps within and between nations, the
concentration of economic and political power in increasingly fewer
hands, threats to the diversity of cultures, the over-utilization of
natural resources are creating unrest and conflicts world-wide and
giving rise to deep concerns about the future of the planet : we are at
a new crossroads in human history.
And yet, the social institutions which should enable these
new challenges to be met are working less and less well. The pervasive
power of international markets is undermining the traditional role of
states. Scientific institutions, pursuing their highly specialised
interests, are increasingly less concerned to analyse and address the
interacting global issues that confront humanity. International
economic institutions have failed to turn the rising tide of
inequality. Business has tended to pursue its profit goals at the
expense of social and environmental concerns. Religious institutions
have failed in their role of addressing the new challenges faced by our
In this context, we all have a duty to assume our
responsibilities at both individual and collective levels.
This Charter maps out what these responsibilities are and how
they can be exercised. It is a first step towards developing a
democratic global governance based on human responsibilities and a
legal framework within which to exercise them.
The growing interdependence between individuals, between
societies, and between human beings and nature heightens the effects of
human behaviour on both their immediate and remoter social and natural
This opens up new possibilities for each of us to play a role in the
new challenges that face humankind: every human being has the capacity
to assume responsibilities; even those who feel powerless can still
link up with others to forge a collective strength.
All people are equally entitled to human rights, but their
responsibilities are proportionate to their possibilities. The more
freedom, access to information, knowledge, wealth and power someone
has, the more capable they are of assuming responsibilities, and the
greater their accountability.
Responsibilities attach not just to present and future, but
also to past actions. The burden of collectively-caused damage must be
morally assumed by the community concerned, and put practically right
as far as possible.
Since we cannot know the full consequences of our actions now
and in the future, our responsibility means also acting with great
humility, prudence and precaution.
Throughout human history, traditions of wisdom - religious
and otherwise - have taught values to guide human behaviour towards a
responsible attitude. Their basic premise - still relevant today - was
that societal transformation will not come about without self
These values include respect for all life and the entitlement
to a life of dignity, choosing dialogue over violence, compassion and
consideration, solidarity and hospitality, truthfulness and sincerity,
peace and harmony, justice and equity, choosing the common good over
And yet, there may be times when values have to be weighed
against each other when an individual or a society faces hard choices,
like the need to encourage economic development while being attentive
to environmental protection and respect for human rights.
In such cases, human responsibility dictates that none of
these imperatives should be sacrificed to any of the others. It would
be self-defeating to believe that a sustainable solution could be found
to issues of economic injustice and disregard for human rights and the
environment in isolation. Everyone must be aware of this
interconnectedness; and although their priorities may differ due to
their specific histories and circumstances, they cannot use those
priorities as an excuse for turning away from the other issues at
This is the
thinking that lies behind the following guiding principles.
Principles for the Exercise of Responsibilities
0. We are all
responsible for making sure that Human Rights are expressed through our
ways of thinking and through our actions.
1. · The full development of human beings requires meeting both
their immaterial aspirations and their material needs.
2. · Every person's dignity implies that he or she contribute to
the freedom and dignity of others.
3. · Lasting peace cannot be established without a justice
respectful of human dignity.
4. · The exercise of power can only be legitimate if it serves
the common good and if those over whom it is exercised have control
5. · In decisions regarding short-term priorities, an attempt
must be made to evaluate their long-term consequences and an attitude
of caution must be adopted.
6. · Consumption of natural resources to meet human needs must
be accompanied by an active protection of the environment.
7. · The pursuit of economic prosperity through market
mechanisms must include concern for an equitable sharing of wealth.
8. · While taking advantage of the dynamism of the market
system, non-market exchanges must be promoted, as they are
indispensable for the development of human beings.
9. · Freedom of scientific research implies accepting the
limitations of ethical criteria.
10. · Education oriented toward excellence and based on
competition must be offset by education for solidarity and for peace
11. · To face today's and future challenges, it is just as
important to unite in action as to protect cultural diversity and take
advantage of its wealth.