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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 its environment

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 societies.

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.

Nature of responsibilities

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 environments.
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.

Exercising responsibilities

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 transformation.

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 self-interest.

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 stake.

This is the thinking that lies behind the following guiding principles.

Guiding 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 over it.
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 culture.
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.

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