One Earth Community - Principles

(These in part make reference to UN document PC/78.)

1. Responsibility towards the earth as a whole.

The earth, with its diverse life forms, is a functioning whole. Whatever we humans do to the web of life we do to ourselves. States and individuals have the obligation to respect the functioning of the whole. Rights and obligations of both states and individuals need to be defined within this perspective.

2. The indivisibility of ecological justice and social justice.

We affirm the indivisibility of justice to the environment and social justice. The Earth Charter must clearly recognize that environmental destruction and injustice have systemic causes such as the dominant development model itself with its emphasis on capital intensive industrialization. The main victims of this approach to development. are the nations and peoples of the South. As relent studies and common experience have shown, women and children bear a particularly heavy share of the burdens of poverty and economic degradation. We must acknowledge the need for limits to growth and a just sharing of resources in the interests of sustainable sufficiency for all. The development of environmentally safe -technology, rooted in the needs and experiences of the people who benefit from it, becomes important in this context. Technologies already in the hands of women and traditional communities must not be overlooked.

3. Access to Education.

In addition to encouraging educators to include the environment as a subject of study, the Earth Charter should reaffirm the importance of universal access to education and the need for education to include the development of the whole person. The central role of women as educators and carriers of information and culture should be recognized. Moreover, the open access of people to information and communication on all issues including the environment should be recognized as an essential right. Education should cultivate personal responsibility and inclusive concern for humanity and the earth.

4. The rights of future generations.

Future as well as present generations of all peoples have a right to existence and to their share in the goods of the earth. This right places further responsibilities and limits on the way in which resources ought to be used in the present. These rights need to be incorporated in legislation and internationally binding agreements.

5. Participation of individuals and groups in decision-making.

All persons should have the opportunity to participate, individually and with others, in the formulation and implementation of decisions affecting their environment. Governments and institutions must be accountable to their people. This opportunity is particularly important for groups such as women indigenous peoples, children and the poor who are particularly vulnerable to the impact of environmental degradation and who are often excluded from participation in decision-making. The expertise of women as environmental managers must be recognized.

6. Establishing procedures and mechanisms permitting a transnational approach to environmental issues and disputes.

Since the environmental crisis has global dimensions there is an urgent need for increased mutual accountability of the nations in this field. As religious people we support procedures and mechanisms for avoiding environmental harm and for settling disputes among nations on environmental issues and for holding .states accountable for their actions. Increasingly internationally accepted standards of environmental performance need to be developed. In order to enforce such standards the creation of an international court or other mechanisms to deal with environmental issues should be envisaged.

7. Principle of precautionary/preventive action.

The burden of proof for the safety of activities which may potentially damage the environment should increasingly fall on the promoters of such activities. Decisions should be based upon adequate environmental, social and cultural impact assessments. The emphasis should be shifted from confidence in technological solutions to environmental damage to prevention.

8. Affirming the "polluter pays" principle as an international standard.

The cost of environmental damage, created by technological and industrial activities, is to be borne by those who cause it. The "polluter pays" principle needs to be affirmed. In particular, industrialized nations should be held responsible for the degradation which they cause.

9. Protection of bio-diversity.

The world religious community respects the diversity of species and calls for its protection. We are concerned about the extent to which the international patenting of biological life forms has led to the exploitation of the genetic resources of the South. We are also concerned about the disappearance of local food crops and medicinal plants. We have a basic responsibility to ensure that all forms of life are respected and preserved. An Earth Charter should address this problem.

10. Wealth, poverty and the peoples of the world.

The Earth Charter should address the question of the carrying capacity of the earth by dealing with factors linked to population growth, the unjust distribution of resources and the relationship between the consumption of resources of the rich and the poverty of the poor. Continuing efforts need to be made to develop new social, economic and cultural indicators of wealth and poverty.

11. The impact of militarization on environment and development.

Although the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction poses the gravest most immediate and long- term threat, other forms of military activity including, the arms trade and the transfer of military technology are also significant. War is ecologically disruptive in a number of ways. It always results in widespread, temporary and permanent destruction of both the human and physical environment, including dramatically increased consumption and destruction of natural resources. The forced migration of peoples and establishment of refugee camps can also have a significant impact on the environment well beyond the war-torn region. Conflicts must be resolved through peaceful means. Disarmament must be a priority for any action programme.

12. Fundamental change in life styles recruited.

There is a need to break the addiction to life styles based on possession and high consumption patterns. There is also an urgent need for the North to drastically reduce its levels of consumption and waste.

© 2001 by Ulrich Schmitthenner • Bildschirm-Version