The Earth Charter is a widely recognized, global consensus statement on ethics and values for a sustainable future. It was developed over a period of ten years, in what has been called the most extensive global consultation process ever associated with an international declaration.
The Earth Charter has been formally endorsed by thousands of organizations, including global institutions such as United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, and the World Conservation Union, IUCN.
The Charter's purpose is to inspire in all peoples a sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family and the larger living world. It calls upon humanity to help create a global partnership at a critical juncture in history.
The Earth Charter's ethical vision proposes that environmental protection, human rights, equitable human development, and peace are interdependent and indivisible. The Charter claims to provide a new framework for thinking about and addressing these issues.
The World Commission on Environment and Development, otherwise known as "the Brundtland Commission", called for "a universal declaration" and "new charter" to set "new norms" to guide the transition to sustainable development. Maurice Strong was a distinguished member of the Commission.
The Earth Charter was proposed during the preparatory process to the UN Conference on Environment and Development -- best known as the Earth Summit -- held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.
As Secretary General of the Conference, Maurice Strong was concerned about the need to move the agenda beyond limited priorities, set by governments, and include the resources and expertise of the vast peoples' networks on environmental issues throughout the world.
Writing in "Where on Earth are we Going?", Strong says: "As a result of endless consultation and advice, we decided to recommend to the Preparatory Committee that the conference be designed to produce a Declaration of Principles, which I proposed should be in the form of an Earth Charter, and a Plan of Action, which came to be called Agenda 21.
"The Earth Charter would reaffirm and build on the Declaration of the Stockholm Conference, IUCN's Covenant and similar statements that have emerged from other international processes, setting out basic principles to guide the conduct of nations and people toward each other and the Earth.
"The Earth Charter would set out the basic principles for the conduct of people and nations toward each other and the Earth to ensure our common future."
A draft UN Earth Charter was developed for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, but the Rio Declaration became the formal statement the Summit. However, the proposal for an Earth Charter received considerable support from global civil society.
Later, Maurice Strong initiated the creation of the Earth Council, with the goal of activating and servicing a network of non-governmental organizations, committed to implementing the results of the Earth Summit.
In 1994, Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union, working through the Earth Council and the Green Cross, joined to launch the process of developing the Earth Charter as a civil society initiative
The process quickly broadened to engage national committees, as well as civic and academic consultations, in dozens of nations. The initial drafting and consultation process also drew on hundreds of international documents, with special attention to those statements of ethical principle that were already embedded in international agreements.
Maurice Strong wishes to clarify the current status of the Earth Council and his relationship with it. As Founder of the Earth Council and its network of relationships he has not for some time exercised Executive responsibilities, which have been transferred to others, but has had a continuing advisory and supportive role. He is pleased that the Earth Council movement continues to thrive through its network of organizations and affiliates which share common purposes but are each autonomous in nature.
Experience has shown that the Earth Council Alliance which was formed to facilitate cooperation amongst the organizations of the network has not needed to perform this role as it has been more effective for them to make their own arrangements for cooperation with each other. Accordingly the Earth Council Alliance is no longer effectively functioning and it is important to clarify that each participant in the Earth Council movement is free to exercise their autonomy in their own programs and in their cooperation with others in meeting their shared commitment to the goals and purposes of the Earth Council.
Accordingly, Mr. Strong is no longer associated with the Earth Council Alliance and continues to be devoted to supporting the further development of the Earth Council movement as a network of autonomous organizations. He wishes also to record his appreciation for the contribution that Tommy Short has made to the Earth Council through their joint participation in the Earth Council Alliance and Tommy Short's continuing role as the President of the Earth Council USA.
For more information on the Earth Council Alliance, go to: http://www.earthcouncilalliance.org/
For more information on the Earth Charter, go to: http://www.earthcharter.org