Other Charters

The Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities is not an isolated action. It is but one facet of a massive collective attempt to fill a gaping void in the law and in the international community. Many other charters exist and can be divided into four categories: environmental charters, charters prompted by the interdependence of societies; charters focussed on the business world; charters inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities.

1. Environmental charters

At the very first international conference on the environment in 1972 it was recognised that neither the UN Charter nor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the international community’s two foundational documents – referred to the environment or to the disastrous effects that human activity could have on the biosphere. This gave rise to the idea of a ‘third pillar’, at the time called the Earth Charter. Many charter projects were put forward, in anticipation of the Earth Summit in Rio. It seemed that such a charter could not focus exclusively on the environment. The most successful project was the collaborative work of Michaïl Gorgatchev, President of Green Cross International and Maurice Strong, Secretary General of the Earth Summit in Rio.

2. Charters prompted by the interdependence of societies

Another group of charters and declarations emanated from the fact that although the UN affirmed state sovereignty, there was no mention of the interdependence between societies. Helmut Schmitt (former Chancellor of Germany) and the Interaction Council were the first to draft a ‘Declaration of Human Responsibilities’. One of the most successful projects has been the ‘Declaration of Interdependence’, modelled on (and extension of) the ‘American Declaration of Independence’, initiated by Michel Rocard (former Prime Minister of France) and the Collegium International.

There have been other attempts at creating a Charter of Rights and Responsibilities for Humanity, the most recent being that presented by Corinne Lepage (former French Minister of the Environment) at the request of France’s President François Hollande for COP21.

3. Charters focussed on the business world and their legal framework

A third group of charters concerns the responsibility of multinational corporations and investors, but also extends to other sectors. These comprise the various ISO standards, including the most recent and ambitious ISO26000 standard, which addresses social responsibility as well as guiding ethical principles for companies and investors, as set out by the OECD and the UN. These principles, often included in ethical charters of companies and investors, are having a growing impact, as certain courts consider them an integral component of the relationship these economic players have with their stakeholders. Extending the notion of power of influence in order to determine the responsibility companies have towards their subsidiaries and subcontractors and their ‘duty of care’, a legal concept which is being progressively codified in France and the UK, is making the role of this third group even more instrumental.

4. Charters inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities

Created as part of the movement driving the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World and Alliance-Respons, these charters vary in status and in their drafting processes, and have been adopted by journalists, corporate executives, residents, scientists, universities, wealth managers and fisherpeople.