The Earth Charter at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, Bangkok 2004 Prepared by Mirian Vilela (Executive Director, Earth Charter Initiative),
Ron Engel and Brendan Mackey (Co-chairs, IUCN Commission on Environmental Law Ethics Specialist Group)
Introduction This report describes the activities and accomplishments of the Earth Charter Initiative and its supporters at the 3rd World Conservation Congress of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) held in Bangkok, Thailand, 15 - 25 November2004.
The outstanding accomplishment was the adoption by the Congress of Resolution WCC3.022 Endorsement of the Earth Charter which reads as follows:
“RECALLING Recommendation 2.96 Earth Charter and Draft International Covenant, adopted by the 2nd Session of the World Conservation Congress (Amman, 2000), calling for members at the 3rd Session to consider a response to the Earth Charter;
NOTING the strong ethical purpose that inspired the formation of IUCN in 1948 and continues today in the IUCN Vision of ‘A just world that values and conserves nature’;
FURTHER NOTING the ethical leadership shown by IUCN over the past 50 years, highlighted by the World Charter for Nature (adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982), Caring for the Earth: A Strategy for Sustainable Living (1991), and the Draft International Covenant on Environment and Development;
ACKNOWLEDGING the international community’s commitment to the role of ethics in sustainable development made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2003) in the Plan of Implementation, paragraph 6;
MINDFUL of the need for environmental programme and policy to reflect shared values inclusive of respect for cultural diversity and the greater community of life, ecological integrity, social and economic justice, democracy, non-violence and peace;
APPRECIATING the decade-long consultation process that generated the Earth Charter, involving recommendations from communities and experts in all regions of the world and close collaboration with the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law;
ENCOURAGED by the decision of the UNESCO General Conference to recognize the Earth Charter as an important ethical framework for sustainable development and to utilize it as an educational instrument for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, and noting also the decision of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication to use the Earth Charter in its future programs; and
CONVINCED that promulgation of global ethics based on shared values is essential to create a sustainable and healthy future for ‘people and nature’ in our ‘one world’;
The World Conservation Congress at its 3rd Session in Bangkok, Thailand, 17-25 November 2004:
1. ENDORSES the Earth Charter as an inspirational expression of civil society’s vision for building a just, sustainable and peaceful world;
2. RECOGNIZES, consistent with IUCN’s mission, the Earth Charter as an ethical guide for IUCN policy and will work to implement its principles through the IUCN Intersessional Programme;
3. RECOMMENDS that the Earth Charter be used by IUCN to help advance education and dialogue on global interdependence, shared values, and ethical principles for sustainable ways of living; and
4. ENCOURAGES member organizations and states to examine the Earth Charter and to determine the role the Earth Charter can play as a policy guide within their own spheres of responsibility.”
This report concludes with a summary of the opportunities this action now provides for further advancing the vision and principles of the Earth Charter throughout IUCN and the international community.
The World Conservation Union The World Conservation Union is the conservation movement’s most representative and influential international body. The Union has over 1,000 member organizations from some 140 countries including 77 states, 114 government agencies, and 800-plus national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). More than 10,000 internationally recognized scientists and experts from more than 180 countries volunteer their services to its six global commissions. Its 1000 staff members at the Secretariat in Switzerland and in other offices around the world are working on some 500 projects. IUCN is the only organization with Observer status in the United Nations General Assembly providing expertise on the conservation of nature, biodiversity and natural resources, and the only democratic forum in which governments and non-government organizations can engage together to frame the global conservation agenda.
The World Conservation Congress is the general policy-setting body of IUCN and takes place every three or four years. The Bangkok Congress had 4,899 registered participants. The decision-making center of the Congress is the Members Business Assembly which (1) passes resolutions that define IUCN policies, (2) recommends actions to be taken by governments and other national and international organizations, (3) manages the business of the Union (including the adoption of the Programme for the next intersessional period and the election of President, Regional Councilors, Commission Chairs, and other officers of the governing World Conservation Council), and (4) debates how best to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature so as to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. The assembly also provides valuable networking opportunities for individuals, organizations and governments. The Business Assembly is divided into government and non-government “houses.” To be successful, a motion must achieve a majority of votes in each house.
The Business Assembly met in Bangkok 21-25 November. Prior to the Business Assembly, two other important sets of events took place. From 15 -17 November IUCN's six commissions met and held workshops on topics germane to their fields of expertise. From 18 - 20 November the World Conservation Forum sought to provide a comprehensive assessment of the state of biodiversity on the planet. The Forum was divided into four themes: (1) Ecosystem Management; (2) Health, Poverty and Conservation; (3) Biodiversity Loss and Species Extinction; (4) Markets, Business and the Environment. Activities included Global Synthesis Workshops, Conservation Platforms, Training Sessions, Roundtables and various cultural events.
Earth Charter Leadership at Bangkok In addition to the preparations and activities that led directly to the adoption of the Earth Charter Resolution at the Members Business Assembly on 24 November, the Earth Charter Initiative and its partners made presentations at numerous Congress venues and participated in national and regional caucuses and contact groups, informal discussions with delegates, and plenary debates. The information and arguments offered on these occasions helped validate the Earth Charter in the eyes of the delegates and were therefore essential to the advancement of the Charter resolution at the Congress. In addition, a significant workshop on ethics, sustainable development, and the Earth Charter was held at Mahidol University the day following the Congress.
We cannot name all the persons who volunteered their help at Bangkok and made this historic event possible. However, we do want to note the contributions of the following persons who joined with Mirian Vilela and Mohit Mukherjee of the Earth Charter Secretariat staff and Klaus Bosselmann, Ron Engel, Michael Jeffery, Brendan Mackey, and Prue Taylor of the Ethics Specialist Group (ESG) of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law (CEL) to help move the Earth Charter motion successfully through the Congress proceedings.
IUCN officers who played key roles included: Christine Milne (IUCN Council Member from Oceania, now IUCN Vice President) whose leadership was essential to steering the Earth Charter motion through the IUCN Council and the Congress Resolutions and Programme Committees; Nick Robinson (then Chair of the Commission on Environmental Law) whose contributions to the Earth Charter drafting process, initiation of the Ethics Specialist Group in 2000, and support for the Earth Charter resolution throughout the preparatory process leading up to the Congress were crucial; Yolanda Kakabadse (then President of IUCN and member of the Earth Charter Commission) who referenced the Earth Charter in her presidential report, ensured the motion was dealt with properly and in accordance with IUCN rules, and helped negotiate the final resolution text; Parvez Hassan (former chair of CEL and candidate for the presidency of IUCN) who devoted many years to the drafting of the International Covenant for Environment and Development and made a substantial contribution to the drafting of the Earth Charter, and who spoke repeatedly on their behalf at the Congress; Mohammed Valli Moosa (former Minister of the Environment of South Africa, elected President of IUCN at Bangkok) who eloquently spoke on behalf of the Earth Charter as providing a new ethical vision for the planet; Wolfgang Burhenne (founder and first chairman, IUCN Commission on Environmental Law) and Francoise Burhenne-Guilmin (Environmental Law Center, Bonn) whose advice on Congress procedures and wording of the Resolution was invaluable.
Alec Marr and Virginia Young (The Wilderness Society Australia), Eugenia Wong and Luis Diego Schumacher (IUCN Costa Rica Committee), Carlos Manuel Rodríguez (Minister of Environment, Costa Rica), Aroha Mead (IUCN Council member from New Zealand), Ted Trzyna (California Institute of Public Policy), and Wouter Veening (Institute for Environmental Security, Netherlands) also played significant leadership roles.
The Earth Charter and IUCN In the broadest sense, preparations for the events at Bangkok had been underway since the founding of IUCN in 1948 and the request by Julian Huxley, Director General of UNESCO, that the organization undertake “a preliminary study of a World Convention for the Protection of Nature” (interpreted by the first IUCN General Assembly as “a World Charter inspired by the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Man”). Although this did not occur, the Union did take leadership in building international consensus on world conservation ethics in several ground-breaking documents that helped prepare the way for the Earth Charter. These include The World Conservation Strategy (IUCN, UNEP, WWF, FAO, UNESCO, 1980), World Charter for Nature (adopted by United Nations General Assembly in 1982), Caring for the Earth (IUCN, UNEP, WWF, 1991), and the Draft International Covenant on Environment and Development (IUCN Commission on Environmental Law, in cooperation with the International Council of Environmental Law, Third Edition, 2004). The Draft Covenant is indirectly referenced in the closing section of the Earth Charter as “an international legally binding instrument on environment and development.”
The first Earth Charter workshop held under the auspices of IUCN was during the 1st World Conservation Congress in Montreal in 1996. Steven Rockefeller (Chair, Earth Charter Drafting Committee), Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun (subsequently appointed a member of the Earth Charter Commission), and Ron Engel (Chair, IUCN Ethics Working Group) urged IUCN members to engage in the Earth Charter consultative process. In 1997 IUCN Ethics Working Group member Brendan Mackey joined Steven Rockefeller and others at the Rio+5 Conference to assist in the completion and release of the first draft of the Charter. During Rio+5, extensive consultations were held with civil society representatives, which included many IUCN member organizations. Ron Engel later joined the core drafting committee. Wolfgang Burhenne, Parvez Hassan, Song Li, and Nick Robinson and other members of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law advised the drafting committee throughout the consultative process and were especially attentive to the relations between the Draft Covenant and the Charter.
In recent years the role of the Earth Charter in the development of a credible understanding of global ethics, and the implications of the Earth Charter for particular ethical and policy issues, have been considered in depth by the IUCN CEL Ethics Specialist Group in workshops at the Pocantico Conference Center (2002); the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002); in cooperation with the Global Integrity Group in Urbino, Italy (2003) and in Montreal, Canada (2004); at the Inaugural Conference of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law (2003); and with members of the International Development Ethics Association in Aberdeen, Scotland (2004), leading to numerous publications, including a special issue of collected papers on “The Earth Charter and Global Ethics” in the international academic journal Worldviews (Volume 8, Number 1, 2004).
The policy and programme relevance of the Earth Charter have also been considered in recent years by the leaders of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC). A session on the Earth Charter was held at a CEC event at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, and the Earth Charter Initiative was featured in a CEC publication entitled “Engaging People in Sustainability.”
Preparations for Bangkok In 2000 the 2nd Session of the World Conservation Congress, meeting in Amman, Jordan, 4-11 October, adopted Resolution 2.96, which required members at the 3rd Session to consider a response to the Earth Charter. This set the stage for the many activities, including those noted above, that led to the passage of Resolution WCC3.022 at Bangkok.
At its first meeting in 2003 the IUCN Council requested that the CEL Ethics Specialist Group prepare a draft resolution on the Earth Charter for presentation to the 3rd World Conservation Congress at Bangkok. A draft was prepared by Brendan Mackey and Ron Engel in consultation with, inter alia, Christine Milne, Nick Robinson, Steven Rockefeller, and Mirian Vilela. At the next Council meeting in 2003 the draft motion was evaluated and debated by the Policy and Planning Sub-Committee, and upon its recommendation, it was approved by the Council. Brendan Mackey attended this Council meeting as an invited resource person (See Appendix I for the text of the Original Council Resolution). The proposed resolution had the strongest possible support since it was being made by the governing Council of IUCN, which includes representatives of all regions and volunteer commissions.
Also beginning in 2003 the Earth Charter Secretariat engaged the head of the IUCN Regional office for Mesoamerica, as well as all IUCN members of Costa Rica, in supporting the endorsement and use of the Earth Charter within IUCN. Mirian Vilela attended the monthly meetings of IUCN National Committee of Costa Rica over the year prior to the Bangkok Congress. Members of IUCN from Mesoamerica sought to reach a common position on resolutions coming before the Congress and also presented a number of motions jointly. All Mesoamerican members pledged their support to the Earth Charter and in July 2004 submitted a motion for the IUCN Congress to endorse the Earth Charter. This was the same resolution that the IUCN Council was proposing but since, according to IUCN rules, the Council does not need co-sponsors, the motion as tabled did not note this sponsorship. At Bangkok Mesoamerican and Iberoamerican countries took a united position with regard to a number of motions, including support of the Earth Charter.
As the time for the Bangkok Congress drew near, Klaus Bosselmann worked closely with the German and New Zealand delegations to gain their support for the Earth Charter resolution and investigated the technical legal issues involved in the resolutions process. In addition to the support of these and other government delegations, a number of IUCN NGO members registered their support for the Earth Charter motion prior to Bangkok. These included the World Resources Institute, WWF International, the National Wildlife Federation (USA), and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. Members of the Earth Charter Initiative and IUCN Ethics Specialist Group received appointments as delegates of member IUCN organizations. Proposals for sessions on the Earth Charter at the World Conservation Forum were submitted to the IUCN Congress Secretariat. Discussions were held with the President of IUCN, Yolanda Kakabadse, and the two IUCN presidential candidates, Parvez Hassan and Mohammed Valli Moosa, in order to clarify and reaffirm the purpose of the Earth Charter motion. Mohit Mukherjee prepared an “Earth Charter - IUCN Briefing Document” for distribution at the Congress.
Two months prior to the Bangkok Congress, however, it was discovered that the Council motion had been unexpectedly altered. The Resolutions Working Group (a Council sub-committee) meeting in August, 2004, reclassified the motion as a Recommendation, CGR.REC003. This meant that the motion was directed at state members whereas the Council had approved the motion as a Resolution, which meant it was directed at the IUCN organization itself. Furthermore, key words in the operative paragraphs had been changed, specifically: “endorse” to “recognize,” “adopts” to “regards,” and “pledges” to “will endeavor.” This reclassified and reworded motion was the version subsequently printed in the official Congress Motion book and made available to delegates. It was not clear whether the Resolutions Working Group was able to alter a Council-sponsored motion in these ways without first having the proposed changes confirmed by Council. (See Appendix II for the text of the reclassified and reworded motion).
On the morning of 16 November the ESG held a well-attended workshop on the Earth Charter for members of the Commission on Environmental Law. The workshop was chaired by Prue Taylor, who began with an overview of the efforts by the CEL Ethics Specialist Group to advance understanding and implementation of the principles of the Earth Charter in a variety of conceptual and policy contexts. The paper she prepared for the workshop provides a detailed account of the many presentations by ESG members on the Earth Charter at prominent academic and international meetings and a bibliography of some thirty papers published by ESG members on the Earth Charter.
Mirian Vilela then introduced the Earth Charter to the workshop by describing the extensive consultative process that led to its writing and the current work of the Earth Charter Initiative.
Ron Engel began his presentation by pointing out that at the time of the founding of IUCN, the international conservation movement recognized the interdependence between the struggles for environment, peace, and human rights: the three great themes of the Earth Charter. He then summarized his paper, “The Contributions of IUCN to the Ethics of World Conservation, Chronology 1948-2004,” which provides a narrative of the contributions of IUCN in creating a consensus within the international community on the principles of global ethics, and the close working relationships between members of IUCN and the Earth Charter drafting committee and Commission, concluding that the Earth Charter expressed the best ideals and hopes of the organization.
Brendan Mackey spoke on the meaning of “ecological integrity” and the role it plays in defining the Earth Charter ethic. He discussed the scientific foundations of the ecological integrity concept and how it is reflected in other international documents compared with its use in the Earth Charter. He then explained the sources and meaning of the principles contained within the ecological integrity theme of the Earth Charter and concluded with reflections on the implications for the evolution of international law on environment and development.
Michael Jeffery, Deputy Chair of CEL, spoke on the ethical grounds within the Earth Charter for implementing the rights of indigenous peoples as expressed in the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (1993) and other international legal texts.
Klaus Bosselmann concluded the workshop with a paper “Legal Aspects of IUCN’s Recognition of the Earth Charter.” He clarified that the Earth Charter motion was correctly classified as a “Resolution,” as its operative clauses were focused on the work of the organization itself rather than the internal affairs of member organizations. If the motion were correctly classified as a Resolution, IUCN members who voted for it would be under no legal obligation to implement the Earth Charter within their own jurisdictions.
In the course of the extensive discussion that followed, Antonio Benjamin (Instituto do Direi por um Planeta Verde, Brazil) made an informative and spirited speech on the way the Earth Charter was helping to inspire progressive legal developments in Latin America.
Copies of Nigel Dower’s background paper, “The Earth Charter as a Global Ethic,” as well as the workshop papers by Taylor, Engel, Jeffery and Bosselmann, were available for distribution.
Staff of the Earth Charter Secretariat also participated in the meetings of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication with the purpose of strengthening possibilities for future collaboration. During this occasion there was an opportunity to share the concept of the Earth Charter Education Guidebook that is being developed.
The Congress Forum The centerpiece presentation on the Earth Charter at the Congress Forum occurred on the evening of 18 November with the presentation of the Conservation Platform “Healthy People, Healthy Planet: Is Ethics the Missing Link?” The purpose of the Platform was to show how the Earth Charter could help make the connection between and solve issues involving human rights, human health and the environment. This event was chaired by Ashok Khosla (Development Alternatives, India) and featured Colin Soskolne (University of Alberta, Canada), a world authority on environmental epidemiology, Susana Calvo (Vice-Chair of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication), and Paul Charmienn (Director of Programme of the Thailand Environment Institute, Earth Charter Focal Point for Thailand).
The Platform also featured the two presidential candidates for IUCN. Parvez Hassan told the audience about the relation between the Charter and the draft International Covenant on Environment and Development, and his involvement with the drafting and global consultation process. Valli Moosa argued that the Earth Charter expresses the progressive evolution of human morality, and noted that, as President Mbeki expressed in his opening speech at the Johannesburg Summit, South Africa fully supports the Earth Charter.
On 24 November ESG Co-chair Ron Engel gave a keynote address for the closing Plenary of the Global Synthesis Workshop, “Strengthening Corporate Social Responsibility, Law and Policy,” chaired by Yolanda Kakabadse. Engel told the audience that IUCN’s moral authority was its greatest single asset and that it therefore needed to state the “ethical terms of reference” for its engagement with the private business sector. He outlined three kinds of “principled agreements” or covenants that were required: (1) recognition that we are all members of the community of life and owe all life forms care and respect -- the fundamental world view of the Earth Charter; (2) procedural standards for inclusive and accountable moral reflection and dialogue; and (3) a substantive agenda that brings ethical thought to bear on major environmental issues such as climate change, the economist ideology, and the challenge of making corporations accountable to democratic political governance.
The Passage of the Earth Charter Resolution On 16 November, at the opening Council meeting of the Congress, the Resolutions Working Group announced that they had reconsidered their previous actions, and returned the Earth Charter motion to its original wording and classification as a Resolution (although for procedural reasons it would retain the designation “Recommendation”). The Council then reconfirmed its commitment to the original motion. Core members of the Earth Charter team were invited to be special observers at this meeting.
Prior to the Members Business Assembly, the Programme Committee (a committee charged to consider the impact of proposed motions on the IUCN Programme) recommended that a “contact group” be formed to further consider the wording of the Earth Charter motion. The purpose of a contact group is to allow interested members to consider any concerns with a motion and if possible to find consensus on a modified text. Contact groups were formed for about eighty motions at the Congress. The Earth Charter contact group, chaired by Carlos Manuel Rodríguez (Minister of Environment, Costa Rica), met on the evening of the opening day of the Business Assembly, 21 November. The major points of contention concerned the second operative paragraph that read: “2. ADOPTS the Earth Charter as an ethical guide for IUCN policy, and pledges to implement its principles through the IUCN Programme,” and the fourth operative paragraph, that recommended member organizations, including governments, “to consider endorsing” the Earth Charter.
Approximately twenty persons attended representing four national governments and ten NGOs. There were three main concerns about paragraph 2: (1) some members thought it was not appropriate for IUCN to adopt a document that had not been negotiated by member organizations; (2) the motion could be interpreted to redefine the mission of the organization, for example, making it into an organization concerned as much with global peace-making as conservation; and (3) the phrase “pledges to implement” was too forceful. Some members also felt that “to consider endorsing” (paragraph 4) would make it difficult for governments to vote for the resolution. Following lengthy and intense discussion, and timely contributions from Yolanda Kakabadse representing concerns of Director General Achim Steiner, it was unanimously agreed that these issues could be resolved by the following changes to the text: (1) replacing “adopts” by “recognizes,” inserting the phrase “consistent with IUCN’s mission,” and replacing “pledges to implement” with “will work to implement” in paragraph 2; and (2) replacing the words “to consider endorsing” with “to examine” in paragraph 4. The contact group forwarded these agreed changes to the Programme Committee.
Late on the evening of 24 November, the Earth Charter motion was presented to the Members Business Assembly. As with all motions, there was only minimal time allocated for debate on the plenary floor. The understanding was that consensus on outstanding issues in contentious motions had been reached during contact group meetings. However, the chair did allow some exchange of views between members for many of the motions. A representative of the USA State Department asked to be recognized and made an intervention from the plenary floor. She stated that the seven United States government members did not support the Earth Charter resolution, and then read a brief statement that she wished to submit for inclusion in the official Congress record. The Chair of the Assembly, Yolanda Kakabadse, consistent with plenary rules, allowed one final intervention in response, whereupon a Dutch representative took the floor, expressed strong support for the motion, and announced that there would be an Earth Charter+ 5 meeting in the Netherlands in 2005 and Queen Beatrix would very much welcome IUCN endorsement.
The USA government delegation voted against a number of motions at the Congress, including a motion reaffirming the value of the Draft International Covenant on Environment and Development, and each time tabled a statement for the record. The Earth Charter motion was the only such statement they chose to read aloud.
The vote was then taken and RESWCC3.022 passed overwhelmingly, 54 government members voting in favor, 12 against, and 13 abstaining; 198 NGO members voting in favor, 18 opposed, and 16 abstaining.
See Appendix IV for the final and official text of Resolution WCC3.022 with the Statement submitted by United States representatives as posted on the IUCN website (www.iucn.org/congress/index. cfm) 28 January 2005.
Related Resolutions Several other resolutions adopted at the Congress were of importance to the advancement of the vision and programme of the Earth Charter Initiative. RESWCC3.020, originally titled “Drafting an ethics charter for biodiversity conservation” and sponsored by a large number of French conservation organizations, was the only other resolution submitted to the Congress that explicitly addressed the subject of world conservation ethics. Ron Engel wrote to the sponsors prior to the Congress and offered, on behalf of the Ethics Specialist Group, to collaborate with them. Brendan Mackey followed through with personal contacts at Bangkok. At the contact group meeting convened to discuss the motion, the sponsors agreed to change “charter” to “code” in order to clarify how this motion was complementary to yet different from the Earth Charter motion. Furthermore, they expressed interest in collaborating with the ESG in developing specific ethical guidelines for the conservation of biodiversity. (See text of Resolution as adopted in Appendix V).
Also of interest to the Earth Charter Initiative were RESWCC3.021 International Covenant on Environment and Development, which requests the Director General “to use the principles contained within the Draft Covenant as a source of guidance for the legal and policy advice of IUCN and its components” and RESWCC3.027 Education for Sustainable Development, which declares support for the Decade on Education for Sustainable Development 2005–2014. Klaus Bosselmann and Prue Taylor contributed to the drafting and passage of RESWCC3.075 Applying the Precautionary Principle in Environmental Decision-making and Management, which calls on all IUCN members to “promote and develop tools for the appropriate and effective application of the Precautionary Principle in all areas and at all levels of environmental decision-making for conservation and sustainable development.” (See Appendix V for final texts of these resolutions)
There were also other resolutions adopted that advanced Earth Charter principles, such as those that dealt with gender equality, good governance, and the linking of human rights and the environment as essential to conserving nature and reducing poverty.
Post-Congress Workshop at Mahidol University On 26 November, the ESG held a day-long international workshop on “The Role of Ethics in Sustainable Development” at Mahidol University on the outskirts of Bangkok. This workshop was conceived by Brendan Mackey and made possible through the generous help and support of Anuchat Pouongsomlee, Dean of the Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies at Mahidol University. Faculty members in the School of Environment and Resource Studies and in other departments of the University, as well as graduate students from countries throughout Southeast Asia, attended.
The morning was devoted to a presentation of the history, meaning, and implications of the Earth Charter by Klaus Bosselmann, Ron Engel, Brendan Mackey, and Prue Taylor. The afternoon was devoted to a consideration of the relevance of the Earth Charter to Thai culture and society. The Venerable Dhammananda, who had participated in an IUCN Ethics Workshop at the 1994 Buenos Aires General Assembly, spoke on the bases within Buddhism for support of Earth Charter principles and values. Sulak Sivaraksa, the most prominent leader of the Engaged Buddhist Movement in Thailand, who had contributed to an IUCN Ethics Working Group book publication, Ethics of Environment and Development: Global Challenge, International Response (1990), spoke on how a serious implementation of the Charter would require major transformations in Thai national policies and priorities. The Earth Charter presence in Thailand was strengthened by this workshop, and new collegial relationships between the ESG and Thai scholars and activists were created. The day was climaxed by the colorful and moving celebration of Loy Krathong at Mahidol University.
Significance of the Actions at the World Conservation Congress The historic significance of Bangkok is clear. Insofar as it is possible for the world conservation movement to endorse the Earth Charter in one voice, it did so speak at Bangkok. This action should not only help the Charter gain further endorsements by governments and NGOs but also facilitate attention to the Earth Charter in other international arenas including the United Nations.
The events at Bangkok also had other important implications. In the first place, the Earth Charter resolution, together with the resolution on Education for Sustainable Development, provide further support within the international conservation community for the Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD) and the centrality of the Earth Charter in that initiative. The 32nd General Conference of UNESCO in October 2003 supported a resolution “recognizing the Earth Charter as an important ethical framework for sustainable development.”
In the second place, the World Conservation Congress reaffirmed its support for the companion hard law document to the Earth Charter, the draft International Covenant for Environment and Development, and for its use in IUCN policy and the writing of multilateral regional treaties.
In the third place, by its recognition of the Earth Charter as “an ethical guide for IUCN policy,” and by its promise to “work to implement its principles through the IUCN Intersessional Programme,” the 3rd World Conservation Congress presented a major challenge to the Union. To fulfill the mandate of RESWCC3.022 the Union will need to reflect on the overall ethical direction of its work in light of the Earth Charter and spell out the practical ethical implications of the Charter for its many activities and policies.
As an example, the Resolution on a Code of Ethics for Biodiversity Conservation explicitly charged the Ethics Specialist Group with responsibility for developing ethical codes for this particular area of conservation activity. In light of RESWCC3.022, this work will need to take place on the platform provided by the principles of the Earth Charter. This work may well be undertaken in collaboration with UNESCO and its several scientific, legal, and philosophical programmes, including its current work on a Convention on Cultural Diversity, thus further strengthening the ties between the Earth Charter Initiative, IUCN and UNESCO.
The number of areas of conservation policy that would benefit from this kind of serious ethical reflection is legion. A major new direction in IUCN’s work is engagement with the business community and the international economic regime, and as the positive response to Ron Engel’s presentation at the Congress indicated, many IUCN members are eager for this engagement to have as strong an ethical component as possible. The Earth Charter will play a guiding role in this. As Prue Taylor indicated at the CEL Workshop, members of the ESG are already working on how to advance understanding and implementation of the Earth Charter in global and development ethics; democracy, ecology, and religion; the progressive conceptual development of environmental law; climate change; biotechnology; public health; energy policy; environmental human rights (including those of children and the unborn); the rights of indigenous peoples; animals and ethics; and education. The ESG will need to be strengthened if IUCN is in fact to pursue the kind of serious ethical reflection the Earth Charter resolution mandates.
In the fourth place, the Mahidol University workshop introduced the Earth Charter to faculty and students at this major center of higher learning in Thailand, and demonstrated the support that the Charter enjoys from leading Thai Buddhist scholars and activists. The Earth Charter Initiative has the opportunity to build on these relationships in its future activities in South East Asia.
Finally, attending the World Conservation Congress provided an opportunity for the Earth Charter Secretariat to strengthen existing partnerships and forge new ones. Discussions regarding future collaborations were held with (1) Ashok Khosla, with the aim of having Development Alternatives in India incorporate the Earth Charter in their training activities; (2) LEAD Pakistan and LEAD International to further development of training materials; (3) members of the Commission on Education and Communication from Chile, Ecuador and Mexico; and (4) the United Nations University. It also became evident that IUCN could be an important facilitator for recruiting new members for the Earth Charter Sustainable Communities Partnership.
In sum, endorsement of the Earth Charter by the World Conservation Congress is a major step forward for both the Earth Charter Initiative and for the World Conservation Union. It contributes to the Initiative’s efforts to build legitimacy for the Earth Charter and to find new ways to encourage organizations to implement the Charter’s principles. And it gives IUCN an explicit mandate to become an agent on behalf of the shift of global ethical vision and practice that will make this “a just world that values and conserves nature.”