The Earth Charter

By Rachel Roberts

1431977_26461487Started as a United Nations initiative, the Earth Charter is a unique, eloquent and compelling ethical framework for creating a just, sustainable, and peaceful society in the 21st century. Written in conjunction with thousands of concerned citizens around the world, the Earth Charter is one of the few environmental documents written primarily through series of consensus-based dialogues. Finalized in 2000, more than 4500 organizations and governments around the world now endorse the charter.

Through placing an emphasis on ecological integrity, the Earth Charter hopes “to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.”

The Earth Charter is guided by a number of principles, including:

  • respect and care for the community of life
  • ecological integrity
  • social and economic justice
  • democracy
  • non-violence, and
  • peace

“We are at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future,” states the Charter’s Preamble. Each of the principles mentioned serves as a starting point to help us transform into a more sustainable society. Rather than focusing only on the natural environment, the Earth Charter embraces all aspects of sustainability on Earth, including social, economic, cultural, and environmental factors.

1434811_79550813Many international lawyers are beginning to recognize the charter as a “soft law” document. Although soft law documents carry no legal power, they are considered to be morally binding—especially for state governments that adopt and endorse these laws. Another example of a soft law document is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, like other soft law documents, can become groundwork for the development of “hard law,” which is legally binding.

Although the Earth Charter is an international initiative and a soft law document, it can serve as a basis for fostering a more sustainable future. The charter is an example of the public coming together to explore and engage with serious issues regarding our environment, and our society. The result was an internationally recognized initiative helping to guide businesses, government, and society towards a more sustainable future.

More information about the Earth Charter can be found online at It can be downloaded at


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