The Baha'i International Community applauds the proposal of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) that an Earth Charter be one of six principal components to be addressed at UNCED in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992. Indeed, agreement on the "principles to govern the relationships of peoples and nations with each other and with the earth" will be essential "to ensure our common future in both environmental and developmental terms." We, therefore, welcome this opportunity to share our views on elements to be considered for inclusion in this proposed Charter.
It is our conviction that any call to global action for environment and development must be rooted in universally accepted values and principles. Similarly, the search for solutions to the world's grave environmental and developmental problems must go beyond technical-utilitarian proposals and address the underlying causes of the crisis. Genuine solutions, in the Baha'i view, will require a globally accepted vision for the future, based on unity and willing cooperation among the nations, races, creeds, and classes of the human family. Commitment to a higher moral standard, equality between the sexes, and the development of consultative skills for the effective functioning of groups at all levels of society will be essential.
There are many environmental declarations to which the UNCED Earth Charter could refer and on which it might draw, including the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment (1972), the Nairobi Declaration (1982), the World Charter for Nature (1982), and more recent documents such as the Universal Code of Environmental Conduct (Bangkok, October 1990).
Clearly, an UNCED declaration or Earth Charter would profit from the widest possible consultation with governments and non-governmental organizations. The Baha'i International Community is, therefore, pleased to offer the following elements for possible inclusion in such a declaration of principles.
In order to reorient individuals and societies toward a sustainable future, we must recognize the following.
- Unity is essential if diverse peoples are to work toward a common future. The Earth Charter might well identify those aspects of unity which are prerequisites for the achievement of sustainable development. In the Baha'i view, "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."
- The unrestrained exploitation of natural resources is merely a symptom of an overall sickness of the human spirit. Any solutions to the environment/development crisis must, therefore, be rooted in an approach which fosters spiritual balance and harmony within the individual, between individuals, and with the environment as a whole. Material development must serve not only the body, but the mind and spirit as well.
- The changes required to reorient the world toward a sustainable future imply degrees of sacrifice, social integration, selfless action, and unity of purpose rarely achieved in human history. These qualities have reached their highest degree of development through the power of religion. Therefore, the world's religious communities have a major role to play in inspiring these qualities in their members, releasing latent capacities of the human spirit and empowering individuals to act on behalf of the planet, its peoples, and future generations.
- Nothing short of a world federal system, guided by universally agreed upon and enforceable laws, will allow nation states to manage cooperatively an increasingly interdependent and rapidly changing world, thereby ensuring peace and social and economic justice for all the world's peoples.
- Development must be decentralized in order to involve communities in formulating and implementing the decisions and programs that affect their lives. Such a decentralization need not conflict with a global system and strategy, but would in fact ensure that developmental processes are adapted to the planet's rich cultural, geographic, and ecological diversity.
- Consultation must replace confrontation and domination in order to gain the cooperation of the family of nations in devising and implementing measures that will preserve the earth's ecological balance.
- Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavor, including environment and development, will the moral and psychological climate be created in which a peaceful, harmonious, and sustainable civilization can emerge and flourish.
- The cause of universal education deserves the utmost support, for no nation can achieve success unless education is accorded all its citizens. Such an education should promote the consciousness of both the oneness of humanity and the integral connection between humankind and the world of nature. By nurturing a sense of world citizenship, education can prepare the youth of the world for the organic changes in the structure of society which the principle of oneness implies.
The Baha'i International Community stands ready to contribute to the further elaboration and promotion of an Earth Charter in consultation with other interested bodies.