"samvad india foundation"

Charter of Human Responsibilities

Six theses as the foundation of the Charter

1. Facing the radically new situation of humankind, a third ethical pillar, common to all societies and all social spheres, is needed to serve as a complement to the two existing pillars which underpin international life : the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of the United Nations.

2. The same ethical principles can be used at the personal level and the collective level, both to guide individual behaviour and to underpin law.

3. The notion of responsibility, inseparable from any human relationship, constitutes a universal principle. It is the common ethical basis of the Charter of Human Responsibilities.

4. Given the impact of human activities and the interdependence among all human societies, a broader definition of responsibility is essential. It comprises three dimensions : accepting responsibility for the direct and indirect consequences of our actions; uniting with one another to escape from powerlessness; acknowledging that our responsibility is proportional to the knowledge and power which each of us holds.

5. The Charter of Human Responsibilities does not lay down rules; it proposes priorities and prompts choices.

6. Every social and professional sphere is invited to draw up, on the basis of the Charter of Human Responsibilities, which is shared by all, the rules of its own responsibility. These rules are the foundation of the contract which links it to the rest of society.


Never before have human beings had such far-reaching impacts on one another’s social, political, economic and cultural lives. Never before have they possessed so much knowledge, and so much power to change their environment.

In spite of the immense possibilities opened up by these ever-increasing inter-relationships, and in spite of the new powers which humankind has acquired, unprecedented crises are emerging in many areas.

Widening economic gaps within and between nations, the concentration of economic and political power in ever-fewer hands, threats to cultural diversity, or the over-exploitation of natural resources, are creating unrest and conflicts world-wide and giving rise to deep concerns about the future of our planet : we are at a crossroads in human history.

And yet, the social institutions which should enable these new challenges to be met are working less and less well. The pervasive power of international markets is undermining the traditional role of states. Scientific institutions, pursuing their narrow specialist interests, are increasingly pulling back from analysing and confronting the global issues and their interactions which challenge humanity. International economic institutions have failed to turn the rising tide of inequality. Business has often pursued its profit goals at the expense of social and environmental concerns. Religious institutions have not adequately fulfilled their role to provide responses to the new challenges faced by our societies.

In this context, every one of us must take up his or her responsibilities at both the individual and the collective level.

This Charter maps out what these responsibilities are, and how they can be exercised. It is a first step towards developing a democratic global governance based on human responsibilities, and towards developing a legal framework within which these responsibilities may be exercised.

Nature of responsibilities

The growing interdependence among individuals, among societies, and between human beings and nature heightens the impacts of individual or collective human actions on their social and natural environments, immediately or far away.

This opens up new possibilities for each of us to play a role in the new challenges that face humankind : every human being has the capacity to assume responsibilities; even those who feel powerless can still link up with others to forge a collective strength.

Although all people have an equal entitlement to human rights, their responsibilities are proportionate to the possibilities open to them. The more freedom, access to information, knowledge, wealth and power someone has, the more capacity that person has for exercising responsibilities, and the greater that person’s duty to account for his or her actions.

Responsibilities attach not merely to present and future actions, but also to past actions. The burden of collectively-caused damage must be morally acknowledged by the group concerned, and put right in practical terms as far as possible. Since we can only partially understand the consequences of our actions now and in the future, our responsibility equally demands that we must act with great humility and demonstrate caution.

Exercising responsibilities

Throughout human history, traditions of wisdom - religious and otherwise - have taught values, to guide human behaviour towards a responsible attitude; their basic premise - still relevant today - has been that fundamental change in society is impossible without fundamental change in the individual.

These values include respect for all forms of life and the right to a life of dignity, a preference for dialogue sooner than violence, compassion and consideration for others, solidarity and hospitality, truthfulness and sincerity, peace and harmony, justice and equity, and a preference for the common good sooner than self-interest.

And yet, there may be times when these values have to be weighed against each other, when an individual or a society faces hard choices, such as the need to encourage economic development while protecting the environment and respecting human rights. In such cases, human responsibility dictates that none of these imperatives should be sacrificed to the others. It would be futile to believe that sustainable solutions could be found to problems of economic injustice, disregard for human rights, and the environment, by tackling each issue separately. Everyone must become aware of this interconnectedness; and even if their priorities may differ due to their own histories and present circumstances, they cannot use those priorities as an excuse for ignoring the other issues at stake.

This is the thinking that lies behind the PRINCIPLES to guide the exercise of human responsibilities.

PRINCIPLES to guide the exercise of human responsibilities

We are all responsible for making sure that Human Rights are reaffirmed in our ways of thinking and in our actions.

  • To face the challenges of today and of tomorrow, it is just as important to unite in action as to express cultural diversity.
  • Every person's dignity demands that he or she contribute to the freedom and dignity of others.
  • Lasting peace cannot be established without a justice which is respectful of human dignity and of human rights.
  • To ensure the full flowering of the human personality, its non-material aspirations as well as its material needs must be addressed.
  • The exercise of power can only be legitimate if it serves the common good, and if it is monitored by those over whom it is exercised.
  • Consumption of natural resources to meet human needs must be integrated in a larger effort of active protection and careful management of the environment.
  • The pursuit of prosperity cannot be separated from an equitable sharing of wealth.
  • Freedom of scientific research implies accepting that this freedom is limited by ethical criteria.
  • The full potential of knowledge and know-how is realised only through sharing them, and through using them in the service of solidarity and the culture of peace.
  • In reaching decisions about short-term priorities, the precaution must be taken of evaluating long-term consequences with their risks and uncertainties.