Themes: Our Creativy Diversity
A new global ethics
A commitment to pluralism
Challenges of a media-rich world
recasting cultural policies
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Why we need a global ethics
Culture in search of a global ethics
pijltje.gif (895 bytes) Sources of a global ethics
The main elements of a global ethics
Global ethics in global governance
The role of a global ethics
To whom it may concern

A new global ethics
Sources of a global ethics

There are some recurrent themes that appear in nearly all cultural traditions. They can serve as an inspiration for a global ethics.

The first source is the idea of human vulnerability and the attendant ethical impulse to alleviate suffering where such is possible and to provide security to each individual. Some notion of this is to be encountered in the moral views of all major cultures. As, for example, the Confucian teacher Mencius observed already long ago, "every man is moved by fear and horror, tenderness and mercy, if he suddenly sees a child about to fall into a well ... no man is without a heart for right and wrong" (Meng-tzu, III, 6). Similarly, it is part of the fundamental moral teachings of each of the great traditions that one should treat others as one would want to be treated oneself. Some version of this "Golden Rule" finds explicit expression in Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and is implicit in the practices of other faiths. The deeply human urge to avoid avoidable suffering and some notion of the basic moral equality of all human beings together form an indispensable point of reference and a strong pillar of support for any attempt to work out a global ethics.

When searching for additional building-blocks of a global ethics we should not only look to what is conventionally called "cultures." There is evolving in our time a global civic culture, a culture which contains further elements to be incorporated in a new global ethics. The idea of human rights, the principle of democratic legitimacy, public accountability, and the emerging ethos of evidence and proof are the prime candidates for consideration. The ideals and purposes of the United Nations bodies have acquired a certain ideological legitimacy. Demands for human rights, and the consciousness of a shared earthly ecosystem, which shape expectations throughout the world, are other manifestations of this world culture. 

One of the most encouraging trends in the last few decades has been the gradual development of international human rights standards. These standards, envisaged in the United Nations Charter and formulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, have subsequently found legal and institutional expression in a number of treaties, above all in the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic and Social Rights and also in several regional treaties such as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, the American Convention of Human Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Today, the idea of human rights, though still challenged by recalcitrant governments, is a firmly entrenched standard of political conduct and will have to be a corner-stone of any global ethics.

The emerging global civic culture seems to give rise to further new normative elements. In particular, the Commission draws attention to the principle of democratic legitimacy. What type of governance to practice is no longer seen merely as a national concern impervious to international apprehension. As various cases of election-monitoring show, the international community increasingly recognizes that democratic participation must be a significant international concern. Democracy is an important political and social value in itself and, moreover, a crucial long-term precondition of institutional efficiency, social stability and peace. There is a growing demand for forms of democratic participation also to make their way to the international level. While the main responsibility to tackle pressing global problems clearly lies with governments, international organizations, and multilateral co-operation, non-governmental organizations offer their own views and propositions. Their participation will not challenge the pre-eminence of states but it can exercise pressures on these states. The world's search for new solutions to its problems may gain considerably from citizens' direct contributions. The involvement of citizens may add novel perspectives, improve the quality of outcomes, and thus help to bring about better and more stable results. The Commission holds that democratic participation is a crucial element of good national governance and that some form of democratic "voice" should also be heard on the international level. Democratic legitimacy will have to be an indispensable principle of a global ethics.

The main trends that are usually seen as indications of a new and global culture probably lie outside politics. Undoubtedly one of the most spectacular of those global trends is the rise of science and scientific thinking. Even though the record is ambivalent in a number of ways, there can be no question that any successful effort to cope with the ecological and other global challenges ahead will require scientific expertise and the use of technological means. Now science and empirical research exemplify an ethos whose core demand is to make judgements based on evidence and proof. It is of course true that value conflicts and clashes of antagonistic interests cannot be resolved on the basis of scientific reasoning. Science cannot replace politics. Yet political issues often involve empirical questions to be answered on scientific grounds. The efforts that governments and citizens undergo to produce, assess and contest empirical evidence in national and international disputes indicate that science and the scientific ethos are increasingly gaining significance and credibility. Recent practices such as dispatching human rights observers to areas of conflict and monitoring the fairness of elections reflect not only a consensus about what is morally right or wrong but also a shared commitment to ground political assessments and policies on empirical evidence. Similarly, international efforts to find ways to stop the depletion of the ozone layer and cope with the greenhouse effect demonstrate a willingness to resort to scientific method in order to solve empirical disputes. While its importance must not be exaggerated, this trend may be supportive of a global ethics that emphasizes truthfulness, respect for the facts and objectivity that contrasts with the wilfulness that in politics is still far too pervasive.

Why we need a global ethics
Culture in search of a global ethics
pijltje.gif (895 bytes) Sources of a global ethics
The main elements of a global ethics
Global ethics in global governance
The role of a global ethics
To whom it may concern

pijltje_beneden.gif (179 bytes) A new global ethics
Introduction
Summary
Report text
pijltje.gif (179 bytes) A commitment to pluralism
pijltje.gif (179 bytes) Challenges of a media-rich world
pijltje.gif (179 bytes) Recasting cultural policies
General introduction
General summary
Review
Background Intergovernmental conference on Cultural Policies for Development
our creative diversity