Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration

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Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration expresses the ethical commitments held in common by the world's religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions.[1][2]


At the request of the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions, Hans Küng, President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic (Stiftung Weltethos), wrote an initial draft in consultation with fellow scholars and religious leaders. The Council's leaders and Trustees then worked on the final draft in consultation with Küng and their own, extensive network of leaders and scholars from various religions and regions. Most notable in leading this effort were Daniel Gómez-Ibáñez, the Executive Director of the Council, and Thomas A. Baima, a member of the Board of Trustees.[3]

Fundamental ethical demands[edit]

The declaration identifies two fundamental ethical demands as its foundation. First: the Golden Rule: What you wish done to yourself, do to others, "a principle which is found and has persisted in many religious and ethical traditions of humankind of thousands of years." Second: every human being must be treated humanely—an insight the beginnings of which exists in every great religious or ethical traditions.[4]

Four shared directives[edit]

The two fundamental ethical demands are made concrete in four directives, which are "convincing and practical for all women and men of good will, religious and non-religious".[1] These directives are elaborated in the Global Ethic. They are:

    1. Commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life.
    2. Commitment to a culture of solidarity and a just economic order.
    3. Commitment to a culture of tolerance and a life of truthfulness.
    4. Commitment to a culture of equal rights and partnership between men and women.

Other unique features[edit]

The directives proclaim things held in common[edit]

The Global Ethic acknowledges that some significant differences exist between, and among, the religions. Still, these differences need not, it insists, stop them "from proclaiming publicly those things" that they already hold in common and that they jointly affirm. Each tradition holds those things to be true on the basis of their own religious or ethical grounds.[1]

Contains no religious or theological language[edit]

Because its goal was to express those things about which the world's religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions agree, no religious or theological terms appear in "the Global Ethic". Some religions such as Buddhism do not have a god while other religions such as Hinduism have many.

Calls for a change in inner consciousness[edit]

In his account of the writing of the Global Ethic, Küng describes several working parameters: It should 1) make a clear distinction between the ethical level and the purely legal or political level, 2) not duplicate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because an ethic is more than rights, 3) avoid political declarations, 4) not devolve into casuistry, 5) forego any attempt to become a philosophical treatise, and, 6) set aside enthusiastic religious proclamations. On a positive programmatic level, the declaration must: 1) penetrate to the deep ethical level of binding values, irrevocable criteria, and basic inner attitudes, 2) be capable of securing moral unanimity and steer clear of statements rejected by the religions, 3) offer constructive criticism, 4) relate to the world as it really is, 5) use language familiar to newspaper readers (no technical jargon!), 6) have a religious foundation since, for the religions, an ethic must have a religious foundation.[4]

Endorsed globally[edit]

In the summer of 1993, "The Global Ethic" was ratified as an official document of the Parliament of the World's Religions by a vote of its Trustees. It was then signed by more than 200 leaders from 40+ different faith traditions and spiritual communities during the international gathering organized by the Parliament in 1993 in Chicago, Illinois · USA.[5][6] The majority of participants attending the gathering also endorsed "the Global Ethic" by acclamation. Since 1993 leaders and individuals around the world continue to endorse the Global Ethic with their signatures.[7] It has served as a common ground for people to discuss, to agree, and to cooperate for the good of all.[8]

2018: a fifth directive[edit]

Since 1993, agreement has emerged among the world's religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions on issues tied to the environment.[9] Aware of this shift, and because the Global Ethic was intended from the start to be a living document, the Parliament of the World's Religions decided to expand the Global Ethic with a fifth directive. Led by Myriam Renaud, the Parliament's Global Ethic Project Director, a task force wrote an initial draft. After soliciting and reflecting on 100+ pages of comments offered by scholars and religious leaders from many of the world's faith traditions and regions, the task force prepared and then submitted a final draft to the Trustees for their vote.[1] The Global Ethic, expanded with a fifth directive, became official in July 2018:

    5. Commitment to a culture of sustainability and care for the Earth.[10]

Humanity's shared home was mentioned in the 1993 draft of the Global Ethic. Its first directive states that the lives of animals and plants deserve protection and care and that people, especially with a view to future generations, have a special responsibility for the Earth's air, water and soil. The fifth directive sets out in greater detail what this responsibility entails—for example: "Caring and prudent use of resources is based on fairness in consumption and takes into account limits on what ecosystems can bear."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Towards a Global Ethic (An Initial Declaration)", Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago, 1993. It is the Parliament's signature document.
  2. ^ "Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration translated into various languages" (PDF in Arabic, Malaysian, Bulgarian, Chinese, German, English, French, Italian, Catalan, Croatian, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Slovene, Spanish, Turkish). Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  3. ^ "Executive summary: 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions." Chicago, Illinois: Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
  4. ^ a b Hans Küng, A Global Ethic: The Declaration of the Parliament of the World's Religions(New York: Continuum, 1993).
  5. ^ "The Assembly of Religious and Spiritual Leaders: List of Participants," 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions, The Art Institute of Chicago, September 2, 3, & 4.
  6. ^ Laurie Goodstein, "'Declaration of a Global Ethic' Signed at Religious Parliament," Washington Post, September 3, 1993.
  7. ^ List of individuals who have endorsed the Global Ethic.
  8. ^ "In Search of Common Ground: The Role of a Global Ethic in Inter-Religious Dialogue." Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, July 1, 2008.
  9. ^ Wikipedia: Religion and environmentalism
  10. ^ Full text of the fifth directive available on the website of the Parliament of the World's Religions.

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