Background History Of The Earth Charter Initiative
In 1987 The World Commission on Environment and Development (known as "the Brundtland Commission") launched Our Common Future Report with a call for a “new charter” to set “new norms” to guide the transition to sustainable development.
Following that discussion about an Earth Charter took place in the process leading to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, but the time for such a declaration was not right. The Rio Declaration became the statement of the achievable consensus at that time.
In 1994, Maurice Strong (Secretary-General of the Rio Summit) and Mikhail Gorbachev, working through organizations they each founded (Earth Council and Green Cross International respectively), launched an initiative (with the support from the Dutch Government) to develop an Earth Charter as a civil society initiative. The initial drafting and consultation process drew on hundreds of international documents.
An independent Earth Charter Commission was formed in 1997 to oversee the development of the text, analyze the outcomes of a world-wide consultation process and to come to agreement on a global consensus document.
In March 1997 at the Rio+5 Forum, a first Benchmark Draft of the Earth Charter is released as a “document in progress”. Ongoing international consultations were encouraged and organized. Please see "Influencies shaping the Earth Charter".
In April 1999 a Benchmark Draft II of the Earth Charter is released and international consultations continue particularly through Earth Charter National Committees and international dialogues..
After numerous drafts and after considering the input of people from all regions of the world, the Earth Charter Commission came to consensus on the Earth Charter in March, 2000, at a meeting held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The Earth Charter was later formally launched in ceremonies at The Peace Palace in The Hague.
Over the following five years, a formal endorsement campaign attracted over 2,000 organizational endorsements, representing millions of people, including numerous national and international associations, and ultimately global institutions such as UNESCO and IUCN – The World Conservation Union. Many thousands of individuals also endorsed the Earth Charter.
Efforts to have the Earth Charter formally recognized at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, 2002, came very close to success, resulting in numerous public statements of support from world leaders and heads of state.
The Earth Charter is now increasingly recognized as a global consensus statement on the meaning of sustainability, the challenge and vision of sustainable development, and the principles by which sustainable development is to be achieved. It is used as a basis for peace negotiations, as a reference document in the development of global standards and codes of ethics, as resource for governance and legislative processes, as a community development tool, as an educational framework for sustainable development, and in many other contexts. The Charter was also an important influence on the Plan of Implementation for the UNESCO Decade for Education on Sustainable Development.