The project

Responsibility forms the basis of community, making it a universal value

There is one idea that has been central to the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World, and which was present in its early stages when the Platform was first created: Given the great diversity of civilisations and cultures, humanity will be unable to look after our fragile world and our only home unless we agree on some common values.

In 1948, the West shone the limelight on the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, a product of its own traditions. As we approached the third millennium, this vision, based on the supremacy of Western values, was no longer adequate. New values needed to be brought to the fore, present in different forms and in different cultures, which would enable us to provide an adequate response to a world that is in urgent need of proper management. After several years of working with different cultures and different religious groups, it emerged that responsibility was the only value that met these two criteria.

Alliance-Respons was created by the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World, its goal to advocate an ethics of responsibility

In December 2001, after this process was complete, the World Citizens Assembly focussed on the idea of responsibility. Alliance-Respons was the ensuing result – a network of individuals and institutions focussed on advocating these ideas in the international arena.

A foundational text is important, but it also needs to have a concrete impact. There should be a three-tiered approach to ethics:

  • That of individual awareness, where the choices one makes are guided by an ethical code;
  • Collective standards that take different sectors and fields into account, and which guide their behaviour and actions.
  • That of society as a whole, with a legislative component applied to the notion of responsibility.

Alliance-Respons is working on these three levels.

An ethics of responsibility is the pivotal stepping-stone in transitioning to sustainable societies

As well as representing the backbone of ethics in the 21st century, responsibility is central to other transformative processes required if we wish to transition to sustainable societies: it forms the basis of all levels of governance – regional, national and international. It is what validates the exercise of power. It involves a long-term vision. It is the basis for the relationship between various stakeholders and the social contract they abide by. It is the mainstay of the ‘oeconomie’ [1], i.e. a new model of development that should, as indeed it used to, ensure the well-being of everyone within the limits of the earth’s natural resources. It should change the notions of ownership, free enterprise and the impact of production and consumption. It is the basis for an education system that should equip the world’s citizens to confront the interdependent nature of the current world, and to protect and preserve it.

As the climate issue has illustrated, we will not succeed in saving the earth if we don’t make responsibility the focal point of governance, of the economy, of law and of education

The climate issue has illustrated how crucial responsibility is. In the current context – whether it be in the realm of governance, legislation, the economy or education – the climate does not legally exist. No one is responsible for its integrity, no one is responsible for the irreversible harm inflicted upon it. Goods are produced and consumed in an economic framework that disregards fossil fuel consumption, which is treated as a factor of production like any other, and which assigns exclusive rights over the ownership of natural resources, and which disregards even the notion of commons. Such a vision demarcates the responsibility of these actors, separating them from the actual impact of their activities, which goes far beyond these limits, so that the responsibility of entrepreneurs actually resembles unlimited irresponsibility. Liability laws are still primarily national laws and rely on a conception of responsibility that, when it comes to the climate, ultimately makes everyone irresponsible. The current education system, based on acquiring disciplinary knowledge, neither provides students with an understanding of the complexity of ethics, nor with the necessary analytical skills, both imperative in protecting and conserving the earth. Alliance-Respons thus works alongside the prestigious Collège de France [2], and has been involved in the COP21 held in Paris, and will continue to be involved in climate negotiations.

See also : the Rescue of Democracy (book in french)/Sauvons la démocratie.pdf

[1«Essay on Oeconomy.» The Oeconomy is defined by the ‘rules of household management with the art of putting all of the goods of nature to good use’. By Pierre Calame, former Chairman of the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation, Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer.

[2Introductory chapter of ‘Taking Responsibility Seriously’. Responsibility is an ethical standpoint from which one can address the challenges of the 21st century. It provides coherency in face of the profound paradigm shift required and the implicit changes involved in moving towards low-carbon societies, which will take place before the end of the 21st century. It is a benchmark for all levels of governance – regional, national and international – and key for raising awareness of our individual and collective responsibilities. The concept of Responsibility carries both the idea of relational values and an understanding of human accountability in regards to resource use. In industrialised societies, relational values and accountability are poorly valued; they are geared towards personal interest, profit and the destructive use of natural resources. Climate change scenarios suggest that risks increase exponentially. The interdependent relationship between humanity and the biosphere compels us to personal change as well.