| On November 18, 2016, the Union of the Comoros became the first State to recognize the Universal Declaration of Mankind Rights. The ratification ceremony took place in the margins of COP22 in Marrakech, in the presence of Corinne Lepage, former French Environment Minister and Coordinator of the Declaration, in the framework of the mission entrusted to her by President François Hollande in mid-2015. What is The Universal Declaration of Mankind Rights? Corinne Lepage explains it by answering to three questions.
What is the Universal Declaration of Mankind Rights and why have you launched this initiative?
The time is ripe. The time has come to recognize the rights and duties of mankind. Why so? Because, although our societies differ in their cultures, their religions, their history, what they have in common is this: they belong to one and same planet and therefore depend on or at least live in interdependence with it. What they have in common, with a few individual exceptions, is making of respect for human life a cardinal rule that leads to rejecting barbarism and seeking peace. This observation, which integrates both the consequences of globalization and the ecological issue, starting with the challenges linked to climate change, makes it essential for a legal text be drafted defining the rights and duties which are instrumental to meeting such an obligation.
A Declaration of Mankind Rights is thus an imperative: indeed, it finds its source in the 1789 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Climate change and the connected issues raise the question of the responsibility of our generation as regards the future generations as well as Nature. Violence we witness at global level makes it even more urgent a challenge.
The time has therefore come to lay down the rights and duties of mankind to ensure its survival, in peace and dignity. Civil society is committed to it through cities, associations that support this initiative wished by the French Presidency of COP21. It is now up to the States to embark on this path that conditions a sustainable development of human societies.
Azali Assoumani, President of The Union of the Comoros and Corinne Lepage, former French Environment Minister and Coordinator of the Declaration.
How was it elaborated?
The Declaration of Mankind Rights and Duties was developed in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Far from limiting it, on the contrary, it was designed to meet challenges that individuals, at their own level, are unable to deal with effectively.
The aim of the Universal Declaration of Mankind Rights and Duties stems from its preamble, which recalls the threats hovering over mankind and Nature, the seriousness of the situation and the fact that the harmful effects of ecological disturbances constitute violations of human fundamental rights as well as a vital threat to every generation, both present and future. This broad scope lends the Declaration a dimension that makes it fall under the aegis of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, much as for all great declarations concerning both the environment and development, whether they were drafted by the United Nations or stem from the civil society. The preamble therefore starts with giving a definition of mankind, then recalls the interdependence between the existence and future of mankind and its natural environment, the interdependence between the human fundamental rights and the duties of safeguarding Nature, which serves as the basis for the declaration itself. Mankind can be defined on two axes: on the one hand along a “vertical” axis insofar it is defined as the chain linking past, present and future generations, on the other hand along an “horizontal” one, where mankind is defined as the sum of individuals and human organizations, in a perspective that encompasses States and public organizations but also private organizations, NGO’s and companies and finally the simple earthlings we all are.
This preamble leads to the definition of four simple principles on which the Declaration is based:
- Responsibility, fairness and solidarity,
- Dignity for mankind, in particular by meeting its basic needs,
- Sustainability of the human species, and
- Generational non-discrimination. This innovative principle concerns first and foremost our generation insofar as it was born with a “debt” in terms of climate “debt” and especially in terms of environment where it is tremendous; therefore, the first challenge is to ensure that this debt is reduced in order to allow for genuine collective and individual choices.
These four principles form the basis on which rest 6 rights, and the 6 duties that mirror the former.
Of those 6 rights, the first one, as defined in Article 5, is the right for mankind as well as for all living species to live in a sound and sustainable environment. The others deal with development, protection of heritage and common goods including the access to them, transmission of common goods, law, peace and the right for each one to freely choose their destiny.
On the other hand, 6 duties mirror those 6 rights, starting of course with the duty to make sure mankind and all living species’ rights are preserved.
Our present generations are entrusted with the obligation to make sure those duties are met ; it is for them to take responsibility for the use of resources while preserving a proper balance, in other terms to use those resources wisely so that this balance is not endangered. To this end, we have a duty to preserve the atmosphere and the climatic balance, to direct scientific and technical progress towards the preservation of the health of all living species – including mankind.
Last but not least, States, as well as other actors, have a duty to take a longer term perspective into account, to ensure that the principles, rights and declaration embodied in the Declaration are widely disseminated and followed effectively.
The Declaration therefore embodies such major principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the dignity and integrity of individuals, but is based on the primary interest of “mankind family” as defined in the preamble. It reflects the rights and duties of this mankind family in this second decade of the twenty-first century.
With Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, the launch of the Universal Declaration of Mankind Rights.
Why the great regions of the world should promote the Universal Declaration of Mankind Rights?
The Universal Declaration of Mankind Rights (UDMR) was sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations in April 2016 to be debated by the General Assembly. The first State of the world to do so signed it in Marrakech in November 2016. Other States could well follow soon.
Numerous associations support it and above all, large cities have decided to adopt it, starting with Strasbourg and Paris. The large associations of cities were approached. An association of the friends of UDMR was created, with leaders representing various subcontinents and types of entities to promote this text.
But if the great regions of the world were to adopt it, this would contribute tremendously to its success. Why so?
Firstly, and since the Copenhagen Summit, it is the actions and initiatives of local and regional authorities, cities and regions that are the most proactive, determined and efficient in the fight against climate change and, more generally, in the response to environmental challenges, which also have an economic and a social components.
Secondly, only the great regions can induce a truly responsible attitude from the States. The adoption of the R20 Declaration, which could thus act as a driver for the action of the major regions of the world, would make it possible to endow humankind with a common text that States could but accept.
Finally, the regions could empower the citizens of the various countries of the world, by inviting each one of us in a non-binding way to act responsibly within and interdependently with our own environment as well as others’.
We need the regions to foster this Declaration for it to bear its rightful fruits.
Corinne Lepage, Coordinator of the Declaration and President François Hollande.