On 25 September, Corinne Lepage, Founder of Cap 21, submitted her recommendation for the creation of a “Universal Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities of Humanity” to French President François Hollande. France will back its adoption by the United Nations.
The text is based on four principles: inter-generational solidarity, human dignity, the sustainable continuation of humanity and generational non-discrimination.
The result of sustained action from civil society – and specifically environmental NGOs – this report lays out a set of rights (and responsibilities) whose recognition at the highest levels is possible, necessary and urgent. An international group of those who had contributed to the report were present at its handover, including Nicolas Imbert and Adam Koniuszewski from Green Cross, Ahmed Alami, Marie-Odile Bertella-Geoffroy, Valérie Cabanes, François Damerval, Hubert Delzangles, Emilie Gaillard, Christian Huglo, Jean-Marc Lavieille, Catherine Le Bris, Bettina Laville, Jérémy Rifkin, and Mathieu Wemaere. If adopted, it would mark a huge step forward for the long-term protection and preservation of humanity.
How did this come about?
“This came out of a request made to me by the President of the Republic, who wanted to present this recommendation alongside the COP21 negotiations that will be in France. The Head of State had included it in his annual message at the start of the year. To write this Declaration, I put together an eclectic group including specialists in public law, NGO representatives, and former ministers of the environment. The result has been a concise text, based on four principles, six rights and six responsibilities. The President now wants civil society to debate on the subject, and I will encourage that.”
Is a new Declaration really necessary?
“This text brings out a pointed demand from civil society. Certainly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is of primary importance – current events show us that all the time, notably with the recent death sentence in Saudi Arabia – but today the human race is running some critical risks. These principles remind us that our generation owes it to our forebears to protect the inheritance they have left us, but also that we have obligations to the generations to come. François Hollande wanted to reaffirm the right of this planet’s future inhabitants to live in a world that has not been ruined by its current occupants’ irresponsibility.”
This idea of inter-generational solidarity didn’t exist before?
“We have looked at all of the existing texts. There are some mentions of it, but no explicit declaration of the rights and responsibilities of humanity.”
What will happen next with this report?
“The President will choose the diplomatic avenues he wishes to take. This text will not be directly part of the COP21 negotiations, which are already complicated enough. But COP21 is a fantastic opportunity, with leaders from around the world gathered in France. The expected process will see this text put up for adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 2016 – since it is a Declaration, and not a binding agreement, it will be easier to attain approval. Over the longer term, however, this Declaration could provide the basis for the realization of treaties that do carry obligations for States.