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"The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility".
Something special happened this spring in Paris, and the word is spreading. It happened on 20 and 21 May, 2019 at the annual OECD Forum, “World in Emotion” – with 4,500 registered participants from 135 countries. In an interactive session, a group of 70 citizens from across the globe talked deeply and from the heart about universal human responsibilities. They created a draft open declaration of universal human responsibilities (please see the infographic attached below) and discussed ideas to underpin a strategic concept for a global campaign that could raise our collective game on climate, poverty and inequality. This article shares the reasoning, what it means for all of us and how you can get involved in this historic effort.
Transforming the Game – A Rebellion Within
This is humanity’s moment of truth. The stakes are high and levels of trust in governments are low, while entrenched forces give up territory in inches, voices of blame are often louder than those of compromise and youth cry out in anger and frustration.
Market signals and values are diffuse and misaligned for business; co-ordination across sectors is uneven; and politics is more chaotic than coherent. More and more of us understand national output is an ever-poorer proxy for quality of life and realise that falling behind a steep curve of compounding risk requires exponential change to catch up.
The situation is crystal clear, genuinely frightening and yet full of extraordinary opportunity. Climate, poverty and inequality aren't our first global crises, and they won't be our last. But as our crises pile up, it’s about time all of us think about getting ahead of the curve. Co-operation and collaboration are necessary but insufficient.
Societal transformation through self-alignment and mutual support within a simple, specific, systemic societal contract is the only way to initiate a rate of change at scale that will limit us to 1.5 degrees on climate; shrink structural inequality; create equal access to high quality education; and build a 21st century workforce around a just transition to a circular economy that leaves no one behind.
We need to seize the global possible. The true target is a cascade of societal transformation at all levels from families and neighborhoods to companies, cities and nations to the emergence of a powerful sense of authentic global citizenship. But digging that deep, looking at ourselves that clearly in the mirror and being that ambitious requires a transformational act citizens and leaders can all engage in.
Conscious and heartfelt acceptance of personal responsibility is a transformative human act. It is the act of accepting responsibility for ourselves, for each other and for the changes in our world we want – and the means to achieve them. It requires accepting, defining and then living universal human responsibilities.
Accepting universal human responsibilities is a rebellion of conscience from within, one which can release and channel unlimited amounts of energy, resources and action to grasp this moment and open a new political centre. For 70 years, the universal declaration of human rights helped to align citizens and leaders in the fight against oppression. It is time to add a companion universal declaration of human responsibilities so that together, they can form a cornerstone of a new societal contract for the world.
Bolder Ends and Better Means – Building a Societal Contract for the World
The simple truth is that to create the world we want and avoid the one we fear, we must think, communicate, work and learn more like a world. Success on global challenges requires upgraded self-governance with better knowledge, more confidence, more control, better transparency and more speed and scale, all without unjust or unintended consequences.
If the game of world civilization is merely individual success, corporate profit or being the best among all societies, some of us win. But if the game is to become our best selves as citizens of the world, we all win. To be human is to live in an often complementary but sometimes conflicting set of identities. We can belong to a family, reside in a neighbourhood, live in a city, be a resident of a region or state, have status as a citizen of a country and feel passionate about being a citizen of the world – all at the same time.
Universal human responsibilities and rights are the cornerstone of a transformative societal contract binding citizens together in a way that is legitimate, deeply felt, goal oriented and enabled by sustainable civic capacity. Such a contract helps all of us do things together that would be improbable without an organising architecture. An effective societal contract is a widely understandable shared reference point for vital conversations that citizens and their leaders have about ends and means, tradition and innovation, success and failure, cohesion and conflict.
We break the game wide open if a) an influential plurality of citizens and their leaders genuinely accept the idea of universal human responsibilities, b) define them specifically to complement human rights, c) forge the cornerstone of a societal contract and d) do their best to fulfill them using a simple, specific and scalable civic system, with strong citizen engagement and mutual accountability.
The simplicity and power of legitimate universal responsibilities and rights means that hundreds of millions around the world at all levels of stature – from the average citizen to the most accomplished leaders – can accept a shared frame of reference, and shift from doing just what they know to doing everything that is possible. This means focusing on the highest-priority issues with the best existing solutions. It requires keeping all eyes on the numbers, getting more hands on the right levers, working out in the open and building self-reinforcing cycles of growing confidence until we are on the right path at the right pace with the right probability of success.
Raising Our Game – The Campaign for Universal Human Responsibilities
Most members of the group that arose out of the Paris workshop felt a sense of urgency to spread the transformation we all experienced. A volunteer working group was formed to engage in a Campaign for Universal Human Responsibility to spread this conversation around the world. We are ensuring that the diversity of participation continues to grow and working to improve the draft in subsequent iterations to steadily increase its accessibility and influence.
By this month, an expanded group of co-founders replicated workshops in Paris and Madrid by drafting a citizen’s guide to discussing universal human responsibilities. Five translations of the version 0.2 Declaration have been completed in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese. More are being added each month. A webpage and basic infrastructure are live at www.citizens.world. A Frequently Asked Questions document is complete, and a manifesto is in near final form to show how universal human responsibilities can help transform global self-governance.
The current version of the universal declaration defines a few dozen specific universal human responsibilities in four categories with simple descriptions, all of which can be felt, understood and acted upon by individual citizens:
- Set Goals to Enhance Quality of Life and Reduce Suffering
- Become Informed Citizens and Make Conscious Choices
- Create the Means to Achieve our Goals Efficiently and Effectively
- Care for Ourselves and Treat One Another Well
What is revolutionary here is not the soaring language, but the quality of feeling and intensity of personal commitment to defining, measuring and implementing simple, clearly stated human responsibilities on a global scale.
Our aim in the Campaign is to open a doorway to transformational change that can cascade across all levels and sectors of society and in all the countries and cultures of the globe. Our three goals are:
- Define Universal Human Responsibilities. Legitimise the dialogue with the highest levels of professionalism and spread it worldwide to define universal human responsibilities as part of international law as a complement to universal human rights.
- Upgrade Civic Systems. Design universal human responsibilities and rights as a cornerstone of a 21st century modular architecture of self-governance that includes key building blocks of civic systems needed to upgrade their capacity to achieve global goals.
- Increase Rates of Change. Collaborate with a wide range of partners to develop practices, incentives and programmes that use upgraded civic systems and intensified civic engagement to increase our rate of change in achieving global sustainable development goals.
The Campaign can use contributions of time, energy and resources at all levels, from citizens and families to communities and congregations, from companies and regions to countries and the world, including:
- Membership – Grow the campaign worldwide to make it diverse, meaningful and legitimate and to produce a continuously improving declaration that liberates and channels civic energy through a thriving global community.
- Partnership – Collaborate around messaging, infrastructure, fundraising, technology solutions, legal innovation and gatherings to ensure our work is a truly valuable catalyst to the work of other citizens and leaders, institutions and nations around the world.
- Sponsorship – Show the world that you think universal human responsibilities are an important factor in solving climate, poverty and inequality by donating time, energy, knowledge or resources to the cause.
- Scholarship – Help design and fund research programmes to understand more about how responsibility can serve as a new political center and how to create a best practices network for sharing approaches to upgrading self-governance with universal responsibilities.
- Leadership – Engage with our best thinking by reviewing our strategic plan and key documents, give us your best constructive criticism, find a role you wish to play and join us as a co-founder of the Campaign.
Invitations are open to anyone, anywhere, in any language. Just send a simple request, including how and why you would like to get involved, to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.comWorking together, it is possible to raise our game in ways that defy the pessimists, surprise the optimists and thus honor the legacy of past, present and future generations.
Declaration of Universal Human Responsibilities
(Working Draft for Discussion Only – Version 0.2 – October 22, 2019)
|Climate||Sustainable Development Goals||Income Inequality||People Power||Reimagining Democracy|
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