Earth Emergency

A declaration of change for the future

World Future Council
A body to represent civic society and our shared human values and traditions

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World Future Council
Earth Emergency

Following the inconclusive outcome of the Johannesburg Summit, the failure of governments and global institutions to address social and environmental problems is glaringly obvious. We can no longer afford a global system that aims to represent us only in our narrow capacity as consumers. Many people feel we are on a path to disaster and that we need a global voice to speak up for our much broader common values as world citizens caring for humanity, the planet and the future.

We lack a voice which appeals and responds to our common values as planetary citizens and that is heard against the round-the-clock cacophony of commercial speech. We therefore propose creating such a global voice to draw attention to our responsibilities as guardians of all future generations of life on earth. The World Future Council will consist of respected and open-minded individuals from various countries, backgrounds and beliefs. It will serve as a forum to focus global attention on new phenomena and priorities for action. As the voice of our common future it will debate the choices facing us from a perspective of expanded responsibility, it will press for the necessary legislative changes to prevent further social injustice and environmental degradation, and to build on tried and tested alternative ways of living in harmony with each other and with nature.

The Earth Emergency - A Call to Action initiative together with the Initiative for a World Future Council will seek to link up civil society initiatives around the world to promote the creation of local, regional and national Future Councils.

The Earth Emergency link up will enable grassroots initiatives based upon sustainable lifestyles to be directly in touch with an overall global council, the World Future Council, whose role will be to provide moral guidance at the highest level. This will ensure both a bottom up and top down approach to reforms so that our political leaders are pressurised to take appropriate action by both the people and a moral leadership.

World Future Council


Perhaps the role and purpose of the proposed Council is best summed up in the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his book Ancient Wisdom, Modern World: Ethics for a new Millennium, published in 1999.

'Just as in each country, democracy is ensured by the three pillars of independent judiciary, and executive and legislative branches, so we need to have a genuinely independent body at international level. But perhaps the United Nations is not entirely suited to this role. I have noticed at international gatherings, such as the Earth Summit in Brazil, that individuals who come to represent their governments, inevitably put the interests of their nation first. This despite the fact that the question at issue transcends national boundaries. Conversely, where people come as individuals to international gatherings … there is much greater concern for humanity itself. … This leads me to think that it could be worthwhile to establish a body whose principle task would be to monitor human affairs from the perspective of ethics. … This would consist of an elected group of individuals drawn, as I imagine it, from a wide variety of backgrounds. There would be artists, bankers, environmentalists, lawyers, poets, academics, religious thinkers, writers as well as ordinary men and women with a common reputation for integrity and dedication to fundamental ethical and human values. Because this body would not actually be invested with political power, its pronouncements would not be legally binding. But by virtue of its independence … these deliberations would be seen to represent the conscience of the world. They would thus carry moral authority.'


Today there is an urgent need for a council that expresses our values as citizens of the world, rather than just global consumers. It would seek and offer counsel and moral leadership on the future of the planet, guiding us on the most challenging journey we have ever faced.

The World Future Council Initiative is intended to encourage the debate about and the development of the Council. The following text is extracted from a report from the first Salzburg Meeting, June 2001. The first full meeting of the Council is planned for 2004.

Common Values: A global citizens' community with common values does not have to be laboriously created. It already exists. Our basic problem is not a "values vacuum" but that widely agreed values are not acted on. Their voice is increasingly drowned out by the cacophony of commercial speech.

Global Voice: We lack a powerful global voice, which appeals and responds to our common citizen values and speaks up for our inner awareness that we are on a wrong path. We propose the creation of such a voice to remind us of our unique responsibilities and provide an ethical audit on important decisions. The power of the Council we propose would be moral - but should not be under-estimated. As a voice of Global Stewardship, speaking for shared human values and traditions, it would provide valuable guidance and could become a powerful agent for change.
Membership: The membership of the council should combine the guidance of the wise, the inspiration of creative success stories and heroic actions and the challenges of youth.

Legitimacy: The Council would be legitimised by the quality of its work. It would provide the ongoing pressure to help ensure that the agreed recommendations of UN Commissions the Earth Charter etc. are actually implemented. It would listen, study and speak out at regular public sessions (which German SWR Television has offered to transmit world-wide). Its standing and moral power will grow over time as the gap it fills in the architecture of global governance becomes apparent. While no other organization currently fills this gap, the Council would help strengthen initiatives with similar goals of fostering a sense of global interdependence and universal responsibility.

Present and future generations: The challenges now facing humanity are historically unique, both in their globality and their long-term consequences. We have unprecedented power over and responsibilities for both present and future generations. But, blinded by our successes, we have lost our place in the larger story of life. At a time when even geological time-scales have become morally relevant, we have given power to belief systems which lack a long-term vision, are deeply uncomfortable with values and see society only as a jumble of conflicting interests based upon the fulfilment of individual human desires.

Economics: Our modern experiment of putting scientific and economic freedom first and then using ethics to deal with the consequences no longer works. If we want to avoid rising levels of global conflict and environmental stress, we need to re-cast the debate on our future in moral terms and impose our values on our economics instead of vice versa. Economic doctrine and its practical policies, i.e. the 'growth' model or global capitalism (globalisation), operates at a fundamental level in our human activities and its theories have usurped human value systems, cultures and traditions to such a great extent that most social and environmental problems will now have to be addressed through understanding and reforming our economic policies and practices. The Dalai Lama sums up his understanding of economics like this: 'I find it difficult not to suspect that, by means of international debt and the exploitation of natural resources at relatively low cost, the wealth of the rich is maintained through neglect of the poor.'

Politics and Leadership
: At a time when the world craves visionary leadership, our political leaders have become prisoners of an economic fundamentalism which undermines the values and institutions on which the urgently needed, wrenching transformation of our societies needs to be built. They no longer represent us as citizens, only in our (much narrower) capacity as consumers. They have chosen to focus their energies on giving the international legal protection of corporate profits a higher standing than basic human, social and environmental rights. Our political leaders therefore face cynicism, disinterest and violent opposition. For we feel alienated from a system which offers such dismal choices. We feel cheated by empty promises of a "global village" against the reality of enforced brutal competition and the introduction of adversarial money bargaining into all areas of life, breaking down trust and community.

The core council of 50 to 100 members will be supplemented by ca. 12 advisory groups. At present we are looking for suitable "homes" to take co-ownership and help build these. Substantial resources are required for core expense and staff, including a co-ordinator / director for the Council and each advisory group. (Such groups may begin their work before the full Council has been established.)

Meetings of the Initiative, held at the invitation of the Governors of Salzburg and Tenerife in 2001 and 2002, brought together over 60 civil society representatives and Members of Parliament from all over the world, who endorsed the concept of a World Future Council.

Co-ordinators of the WFC Initiative:

Jakob von Uexkull (Founder of the Right Livelihood Awards Foundation, Co-Founder of the Other Economic Summit) - email

Francesca Romana Giordano (Earth Emergency) - email

Lois Barber (Executive Director of Earth Action) - email

Herbert Girardet (Chairman of the Schumacher Society, UK) - email

Further information will be posted on and


There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if we take strong action now. The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent global response.

The Charter is an authoritative synthesis of values, principles, and aspirations reflecting extensive international consultations.

WWF's periodic update on the state of the world's ecosystems - as measured by the Living Planet Indexand Ecological Footprint

UNEP Global Environmental Outlook - charts the environmental degradation of the last 30 years since the first world environment conference in Stockholm in 1972

An agenda for equity and ecology for the next decade. Environmental care is key for ensuring livelihood and health for the marginalised and that there can be no poverty eradication without ecology

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