17 June 1997
OVERALL REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 21
Letter dated 16 June 1997 from the Permanent Representative
of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations addressed to
I have the honour to transmit herewith the Seoul Declaration on
Environmental Ethics,** which was adopted at World Environment Day,
held at Seoul on 5 June 1997 and hosted by the Government of the
Republic of Korea and the United Nations Environment Programme.
I should be grateful if you would have the text of the present
letter and the Declaration circulated as a document of the nineteenth
special session of the General Assembly, under item 8 of the
(Signed)PARK Soo Gil
** Circulated in the language of submission only.
World Environment Day 1997
Seoul Declaration on Environmental Ethics
~ People's Pledge ~
As humanity moves toward the 21st century, we are left with no choice but
to reconsider the values and principles that underlie our relationship
with the Earth. Over the course of history, we see that lifestyles and
ways of thinking have changed dramatically, having made tremendous
progress in science and technology, economic growth, and material
wealth. These changes have enhanced the quality of life for some, but
have diminished it for others. We also have witnessed the continuation
of unsustainable development practices and lifestyles which have
detrimentally affected the natural environment and indeed our very
Clearly, a fundamental change is required. The global community is in
need of a set of guidelines that would allow equitable access to the
environmental benefits of the planet, without exceeding its carrying
capacity. We must come to an understanding that the current global
environmental crisis is a result of value systems~ driven by human
greed and excessive materialism, and the mistaken complacency that
science and technology would solve all our problems. Unless we
reexamine our values and beliefs, such conditions will further
environmental degradation, and ultimately lead to the collapse of
natural systems that support life. Reevaluating what constitutes
sustainable development and the proactive role humankind must play to
realize it is the only sensible course of action.
We believe that in order to enhance the quality of life, and to avoid
wholesale ecological destruction, a deeper understanding of life and
the formulation of a new system of environmental ethics are required.
The key is to recognize that humans and the natural environment
are interdependent and part of a larger entity, the
"Whole-Life-System.' We must therefore understand that the environment
is not a resource for exploitation, but is a partner for life. Human
society must also begin to better understand itself as a collective
and cohesive body whose very welfare is dependent on the welfare of
all its constituents -- the cultural, ethnic, national, and
generational groups. Such an ecological perspective on nature and on
ourselves constitutes the best hope of solving environmental crises.
The critical decisions that we make must be determined by our own sense
of moral strength, nobility of spirit, and a reverence for life. To this
end, we require an ethical paradigm based on social equity, respect
for diversity, and a culture of cooperation and shared responsibility
in preserving the integrity of the Whole-Life-System.
In recognition of these considerations, on this date of June 5, 1997,
marking the 25th anniversary of the Stockholm Declaration and the 5th
anniversary of the Rio Declaration, we gather here in Seoul, Korea to
declare this "Seoul Declaration on Environmental Ethics" in order to
establish an evolving framework of` ideals, principles, and guidelines
to sustain life on Earth.
Earth's Whole-Life-System refers to a totality in which human beings,
together with other life forms, natural elements and forces, coexist
interdependently as a cohesive entity - The viability of the Whole-
Life-System is essential to and dependent upon the very existence and
integrity of all of its constituent components, and no species has an
exclusive right to Earth's environment. All human decisions ought to
be made and implemented on the premise that the existence of all life,
including human life, can be sustained only when the integrity and
wellbeing of the Whole-Life-System is preserved.
1. Creating a Spiritual Culture
The industrial civilization has brought about an abundance of goods and
services for humankind, but also an obsession for materialism and a
distortion of human values. These adverse effects on society have
reached a critical threshold. We must act now to find the proper
balance between materialistic pursuits and the need for spiritual
fulfilment, in order to embrace life more fully.
For thousands of years, many indigenous groups worldwide have been
practising the ethics of living in harmony with their natural
environment. It is necessary that we reevaluate the significance of
their cultures and traditions and incorporate their knowledge and
expertise into our own.
2. Achieving Environmental Equity
Planet Earth is the common home tor all of us. We must all strive to
share equitably the benefits and burdens resulting from the use of the
environment. In particular, equity should exist among nations, ethnic
groups, and generations of humankind in the distribution of the social
and economic benefits from the Earth's environment.
A perspective on environmental ethics enables us to recognize that all
people have the same rights to a secure environment as well as the
right to pursue individual happiness and prosperity. Respecting such
rights is crucial since the welfare and quality of life of every
individual contribute to the survival and well-being of the
Whole-Life-System. Furthermore, because in many cases environmental
degradation is long-term and cumulative, precautionary policies guided
by considerations of equity must be implemented to safeguard the
rights of future generations.
3. Greening Science and Technology
Science and technology have played a critical role in human history and
will be one of the key determining factors in shaping a sustainable future.
However, the impacts of technological development and their
applications have also become so significant that they could threaten
the stability of the ecosystem and human society. Therefore, a
rethinking of the expectations and responsibilities of the scientific
community is required.
The principles that should guide the development and use of technology
must take into account the finite carrying capacity of nature and the
intricate interconnectedness of the Whole-Life-System. The development
of environmentally-friendly technologies and the accumulation of
environmental information must be encouraged. In addition, technologies should
be subject to rigorous assessment before and after their application to avoid
irreparable damage to the environment. The results of such efforts should be
exchanged worldwide in order to facilitate joint efforts aimed toward ensuring
a more sustainable future.
4. Sharing Responsibilities
All members of human society are responsible for maintaining the
integrity of the global environment as a Whole-Life-System. We must accept our
accountability and fulfil our responsibilities to protect the integrity of the
global environment with determination in our everyday lives. These individual
efforts can be enhanced through building networks within and among groups of
civil society and government, industry and business, and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs). With such cooperation and coordinated participation,
appropriate policies can be developed and implemented effectively.
Guidelines for Action
l. Policy Coordination. Sectoral, economic and other policies must
contribute to preserving the sustainability of the Whole-Life-System. To that
end, governments at all levels must ensure that their policies are the
result of well coordinated strategies among all relevant government
2. Precautionary Approach. Development projects must be subject to
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). Any project that is expected
to have significant adverse environmental effects must be accompanied
by appropriate precautionary mitigation measures and/or action plans
to counter all such impacts. As declared in Rio, where there are
threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific
certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective
measures to prevent environmental degradation.
3. Accessibility. Policies and programs concerning development and
environmental preservation must reflect the interests and informed
judgement of all stakeholders. To achieve full participation,
information pertaining to these policies must not only be made
available to the public, but done so in an accommodating manner to
allow sufficient time for public comment to be introduced and
incorporated into such policies.
4. Support for Environmentally-Sound Technology. Governments must support
the development of environmentally-sound technologies for all sectors
of the economy and encourage their application. To this end, all
governments must endeavour to make the necessary financial commitments
to subsidize research, development. and use of the technologies where
appropriate. Governments should create enabling conditions and
incentives for the development and application of such technologies,
as well as for the exchange of the scientific and technical
information which result from such development.
5. Equity. Benefits and burdens from development and environmental
policies must be distributed fairly among members of society in order
to promote social and economic equity. In particular, such policies
must help ensure that women, children, elderly, the poor
and disadvantaged, indigenous groups, and the physically challenged,
are empowered to share in the benefits resulting from environmental
and development policies. Governments must also promote suitable
conditions for active participation in the decision-making process by
6. Environmental Education. Education, especially from an early age, has
a significant effect on how people form attitudes toward the
environment, and is thus crucial. Educational programs designed to
enhance awareness of environmental issues and ethics must be developed
and applied at all levels of society through all available practical
means. Governments should make special et`forts to financially
support such educational programs.
7. International Cooperation. Nations share common responsibilities for
preserving Earth's environment. This requires active involvement in
regional and international cooperative efforts and collaborative
implementation of environmentally-sound policies, while complyIng with
established multilateral agreements. Moreover, in order to further
international cooperation, newly developed scientific information as
well as experience in environmental and development policy-making
should be exchanged worldwide to facilitate efforts for global
environmental protection and improvement and to provide early warning
of impending problems.
8. Environmentally-Sound Lifestyles. All members of society must
cultivate lifestyles that avoid waste and excess. Bearing in mind that
Earth's resources are limited, each person must avoid a culture of
extravagant material consumption and pursue ways to preserve the
planet by means of environmentally-sound consumption patterns. Each
individual can make a difference in his or her consumption patterns,
and when accumulated collectively, the positive effect can be
9. Active Involvement. Individuals are encouraged to participate both
morally and politically in all levels in the decision-making processes which
affect the environment in order to improve the quality of
decision-making, avoid corruption, and ensure that their interests are
properly represented Broad-based participation will accordingly guide
government policies to be equitable and well-balanced in both
direction and purpose.
10. Caring and Compassion. Every person is encouraged to assist those who
are environmentally, economically, and socially disadvantaged and
extend the boundary of community to include all living beings.
Religious and Faith Communities
11. Spiritual View. The scale and magnitude of environmental problems are
such that they must be recognized as having a religious as well as
scientific dimension. Efforts to safeguard the environment need to be
infused with a vision of the sacred. Religious and spiritual leaders
must accept a responsibility to make known the full dimensions of this
challenge. The cause of environmental integrity and justice must
occupy a position of utmost priority for people of faith.
12. Public Awareness. An important role of NGOs is to heighten public
awareness by organizing and maintaining environmental instruction and
guidance. NGOs must amplify their efforts to educate and train
individuals, organizations, and public officials so that the message
of conserving the Whole-Life-System can be spread through multiple
channels. In addition, NGOs must take initiatives by way of projects
and clean-up activities to protect and improve the environment.
13. Role of "Watchdog" and Liaison. NGOs must serve the role of
"watchdog", be prepared to assess and evaluate policies, programs, and
projects, and where appropriate, propose alternatives. Furthermore, in order
to serve the role of liaison between and among governments, industrial
sectors, and civil society, NGOs must promote active dialogue between the
14. Specialization and Coordination. Given the increasing complexities of
the environmental issues, NGOs could benefit from further
specialization within their field of expertise. They are also
encouraged to build coalitions with NGOs from other disciplines to
enhance their effectiveness. Forming cooperative networks will further
promote the exchange of information, knowledge, and expertise.
15. Regional Environmental Activism. The increasingly effective role of
regional environmental activism initiated by local citizens and
communities is critical to the protection of the environment and
ecosystems. With this in mind, regional NGOs should make an effort to
form coordinated and interactive alliances with citizens and
Industry and Business Sectors
16. Environmentally-Friendly Business Practices. The industrial sector
must actively apply eco-efficiency principles in order to use less
energy and materials for the same amount of output and to reduce
emissions and waste. This invites, inter alia, widespread adoption of
environmentally-friendly production technologies, efficient use of
materials and energy, an increased use of recycled materials and
renewable energy, minimization of harmful emissions and the productive
use of wastes. The financial and insurance sectors must also
increasingly foster environmentally-sound investment.
17. Extended Responsibilities. In developing and manufacturing their
products, all industrial sectors must recognize that their
responsibilities do not stop at the end of the production line, but
extend to all phases of a product's lifecycle, including its disposal.
18. Environmental Management System. Industries must examine the undue
pressures they may be exerting on the environment by means of
regularly timed audits of their business practices. Accordingly.
industries must make a determined effort to minimize such pressures on
the environment by preventing and abating pollution. Industries must
take measures to incorporate the costs of pollution-prevention and
mitigation technologies as part of their normal production activities.
19. Monitoring. International organizations must monitor the global
ecosystem and major changes therein on a regular basis including, but
not limited to, global climate change, ozone depletion, and the
extinction of species. Transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and
transboundary conflicts over freshwater rights and use should likewise
20. Developing Policy Alternatives. International organizations must
address global and transboundary environmental problems by analyzing
and developing policy alternatives, as well as by facilitating
cooperation and agreement among nations, to resolve such problems.
21. Conflict Resolution. International organizations should facilitate
the prevention and.resolution of environmental disputes and promote
cooperative environmental policies. Furthermore, international
organizations must promote recognition of differing national
environmental standards, policies, and institutions among nations in
order to reduce international disputes and to promote international
cooperation in trade and investment.
22. Strengthening Ties. International organizations must play a key role
in strengthening international and regional cooperation, as well as in
fostering information exchange through which the benefits of
experience and technological expertise of developed countries can be
shared with developing countries.
23. Cooperative Development. International organizations must work
together with developed countries in providing both financial and
technical assistance to developing countries, and in particular, to
the least developed countries, to assist in breaking the cycle of
poverty and environmental deterioration.
Academic and Research Institutions
24. Research and Development. Academic and research institutions must
fulfil their role of advancing scientific knowledge of the environment
and developing mitigative pollution-preventive, and less
resource-consumptive technologies. In so doing, scientists and
engineers must exercise high moral discipline and maximum precaution
in their research, bearing in mind the potentially adverse effects
their research may exert on the environment.
25. Interdisciplinary Approach. Science and technology alone cannot
resolve the impending environmental crisis. An interdisciplinary
approach, which includes other branches of academic endeavors such as
the humanities and social sciences, is needed to develop programs for
a better understanding of the increasingly complex environmental
Communications and Mass Media
26. Publicizing Environmental Issues. The media must fulfil their
responsibility to convey and report with accuracy the state of the
environment and related environmental policies. With their ability to
heighten public awareness of such issues, mass media and the
entertainment industry should make additional efforts to publicize
environmental success stories and issues of interest which may inspire
others to action.
27. Utilizing Electronic Media. The new electronic media open a new
dimension of unprecedented interactive and fast-paced exchange of
information. Therefore, efforts should be made to utilize these new
forms of media to facilitate communication of environmental
information and active participation of people throughout the world,
in pursuit of preserving the Whole-Life-System.
This document has been posted online by the United Nations
Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the
document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement
is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.
Date last posted: 15 January 2000 16:15:30
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