Advocacy for a Charter of Interdependence



At our times of the Anthropocene Age, as humanity becomes a telluric force capable of influencing the future of Mother Earth (Pachamama), it should secure the necessary means to influence its own future. Such is the aspiration of the Charter of Interdependence proposed by the Collegium International.

Over the course of academic meetings, conferences and working sessions of the Collegium with international organizations and notably the United Nations and its agencies, it became clear that interdependencies have been imposed through the existing mechanisms of globalization, and that the need to regulate them through appropriate governance appears increasingly urgent in order to keep the mother-ship afloat. Forward progress is only feasible however if this finding is followed by deliberations focused on the steps to be taken to improve governance at the global, state and social level.

Edgar Morin, Honorary President of the Collegium International reached the following conclusion: “There are three aspects to the process by which spaceship earth is maintaining its course at full speed: globalization, westernization and development. From this point forward   everything is interdependent, but at the same time everything is separate. The techno-economic unification of the globe is accompanied by ethnic, religious and political conflicts, economic shocks, degradation of the biosphere, crises of traditional civilizations, but also modernization. A multiplicity of crises is thus entangled within the great crisis of humanity, which fails at becoming humanity”.

Our reflections on governance are taking place at the intersection of rights, the macro economy, science and philosophy, through the utilization of what might be termed a conceptual toolbox (such as might be envisioned by a Max Weber or a Karl Popper in their day, or in our time the toolboxes of Edgar Morin, Peter Sloterdijk or Mireille Delmas-Marty…). More broadly, they are also inspired by poetry and literature (Edouard Glissant and Patrick Chamoiseau), indeed by artistic creation. Paul Virilio and Heiner Muller used to say of the world such as it has evolved, « there is but one dramaturge capable of understanding it… » Today it became difficult even for a dramaturge. This is why the International Collegium is proposing a new charter that seeks to understand, and where possible, to regulate world events.

Since its creation in 2002, the Collegium International has been working on the concept of solidary and responsible interdependence to be applied toward global governance conceived not as a state-driven model but rather one that encompasses supra-state and trans-state actors, both public (Territorial Collectivities, International Organizations…) and in the private sector (transnational enterprises ) and civil society. It has drawn upon the basic intellectual principles that comprise it’s raison d’être such as the theory of complexity of Edgar Morin,  the Mental Research Institute of Palo Alto, and The Three Ecologies by Felix Guattari ; or as well, from the juridical perspective,  Mireille Delmas-Marty’s Pluralisme ordonné


To this theoretical effort the Collegium adds the experience and expertise of political leaders who have been associated with the organization since its creation, notably Michel Rocard, Milan Kucan (who was president of the Republic of Slovenia at the time), Anna Lindt, FH Cardoso, Mary Robinson, Helmut Schmidt, Alpha Oumar Konare, Ruth Dreifus, Richard von Weizsacker, Danilo Turk, as well as Jacques Toubon and Pascal Lamy presently working with us. Issues relating to multilateralism and the United Nations have been elucidated through a number of meetings, conferences and documents with Stephane Hessel, Michael W. Doyle, Bernard Miyet, William vanden Heuvel and on several occasions, Kofi Annan and Michael Moller.

By way of illustration, in Edgar Morin’s la Politique de civilisation and l’Eloge de la métamorphose (The Politics of civilization and In Praise of Metamorphosis), metamorphosis is defined as follows : for states, by the conceptual distinction articulated by Mireille Delmas-Marty between solitary sovereignty and solidary sovereignty; for TNEs by  reinforcing social and environmental responsibility.  It assumes the presence of common objectives (protecting the earth’s public resources and anticipating trends – climatic as well as environmental, demographic and migrational.

In summary, our Appeal is an invitation to conceive and construct together a community of shared global destiny.


Three principles for a Charter on interdependence


Above all, the interdependencies are increasingly accepted as indisputable reality as they become more visible and more diversified -linking groupings of human beings (traditional societies, States, groups of States, transnational enterprises, (TNEs); linking present and future generations; linking living human beings and non humans; even human « subjects » and intelligent « objects ». They have been accorded juridical recognition at the 1992 Rio  Earth Summit.

As early as 2005, a « Declaration of Interdependence » was presented to the UN institutions, drafted by members of the International Collegium, including notably Mireille Delmas-Marty, Michel Rocard, Milan Kucan and Stéphane Hessel.

Over the ensuing ten years, the initiatives multiplied, notably with the publication in 2011 of a « Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities »; in 2015, a « Declaration of the Rights of Humankind ». The 2015 Paris Climate Accord underscored « the planetary scale of the threats to human life on earth « and the resultant imperative for States to cooperate with one another. This was followed in 2017 by the White Paper in Support of a Global Pact for the Environment (by the Club of Jurists) which inspired this preamble. Finally, a surprising « Declaration of Poets » was published the same year by Patrick Chamoiseau, who echoes the use of the elegant term « mondialité » first coined by Edouard Glissant ₁ to designate « that which economic globalization has not foreseen », these unanticipated human effects that « refuse to desert the earth ».

Such effervescence is unsurprising because we have at hand a veritable revolution: rather like Copernicus’s discovery that the earth is not the center of the solar system, we discover that humanity is not central to the earth. Humans do not own nature but are rather elements within the ecosystem. But when one seeks to organize responses to interdependencies, it must indeed be recognized that only human beings (endowed with « reason » and « conscience » under Art. 1 of the UDHR) are responsible. Their relationship with non-human life is asymmetrical and without reciprocity. It is thus incumbent upon humans alone to commit themselves to a genuine « charter of interdependencies » proposing three forms of action.


1. To preserve the differences

There is no uniformity to globalization.  On the contrary, it highlights differences and feeds upon them, rejecting uniformity based on a unique hegemonic model that is broadly mistrusted. Kant was already apprehensive about a universal Republic that would, in his view, lead to the most terrifying despotism. A century later de Tocqueville imagined that democratic despotism would infantilize/devolve humans to such an extent that they would be transformed to a flock of docile animals. Yet he did not foresee the digital revolution, which makes available to its « soft » despotism, to which everyone more or less submits spontaneously, the means for mass surveillance, informed by the big data that we provide, while these masses of data are processed by algorithms that are beyond our understanding as artificial intelligence progresses and becomes autonomous. Are we witnessing the onset of a new form of uniformization, digital despotism?

At the same time, globalization is both multiple and singular: « multiple » in the sense that it implies a certain pluralism, but « singular « in that it is not content to juxtapose the differences but calls for a common arrangement. In this sense globalization is close to « arranged pluralism » ₂, which reconciles differences without eliminating them, harmonizes diversity without destroying it and pluralizes the universal without replacing it by the relative: for there to be commonality there must still be differences that remain, but they must become compatible.

In order to render the differences compatible, globalization can find support in two provisions of international law : Art. 1 of the UDHR cited above, which elevates equal dignity among all humans as a universal principle,  and Art. 1 of the UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity adopted November 2001 in the context of the tragic attacks of 11 September,  2001 (and referenced in the Convention of 2005) which characterizes cultural diversity as « the common heritage of humanity » . Art. 4 of the UNESCO Declaration, by specifying that « No one may invoke cultural diversity to violate the human rights guaranteed under international law nor limit their scope/application », provides direction but is not instructive as to what must be done to achieve the objective.

What is therefore required is a method for determining the threshold of compatibility which, without entirely breaking with tradition,  allows for it to be reconciled with a more relaxed vision of universalism. As invented by the European Court of Human Rights, the notion of a « national margin of flexibility in interpretation » facilitates simultaneously the recognition of common principles along with an allowance for some degree of differentiation in their implementation,  but this is merely a flexibility that should not exceed a certain level in order to remain « compatible » with the common principles.

In a posthumous publication₃ the Tunisian scholar Abdelwahab Medded suggests that this notion of « compatibility » more flexible than that conveyed by « conformity », permits the preservation of a margin of national variation whose breadth would depend upon the « threshold of compatibility » and the criteria that underlie it. Given that an analogous question is being raised at present in Islamic countries, he points out that in the late 19th-early 20th century, Kang Youwei, a Chinese intellectual who studied at the Academy of the Ocean of Erudition and was subsequently exiled to Japan as a reformer, continued to advocate for conciliation as long as his disciple Liang Qichao advised a rupture. Thus is acknowledged the importance of cultural rights in this « conciliation of the irreconcilable » which is without doubt one of the keys to a soft globalization, particularly as this method might find itself reinforced in the second principle.


2. To promote solidarities

Solidarities arise through common governance, but  which one? As globalization expands, the democratic separation of powers among branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial) appears less and less transposable on a global scale. On the other hand, the countervailing powers seem to be accruing to non-state actors, particularly, private parties. As is demonstrated at the climate conferences and as recent initiatives confirm (the “Global pact on migration” or the new model Convention on international mobility) the participants in world governance henceforth are not only the political powers (States and international organizations, and economic powers - TNE), but also scientific knowledge (knowledge of the wise)  and civil society advocates organized on a global scale (NGOs and trade unions).

But this governance KWR “Knowing Willing Ruling” also, paradoxically, calls for a re-territorialization: »Act locally , Think globally » as Glissant said. To act locally, States must be associated with horizontal networks of decentralized authority (regions and cities). Likewise, the scientific knowledge of experts should be linked with the experiential knowledge of the “street-wise”, those who live on a daily basis the effects of globalization, such as workers, indigenous peoples or the most deprived populations (often the same ones). Ultimately, the wishes of the people must be exercised at every level, from the village to the capitol and all the way to the « Hyper Centers « functioning at all levels simultaneously.4

The plurality (of places as temporal entities) and the diversity of actors might embody the characteristics of a harmonious globalization.


3. Allocating responsibilities

If the whole is to be coherent, responsibilities must be allocated on the basis of common objectives.  The preamble of the Charter should therefore begin with an enumeration of these objectives, encompassing the following :

-The objectives flowing from in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Earth Summit and Charter of Mother Earth (2000), the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, “Common heritage of mankind” (2005)

- The 8 Millennium development goals principally centered on the struggle against poverty (MDG, UN SG, 2000) and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG, 2015);

Furthermore, we propose on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the UDHR two additional objectives of particular necessity in our present century: “universal hospitality” and “outlawing poverty”

Building upon these general objectives, specific qualitative and quantitative objectives should, for each theme, delineate the responsibilities of States by indicating the criteria for differentiation (for climate, see the Paris Accord; for migrations, refer to the Global Pact and Draft Convention, 2017). Allocating responsibility in fact requires adapting them to an interdependent world without denying the differences, thus to transform solitary sovereignty of States into solidary sovereignty whose implantation varies according to the context of each State (“common but differentiated” responsibilities).

In addition, the responsibilities of non-state actors when they exercise power at the global level must be spelled out. Likewise, for the TNEs, the « social and environmental responsibility » (SER) leads to the expansion of the notion of social interest toward certain forms of general interest (cf. Global Compact, UN SG, 2000 ₅). This is a matter of spontaneous engagement (soft law) which remains to be hardened by rendering them obligatory and by sanctioning transgressions as some national and international tribunals have begun to do.

In conclusion, in this world in transition, globalization remains fragmented and incomplete and the warning signs are multiplying. As with vigils, whistleblowers keep watch at the bow of the ship in order that human dignity is respected, that Mother Earth remains habitable and the Planetary Garden stays alive ⁶. But to prevent Humanity from entering an intertropical maelstrom that presages paralysis or shipwreck⁷, there must be instruments, notably juridical ones.

La Charte des interdépendances n’est pas une utopie, mais une urgence. Face à une réalité déjà perceptible, elle serait un instrument de navigation, d’ailleurs perfectible car cette charte a été conçue comme interactive et évolutive.

The Charter of Interdependence is not a utopia but rather an emergency. Confronting a reality that is already palpable, the Charter would be an instrument of navigation, indeed one that is perfectible because it has been conceived as interactive and evolving.

Adapted to our unique and multi-faceted Humanity, this Charter does not pit diversity against unity, unusual against common, relative versus universal. It utilizes the law as compass with a view to rendering differences compatible and allocating responsibilities with differentiation. Such is the condition of a soft globalization that does not pretends to guarantee either the perpetual peace imagined by Emmanuel Kant nor the Great Peace of the Chinese Classics, but more modestly paves the way toward a peace that constantly reinvents itself.


The Collegium International thus today undertakes the creation of a CHARTER OF INTERDEPENDENCE carried out as a solemn Appeal to the United Nations and its Secretary General, who moreover has already expressed his support for this project.

Through this event of 17 December, the Collegium intends to facilitate the raising of political consciousness at the international level of the highest interests of humanity within a framework respectful of diversity and the wisdom of diverse cultural traditions through the mobilization of representatives of civil society and moral, intellectual and scientific authorities.

It is important to carry on the pioneering spirit of the United Nations Charter in keeping with its language “We the peoples…”. Such is the ambition of this “Charter of Interdependences” designed to energize the raising of awareness of the needs of global governance, which has been ill-treated for three decades and whose deficiencies could have catastrophic consequences for the future of our planet.

Insofar as nothing but a multidisciplinary approach can enable us to confront the malfunctions/instabilities dysfunctions and threats, the launching of this solemn Appeal urging the drafting of such a Charter constitutes and essential step prior to presentation to nations united at the general assembly.


Translated from the French original by Michael Levy



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