Comparison between the new Sustainable Development Goals and the Ethical Principles of the Earth Charter.

By Andrea Zubialde, Network Connector, Initiative Bien commun & Charte de la Terre, France, 2015.

This article is available in French, with more details on : http://commongood-earthcharter1.strikingly.com/blog/nos-derniers-evenements-nos-documents

A crucial challenge in developing a monitoring framework for the Sustainable Development Goals lies in their expansive scope. Indeed the goals cover a vast range of issues spanning human activity on earth and concerning different kind of Commons ( water, food and agriculture, health, education etc).

In this respect, the new Sustainable Development Goals should propose concrete orientations in terms of public policies, while the Earth Charter remains a Glocal and Local Ethical Framework which questions us and our daily Practices.

The following table proposes a possible comparison between the principles of the Earth Charter and the new Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs are more action-oriented, with the targets setting concrete and measurable objectives with specific deadlines (mostly 2020 or 2030). On the contrary, the EC principles are ethical values that are timeless and can be used as guides and inspiration for actions. The SDGs are also considered “aspirational” for each individual country). The EC adds a spiritual dimension which is missing in the SDGs (EC 14.d).

The EC principles bring an added value to the SDGs. They are more assertive on some issues that are delicate on diplomatic terms, and that are treated by the SDGs in a less concrete way. They ask for responsibilities (6b) and changes in governing institutions (decision-making: 6c), include a long-term perspective (on knowledge creation and sharing: 8), and a perspective that may be somewhat closer to the people (7f). The Earth Charter also emphasizes the responsibility and the acknowledgment of this responsibility by all.

These differences point to the fact that the Earth Charter is a declaration drafted through the consultation of the global civil society, while the SDGs have been negotiated by States. The SDGs add however new specific goals: for instance, sexual and reproductive rights or the consideration of the rights of people living under colonial or foreign occupation, two issues that raised controversy and divided the countries negotiating the SDGs. Another issue emphasized by the SDGs that is on the mouth of everyone today is climate change, not specifically referred to in the Earth Charter; employment is also emphasized in this time of economic crisis (4.4). The SDGs also emphasize the practical side on many of the targets, referring to financing, technological support and scientific research (3b, 3c), focusing on results and effective processes (4.1), and detailing each issue in all its possible forms (for example Goal 5).

Considering this, the links between the Earth Charter and the Sustainable Development Goals are undeniable. The two documents advocate an integrative perspective on sustainable development, and acknowledge the importance of guiding sets of principles embodied in international declarations. They both ask for global cooperation between all sectors and all types of actors involved in our world. They are connected, and the EC principles can play and are playing an important role in guiding the actions to be taken and in leading the way forward to the achievement of these goals for a sustainable development in the coming decades.

Sustainable Development Goals Earth Charter principles Comments and analysis of SDG targets
Goal 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere 9 Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative. The targets refer to the importance of considering the poor and vulnerable (EC principle 9c) and the right to economic and natural resources (EC 2a).
Goal 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture 9a Guarantee the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter, and safe sanitation, allocating the national and international resources required. Many of the SDG emphasize the focus on the poor and vulnerable and on women and children.

Target 2.3 acknowledges indigenous people’s rights to income from agriculture, providing them with resources and inputs. The EC recognizes the valorization of their traditional lifestyles.

Target 2.4 corresponds to EC principle 10 on economic activities that ensure sustainable human development, and to principle 7 and its subprinciples on the different ways for production and consumption patterns that respect sustainability.

Target 2.5 makes reference to GMO (focused on seeds use and access), like the EC in principle 5.d. but more directly (focused on control and eradication of GMO)

Target 2.b makes reference to trade (and other market-related issues) like EC in principle 10c.

Goal 2 emphasizes the need for financing.

Goal 3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages 9a

9b

9c

11

Guarantee the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter, and safe sanitation, allocating the national and international resources required.

Empower every human being with the education and resources to secure a sustainable livelihood, and provide social security and safety nets for those who are unable to support themselves.

Recognize the ignored, protect the vulnerable, serve those who suffer, and enable them to develop their capacities and to pursue their aspirations.

Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.

Goal 3 refers to global diseases (tuberculosis, malaria…), substance abuse, deaths from road traffic accidents, access to sexual and reproductive healthcare systems, achieving universal health coverage (EC principle 11).
Goal 4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 11

14

14a

Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.

Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.


Provide all, especially children and youth, with educational opportunities that empower them to contribute actively to sustainable development.

Target 4.6 refers to the need to education on sustainable development and on a culture of peace and non-violence, something that is reflected in the EC principles 8, 14 and 16.
Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls 11

11a

11b

Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.

Secure the human rights of women and girls and end all violence against them.

Promote the active participation of women in all aspects of economic, political, civil, social, and cultural life as full and equal partners, decision makers, leaders, and beneficiaries.

Goal 6 Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all 9a Guarantee the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter, and safe sanitation, allocating the national and international resources require The targets under Goal 6 refer to sanitation and water needs of people, and can thus be linked with the concept of human dignity asserted in the EC principle 1b.
Goal 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 7b

9b

Act with restraint and efficiency when using energy, and rely increasingly on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

Empower every human being with the education and resources to secure a sustainable livelihood, and provide social security and safety nets for those who are unable to support themselves.

Goal 8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all 3b

9b

10

Promote social and economic justice, enabling all to achieve a secure and meaningful livelihood that is ecologically responsible.

Empower every human being with the education and resources to secure a sustainable livelihood, and provide social security and safety nets for those who are unable to support themselves.
Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.

Goal 8 points at harmonizing economic growth with environmental protection, asking for sustainable consumption and production systems, thus related to principle 7 of the EC on sustainable patterns of production and consumption, and principle 7f on sustainable lifestyles.

The emphasis is particularly on employment and on certain sectors of the economy (sustainable tourism, finance…), and on economic development that profits to developing countries as well.

Goal 9 Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation 10 Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner. Goal 9 is particularly concrete and technical, referring to physical infrastructure, something that is not especially acknowledged in the Earth Charter. Target 9.c also considers access to ICT and internet services.

Target 9.5 considers enhancing scientific research, something that is asserted in the EC principle 8.

Goal 10 Reduce inequality within and among countries 10a Promote the equitable distribution of wealth within nations and among nations. Target 10.5 on regulating and monitoring global financial markets and institutions corresponds to the EC principle 10d.

Goal 10 refers to migration, and addresses the issue of developing countries vs developed countries, which is taken into account by the EC principle 10b.

Goal 11 Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 9a Guarantee the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter, and safe sanitation, allocating the national and international resources required. Goal 11 addresses more technical and concrete issues that consider to physical infrastructure. It also addresses transport infrastructure, urbanization processes, natural disasters’ impact, and urban planning and services.

It also refers to our “cultural and natural heritage”, as it appears in the EC principle 5b.

Goal 12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 7 Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being. Goal 12 addresses all the issues related to our economic activity, which are also considered in the Earth Charter (6): management of natural resources (5e) and other resources such as fossil fuels (5f), with a new insight, for instance considering the problem of subsidies to fossil fuels.

It also highlights the importance of education on sustainable development, as does the EC in principle 8c.

Goal 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts* 7

7b

Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being.
Act with restraint and efficiency when using energy, and rely increasingly on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
Although the Earth Charter does not specifically refer to climate change, some of its principles work towards Goal 13 (7c, 7d).
Goal 14 Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development 5b

5

Establish and safeguard viable nature and biosphere reserves, including wild lands and marine areas, to protect Earth’s life support systems, maintain biodiversity, and preserve our natural heritage.

Protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.

Goal 15 can be compared to all the principles under principle 5 of the Earth Charter, which refer to preserving our natural reserves (5b), promoting the recovery of endangered species and ecosystems (5c), manage natural resources, among them marine resources (5e). The targets under goal 14 can also be linked to the EC principle 6a on preventing environmental harm.
Goal 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss 5 Protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life. Goal 15 and its targets also correspond with the subprinciples under the 5th EC principle, as explained above.
Goal 16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels 13

14

Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision making, and access to justice.
Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.
The targets under Goal 16 are reflected in EC principles 13, 14 and 16, although they highlight some important issues such as torture and exploitation, arms trafficking, corruption and bribery, statelessness, terrorism and crime. These are addressed in the Earth Charter in a positive way (asserting the means to end these problems), although some are also mentioned (16b, 16c, 16d, 16e).

Targets 16.5 and 16.6 address the issue of corruption and transparency, found in the Earth Charter in principles 13, 13d and 13e.

Goal 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development Goal 17 is a Means of Implementation Goal, which is divided into different structural areas.
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