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The reinvention of the United Nations, an indispensable organization

Miguel D'ESCOTO and Leonardo BOFF


We declare that the United Nations is an indispensable organization for the salvation of the world, although we are fully aware of the very limited success it has had during all of its existence. Not withstanding this, institutions should not be evaluated on the basis of “good” things that they may have done. All institutions should be evaluated based on how well they have lived up to their reason for existing in the first place. In reality, some objectively good things may, from an institutional perspective, be failures, and they can give us the deceptive illusion that all is going well.

The United Nations was created with just one purpose: stop what was feared to be an irreversible cycle of violent conflicts like the first two World Wars in the first half of the 20th Century. It was thought that it was necessary to agree to a code of civilized conduct between nations and to create a judicial organism to resolve controversies without having to resort to war.

It was also thought that, in addition to respecting the rule of law in international relations, it was essential to deactivate a time bomb that—sooner rather than later—could explode into another World War even bloodier than the two previous wars: the hunger and poverty that already existed 64 years ago. These were the reasons that brought about the adoption of the UN Charter of San Francisco and the creation of the Bretton Woods institutions—the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank—which, in truth, instead of helping to overcome poverty in the world, have helped to entrench it even more.

It is important to note that, at the time of its creation, the United Nations was not aware of the environmental question and the grave threats that would challenge all peoples in the future. With reason, it sought the Common Good of all societies. Today, with the awareness we now have, it should be enriched with the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity.

Analyzing the United Nations from these two essential objectives, we can only answer that, lamentably, it has not achieved its purposes. This is evident by the sad fact that an obligation as important as the declaration of the State of Palestine continues unfulfilled and aggressions, genocides, and invasions—like the current ones against Iraq and Afghanistan—continue killing hundreds of thousands of people, generally innocent, with total and absolute impunity.

The immense majority of the inhabitants of the Earth consider the United Nations to be a debilitated institution, ineffective and even unnecessary. The most powerful country of the Earth, scarcely interested in the ecological future of Mother Earth, has helped to demoralize the Organization by not respecting its decisions and by acting like its owner and manipulating the Security Council to its liking.

Nevertheless, although we recognize all these criticisms are valid, we do not hesitate to declare that the solution does not lie in abandoning the United Nations. It is our Organization. It was created in the name of “we the peoples,” and these peoples consider the privilege that a few powerful countries wield in using their veto power abusive and antidemocratic, as they, in this way, block consideration of fundamental questions for the world.

We can and should change all of this if we want the United Nations to be at the service of Peace and Life and the principle of equal sovereignty of all Member States to be respected within it; without privileges of any type for anyone; where decisions that affect all are taken by all and not only by a small group that uses the unjust privilege of the veto; an organization in which all are equally obligated to refrain from committing crimes against the dignity of Mother Earth and Humanity and to attend to the consequences of violations, independently of whether or not they are part of the pertinent treaties or protocols. Not being part of a treaty is not equivalent to having license to commit the type of crimes that the treaty seeks to avoid.

To save the United Nations, it is necessary to reflect a bit on how a deviation so dramatic in the foundational purposes could have occurred. It is impossible to deny that the powerful countries are reluctant to submit to a higher authority. Because of this, they do not believe in the rule of law in international relations. Unfortunately, the law of the jungle, that is to say, of the strongest—continues to dominate. We refuse to accept any country’s claims to exceptionalism. Mother Earth does not recognize any “Manifest Destiny,” because all of the peoples are her beloved sons and daughters and all—with equal dignity and rights—inhabit the same Common Home.

Throughout the years, procedural norms have been introduced in the UN with the sole objective of limiting the power of the General Assembly, the neurological center of the entire system of the United Nations, and reducing the President of the General Assembly to a merely ceremonial figure, despite the fact that, according to the Charter, the President is the highest official of the Organization as Head of State, and the Secretary General is only the head of the immense bureaucracy, often subjected to insupportable pressures by the wealthy countries.

But all of this can change. The power of the General Assembly, the Group of 192, can be rescued and, in great part, it was rescued during the 63rd Session. This rescue of the power of the General Assembly, that is to say, the democratization of the UN, is possible and should continue

To contribute to this rescue of the power of “we the peoples” within the United Nations, we have proposed to work on the following:

I. A Universal Declaration on the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity as an essential document for the reinvention of the UN and a complement to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are aware of the excessive anthropocentrism, greed, and egoism of the dominant culture which will make the adoption of the said Declaration difficult, but we will achieve it.

II. A Charter of the Organization responding to the exigencies of the 21st Century, which can guarantee our survival by promoting the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity.

III. The creation of a Tribunal of Notables coming from the five regions that make up the United Nations, in order to hear accusations of crimes against the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity, submitted by members of the Organization. Its function will be similar to the actual International Court of Justice with the difference being that the verdicts cannot be ignored, like the United States ignored the case won by Nicaragua against it at The Hague.

We take this opportunity to present our proposal for the Universal Declaration. Later, we will present the other two.





CONSIDERING that the Earth and Humanity are part of a vast evolving universe, sharing a common destiny and threatened by destruction as a result of the irresponsibility and recklessness of human beings,

CONSIDERING that the Earth and Humanity form a unique complex and sacred entity, as is evident when viewed from outer space,

CONSIDERING that the Earth is alive and is a subtle balance of all the ecological elements and conditions that make it ideal for the production and reproduction of life, and that, for that reason, it is our Great Mother and our Common Home,

CONSIDERING that Mother Earth is composed of all the ecosystems in which she has generated a magnificent multiplicity of forms of life, all of them interdependent and complementary, making up the great community of life,

CONSIDERING that there is a tie of kinship among all living beings because they all carry the same basic genetic code that underlies the sacred unity of life in its multiple forms,

CONSIDERING that Humanity is part of the community of life and represents the birth of awareness and knowledge of the Earth itself and thus human beings, men and women, are the Earth itself talking, thinking, sitting, loving, giving care and revering,

CONSIDERING that all human beings, with their cultures, traditions, religions, arts and visions of the world, make up one family of brothers and sisters with equal dignity and equal rights,

CONSIDERING that Mother Earth has provided us with everything necessary for life, and that human life and nature in general depend on a healthy biosphere with all its sustainable ecosystems, in which waters, forests, animals and countless microorganisms are preserved,

CONSIDERING that the vitality and integrity of the Earth are threatened by serious devastation, and that millions and millions of poor people could die of hunger, thirst and disease before their time and, moreover, that present dangers could place the survival of the entire human species at risk,

CONSIDERING that our contract with nature - forgotten and marginalized - must be renewed and urgently linked to the social contract, which has acquired exclusivity through anthropocentrism in our time and through strategies to appropriate and dominate nature and Mother Earth,

CONSIDERING that awareness of the serious situation of the Earth and of Humanity is essential for changing minds and hearts and forging a coalition of forces around the common values and guiding principles that form the ethical foundation and incentive for practices aimed at ensuring that all individuals, organizations, schools, businesses, transnational institutions and governments adopt a sustainable way of life,

The General Assembly of the United Nations hereby proclaims the present Declaration on the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity as an ideal and a criterion to guide peoples, nations and all citizens in their collective, community and personal practices and in their educational processes in order to ensure that the Common Good is progressively recognized, respected, observed, assumed and universally promoted with a view to ensuring the each and every one of the inhabitants of this tiny blue-white planet, our Common Home, lives well and responsibly.


Article 1

The supreme and universal Common Good, a condition for all other good, is the Earth itself which, being our Great Mother, must be loved, cared for, regenerated and revered as we do our own mothers;

I. The Common Good of the Earth and Humanity calls on us to understand that the Earth is alive and worthy of dignity. It cannot be individually appropriated by anyone, nor turned into a commodity, nor can it withstand being systematically undermined by any form of production. It is the communal possession of all those who inhabit it and of all ecosystems;

II. The Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity calls on us to protect and restore the integrity of ecosystems, devoting special attention to biological diversity and all natural life-sustaining processes;

III. The Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity is strengthened when all beings are viewed as interconnected and as having intrinsic value, regardless of their worth to human beings;


Article 2

To ensure the Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity, it is necessary to reduce, reuse, and recycle the materials used in production and consumption, guarantee that residual waste can be assimilated by ecological systems and strive to live well and responsibly by safeguarding life-supporting ecosystems, in cooperation with others and in harmony with the rhythms of nature;

I. The Common Good of the Earth and Humanity derives from the sustainable use of renewable resources, such as water, soil, forest products and marine life so that they may be replenished and guaranteed for current and future generations;

II. Non-renewable resources, such as minerals and fossil fuels, must be managed in ways that minimize their depletion and cause no serious damage to the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity;


Article 3

We must adopt production and consumption patterns that guarantee the vitality and integrity of Mother Earth, the social equity of Humanity, responsible and respectful consumption and a communal effort to live well and responsibly;

I. The Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity calls for the sustainable use of available forms of energy, with emphasis on renewable energy matrices and other alterative sources such as solar energy, wind power, tidal power and agro-energy;

II. The Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity is empowered when pollution of any part of the environment is reduced to a minimum to avoid the harmful effects of global warming and to prevent an increase in radioactive, toxic and other dangerous chemical substances;

III. The Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity is not compatible with the existence of nuclear, biological, chemical or other weapons of mass destruction, which must be completely eliminated;


Article 4

The biosphere is part of the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity and is the shared heritage of all forms of life, of which human beings are the custodians;


Article 5

Natural resources, such as air, soil, fertility, flora, fauna, genes, microorganisms and representative samples of natural ecosystems and outer space are part of the Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity;

I. Water is part of the Common Good of Earth and Humanity because it is a natural, common, essential and irreplaceable resource for all living things and all of them are entitled to have access to it, regardless of the costs of its collection, reserves, purification and distribution, which shall be assumed by governments and society;

II. Oceans are part of the Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity because they constitute the great repositories of life, act as climate regulators and are the physical and chemical foundation of the Earth;

III. Forests are part of the Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity. They are home to the largest biodiversity on the planet and the moisture needed for the rainfall system, and they are major absorbers of carbon dioxide;

IV. Climates are part of the Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity because climates are the essential condition for managing life. Climate change should be addressed globally and responsibility for it must be shared;


Article 6

Food, on which speculation of any kind must be prohibited, is part of the Common Good of Humanity and the Earth;


Article 7

Health and education, electricity, the media, the Internet, postal services and public transport are public goods of Humanity;


Article 8

Oil and mining activities and agrofuels must be subject to government controls and social monitoring in view of their potentially harmful effects on the Common Good of Humanity and Mother Earth;


Article 9

Human beings, men and women, bearers of dignity, conscience, intelligence, love, care and responsibility, are the great Common Good of the Earth and Humanity;

I. The mission of human beings is to care for and protect the Earth and Humanity as inheritances received from the universe;

II. The inherent dignity of all human beings and their intellectual, artistic, ethical and spiritual potential must be affirmed;

III. Communities at all levels have an obligation to guarantee respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, paving the way for each individual to realize his or her full potential and contribute to the Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity;


Article 10

All the knowledge, arts and techniques accumulated throughout history are part of the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity;

I. The Common Good of the Earth and Humanity means recognizing and preserving the traditional knowledge and spiritual wisdom of all the cultures that help to care for the Earth, developing the potential of Humanity and promoting the Common Good;

II. The Common Good of Humanity calls for the increased provision of financial, ethical, social and intellectual resources to impoverished peoples to enable them to attain a sustainable way of life and contribute to the Common Good;

III. The Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity calls for the eradication of poverty as a humanitarian, ethical, social, environmental and spiritual imperative;

IV. Social justice and ecology cannot be dissociated, as both serve the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity;

V. Gender equity, the elimination of all forms of discrimination, the protection of boys and girls against violence and the social security of all those who are unable to support themselves are part of the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity;


Article 11

All forms of Government that support the inclusive participation of citizens in decision-making and promote unrestricted access to the justice system are part of the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity;


Article 12

The Common Good of the Earth and Humanity calls on us to protect nature reserves, including wild lands and marine areas, the Earth's life-support systems, biodiversity and the natural heritage, and to rescue endangered species and devastated ecosystems;

I. We must control the introduction of non-native species and abide rigorously by the principle of prevention in respect of all genetically modified organisms to ensure that they do not harm native species or the health of Mother Earth and Humanity;

II. We must guarantee that knowledge of vital importance for the Common Good of the Earth and Humanity, genetics and nanotechnology, is available in the public domain;


Article 13

The multiplicity of cultures, peoples, monuments, arts, music, sciences, philosophies, popular knowledge, ethical traditions, spiritual pathways and religions is part of the Common Good of Humanity and Mother Earth;


Article 14

The virtue of hospitality by which we welcome and are welcomed by each other as inhabitants of the same Common Home, the Earth, is part of the Common Good of the Living Earth and Humanity;


Miguel d’Escoto, President of UN General Assembly2008-2009 and Leonardo Boff former Ethics professor at Rio de Janeiro University




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