The Vienna Declaration: Putting Global Ethical Standards into Practice in a Dangerous and Divided World

Opening Ceremony

Interfaith Dialogue

26-27 March 2014

Vienna, Austria

In 1987, the then recently established InterAction Council conducted its first interfaith dialogue in Rome. Subsequent interfaith dialogues have focused on the emerging concept of a global ethic, a statement of the commonly shared moral principles held by all major religions. The discussion of shared ethical principles was restricted to those necessary to promote a peaceful, tolerant and compassionate society and cooperation among nations, and was embodied by the Council in its 1997 Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities. At its core, the Declaration embraced the Golden Rule of “not doing unto others what you would not wish done to you.”

Convened by Organizing Chairman H.E. Dr. Franz Vranitzky and led by the meeting’s Co-chairs, The Rt. Hon. Malcolm Fraser and H.E. Mr. Yasuo Fukuda, the InterAction Council again hosted an interfaith dialogue in March 2014 in Vienna to examine the challenges in giving effect to a global ethical standard in a dangerous and divided world. 

  1. Even when a global ethic is clearly defined and understood, differing relationships between governments and religions, and a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds, present problems for the implementation of a global ethic.
  2. For governments, there is a tension among national interest, self-interest, and ethical concerns. There is a temptation to take the easy short-term decision and to push ethical considerations aside. 
  3. The practice of a global ethic and its implementation is complicated because each situation is different and set in a unique context. 
  4. Even where principles of a global ethic are written into law, the effect of those principles can be affected by an unwillingness to implement or enforce the laws.
  5. Sectarian violence, within individual religions and between religions, and the rise of extremism within many religions and cultures of the world, present special challenges to leaders and to the implementation of a global ethic.
  6. Sustaining and advancing the practical application of a global ethic is a never-ending task.  Leaders are constantly presented with short-term temptations to sacrifice commitment to a global ethic for expedient goals. Progress over many years can be undone quickly by giving in to extremist or short-term self-interest.
  7. Advancement of a global ethic involves, at its core, respect, tolerance, and compassion for all people. All human beings should be treated as equal.
  8. Progress toward a global ethic is made more difficult by the rapid growth in population.  H.E. Mr. Helmut Schmidt emphasized that achievement of ethical goals is harder in a world with 7.2 billion inhabitants that is quickly moving toward more than 9 billion.

Deliberations in Vienna highlighted practical steps necessary to advance a wider acceptance of a global ethic as a vehicle for justice and peace.

We urge:

  • Continued promotion of the concept of a global ethic and acceptance of the necessary responsibility and obligations.
  • Rejection of any legitimization of violence and upholding the value of life.
  • Deliberate efforts to avoid policies that can be misunderstood; that can promote division.
  • Special efforts to understand the point of view of other people. Such understanding is essential if differences are to be overcome.
  • A renewed commitment on the part of government leaders to implement a global ethic as a path to peace and to promote cooperation from cultural and religious diversity. 
  • Rejection of extremism and politics of division and denigration by governments. 
  • Particular efforts to counteract extremism evident in some regions and states.   
  • Recognition that promotion of global ethical standards is made more complex in a modern, global world community.
  • That particular effort be made to educate all people, and especially the young, about all major religions and the common ethical standards that they embrace. 
  • Continuing interfaith dialogue between political and religious leaders.