A Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities

Download the PDF

Proposed by the InterAction Council, 1 September 1997


It is time to talk about human responsibilities

Globalization of the world economy is matched by global problems, and global problems demand global solutions on the basis of ideas, values and norms respected by all cultures and societies. Recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all the people requires a foundation of freedom, justice and peace - but this also demands that rights and responsibilities be given equal importance to establish an ethical base so that all men and women can live peacefully together and fulfil their potential. A better social order both nationally and internationally cannot be achieved by laws, prescriptions and conventions alone, but needs a global ethic. Human aspirations for progress can only be realised by agreed values and standards applying to all people and institutions at all times.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. The anniversary would be an opportune time to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, which would complement the Human Rights Declaration and strengthen it and help lead to a better world.

The following draft of human responsibilities seeks to bring freedom and responsibility into balance and to promote a move from the freedom of indifference to the freedom of involvement. If one person or government seeks to maximise freedom but does it at the expense of others, a larger number of people will suffer. If human beings maximise their freedom by plundering the natural resources of the earth, then future generations will suffer.

The initiative to draft a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities is not only a way of balancing freedom with responsibility, but also a means of reconciling ideologies, beliefs and political views that were deemed antagonistic in the past. The proposed declaration points out that the exclusive insistence on rights can lead to endless dispute and conflict, that religious groups in pressing for their own freedom have a duty to respect the freedom of others. The basic premise should be to aim at the greatest amount of freedom possible, but also to develop the fullest sense of responsibility that will allow that freedom itself to grow.

The InterAction Council has been working to draft a set of human ethical standards since 1987. But its work builds on the wisdom of religious leaders and sages down the ages who have warned that freedom without acceptance of responsibility can destroy the freedom itself, whereas when rights and responsibilities are balanced, then freedom is enhanced and a better world can be created.

The InterAction Council commends the following draft Declaration for your examination and support.


Proposed by the InterAction Council


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world and implies obligations or responsibilities,

whereas the exclusive insistence on rights can result in conflict, division, and endless dispute, and the neglect of human responsibilities can lead to lawlessness and chaos, [b]whereas[/b] the rule of law and the promotion of human rights depend on the readiness of men and women to act justly,

whereas global problems demand global solutions which can only be achieved through ideas, values, and norms respected by all cultures and societies,

whereas all people, to the best of their knowledge and ability, have a responsibility to foster a better social order, both at home and globally, a goal which cannot be achieved by laws, prescriptions, and conventions alone,

whereas human aspirations for progress and improvement can only be realized by agreed values and standards applying to all people and institutions at all times,

Now, therefore,

The General Assembly

proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities as a common standard for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall contribute to the advancement of communities and to the enlightenment of all their members. We, the peoples of the world thus renew and reinforce commitments already proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: namely, the full acceptance of the dignity of all people; their inalienable freedom and equality, and their solidarity with one another. Awareness and acceptance of these responsibilities should be taught and promoted throughout the world.

Fundamental Principles for Humanity

Article 1

Every person, regardless of gender, ethnic origin, social status, political opinion, language, age, nationality, or religion, has a responsibility to treat all people in a humane way.

Article 2

No person should lend support to any form of inhumane behavior, but all people have a responsibility to strive for the dignity and self-esteem of all others.

Article 3

No person, no group or organization, no state, no army or police stands above good and evil; all are subject to ethical standards. Everyone has a responsibility to promote good and to avoid evil in all things.

Article 4

All people, endowed with reason and conscience, must accept a responsibility to each and all, to families and communities, to races, nations, and religions in a spirit of solidarity: What you do not wish to be done to yourself, do not do to others.

Non-Violence and Respect for Life

Article 5

Every person has a responsibility to respect life. No one has the right to injure, to torture or to kill another human person. This does not exclude the right of justified self-defense of individuals or communities.

Article 6

Disputes between states, groups or individuals should be resolved without violence. No government should tolerate or participate in acts of genocide or terrorism, nor should it abuse women, children, or any other civilians as instruments of war. Every citizen and public official has a responsibility to act in a peaceful, non-violent way.

Article 7

Every person is infinitely precious and must be protected unconditionally. The animals and the natural environment also demand protection. All people have a responsibility to protect the air, water and soil of the earth for the sake of present inhabitants and future generations.

Justice and Solidarity

Article 8

Every person has a responsibility to behave with integrity, honesty and fairness. No person or group should rob or arbitrarily deprive any other person or group of their property.

Article 9

All people, given the necessary tools, have a responsibility to make serious efforts to overcome poverty, malnutrition, ignorance, and inequality. They should promote sustainable development all over the world in order to assure dignity, freedom, security and justice for all people.

Article 10

All people have a responsibility to develop their talents through diligent endeavor; they should have equal access to education and to meaningful work. Everyone should lend support to the needy, the disadvantaged, the disabled and to the victims of discrimination.

Article 11

All property and wealth must be used responsibly in accordance with justice and for the advancement of the human race. Economic and political power must not be handled as an instrument of domination, but in the service of economic justice and of the social order.

Truthfulness and Tolerance

Article 12

Every person has a responsibility to speak and act truthfully. No one, however high or mighty, should speak lies. The right to privacy and to personal and professional confidentiality is to be respected. No one is obliged to tell all the truth to everyone all the time.

Article 13

No politicians, public servants, business leaders, scientists, writers or artists are exempt from general ethical standards, nor are physicians, lawyers and other professionals who have special duties to clients. Professional and other codes of ethics should reflect the priority of general standards such as those of truthfulness and fairness.

Article 14

The freedom of the media to inform the public and to criticize institutions of society and governmental actions, which is essential for a just society, must be used with responsibility and discretion. Freedom of the media carries a special responsibility for accurate and truthful reporting. Sensational reporting that degrades the human person or dignity must at all times be avoided.

Article 15

While religious freedom must be guaranteed, the representatives of religions have a special responsibility to avoid expressions of prejudice and acts of discrimination toward those of different beliefs. They should not incite or legitimize hatred, fanaticism and religious wars, but should foster tolerance and mutual respect between all people.

Mutual Respect and Partnership

Article 16

All men and all women have a responsibility to show respect to one another and understanding in their partnership. No one should subject another person to sexual exploitation or dependence. Rather, sexual partners should accept the responsibility of caring for each other well-being.

Article 17

In all its cultural and religious varieties, marriage requires love, loyalty and forgiveness and should aim at guaranteeing security and mutual support.

Article 18

Sensible family planning is the responsibility of every couple. The relationship between parents and children should reflect mutual love, respect, appreciation and concern. No parents or other adults should exploit, abuse or maltreat children.


Article 19

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any state, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the responsibilities, rights and freedom set forth in this Declaration and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

* * * * * * * * * *


The proposed Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities have the endorsement of the following individuals:

I. The InterAction Council Members

Helmut Schmidt, Former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
Malcolm Fraser, Former Prime Minister of Australia
Andries A. M. van Agt, Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Anand Panyarachun, Former Prime Minister of Thailand
Oscar Arias Sanchez, Former President to of Costa Rica
Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Jimmy Carter, Former President of the United States
Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado, Former President of Mexico
Kurt Furgler, Former President of Switzerland
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Former President of France
Felipe Gonzàlez Màrquez, Former Prime Minister of Spain
Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Former Chairman of the Supreme Soviet and Former President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Salim El Hoss, Former Prime Minister of Lebanon
Kenneth Kaunda, Former President of Zambia
Lee Kuan Yew, Former Prime Minister of Singapore
Kiichi Miyazawa, Former Prime Minister of Japan
Misael Pastrana Borrero, Former President of Colombia (deceased in August)
Shimon Peres, Former Prime Minister of Israel
Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, Former Prime Minister of Portugal
José Sarney, Former President of Brazil
Shin Hyon Hwak, Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea
Kalevi Sorsa, Former Prime Minister of Finland
Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Former Prime Minister of Canada
Ola Ullsten, Former Prime Minister of Sweden
George Vassiliou, Former President of Cyprus
Franz Vranitzky, Former President of Austria

II. Supporters

Ali Alatas, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Indonesia
Abdul Aziz Z. Al-Quraishi, former Chairman of SAMA
Lester Brown, President, Worldwatch Institute
Andre Chouraqui, Professor in Israel
John B. Cobb Jr., Claremont School of Theology
Takako Doi, President, Japan Socialist Democratic Party
Kan Kato, President, Chiba University of Commerce
Henry A. Kissinger, Former U.S. Secretary of State
Teddy Kollek, Mayor of Jerusalem
William Laughlin, American entrepreneur
Chwasan Lee Kwang Jung, Head Dharma Master, Won Buddhism
Rabbi Dr. J. Magonet, Principal, Leo Baek College
Federico Mayor, Director-General, UNESCO
Robert S. McNamara, Former President, World Bank
Robert Muller, Rector, University For Peace
Konrad Raiser, World Council of Churches
Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the U.K.
Seijuro Shiokawa, former Ministers of Home Affairs, Education and Transportation of Japan
Rene Samuel Sirat, Grand Rabbi of France
Sir Sigmund Sternberg, International Council of Christians and Jews
Masayoshi Takemura, former Finance Minister of Japan
Gaston Thorn, Former Prime Minister of Luxembourg
Paul Volcker, Chairman, James D. Wolfensohn Inc.
Carl Friedrich v.Weizacker, Scientist
Richard von Weizacker, former President of the Federal Republic of Germany
Mahmoud Zakzouk, Minister of Religion, Egypt

III. Participants (in preparatory meetings in Vienna, Austria in March 1996 and April 1997) and special guests (at the 15th Plenary Session in Noordwijk, The Netherlands in June 1997)

Hans Kueng, Tubingen University (academic advisor to the project)
Thomas Axworthy, CRB Foundation (academic advisor to the project)
Kim, Kyong-dong, Seoul National University (academic advisor to the project)
Cardinal Franz Koenig, Vienna, Austria
Anna-Marie Aagaard, World Council of Churches
A.A. Mughram Al-Ghamdi, The King Fahad Academy
M. Aram, World Conference on Religion & Peace, (deceased in June)
A.T. Ariyaratne, Sarvodaya Movement of Sri Lanka
Julia Ching, University of Toronto
Hassan Hanafi, University of Cairo
Nagaharu Hayabusa, The Asahi Shimbun
Yersu Kim, Division of Philosophy and Ethics, UNESCO
Peter Landesmann, European Academy of Sciences
Lee, Seung-Yun, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Planning Board of the Republic of Korea
Flora Lewis, International Herald Tribune
Liu, Xiao-feng, Institute of Sino-Christian Studies
Teri McLuhan, Canadian author
Isamu Miyazaki, Former State Minister, Economic Planning Agency of Japan
J.J.N. Rost Onnes, Executive Vice President , ABN AMRO Bank
James Ottley, Anglican observer at the United Nations
Richard Rorty, Stanford Humanities Center
L. M. Singhvi, High Commissioner for India
Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, Claremont School of Theology
Seiken Sugiura, House of Representatives of Japan
Koji Watanabe, Former Japanese Ambassador to Russia
Woo, Seong-yong, Munhwa Ilbo
Wu, Xuequian, Vice Chairman, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
Alexander Yakovlev, Former Member, Presidential Council of the Soviet




Chinese (Simplified)

Chinese (Traditional)














Indonesian (Malay)