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globe logo     Caravan: Newsletter of the Alliance for a Responsible and United World
Number 4 October 1999

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bulletAlliance in Motion
bulletOasis of the Alliance
 · Third Pillar
 · Earth Council Proposal
 · Human Crossroads Proposal
 · Considerations
 · South Asian Response
 · South Asian Draft
 · African Freedom Charter
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South Asian Yearnings

In the Asia-Pacific region of the Alliance for a Responsible and United World, we are trying to see the Earth Charter as a process rather than a finished product. Therefore, for us, the Earth Charter will always be in draft form, so to speak. We are hoping to see the Earth Charter process primarily as the re-envisioning of our goals and aspiration rather than only as a set of principles. In the present global order, this means that we are also suggesting a paradigm shift, as the present state of affairs is hardly likely to meet the pluralistic aspirations of the peoples of the world. The Earth Charter process is an act of daring. It is an act of daring because the very process of producing the Charter is a 'reality check' that situates what is happening today while simultaneously churning and surfacing our deepest meanings and aspirations for a world where human beings can creatively and ethically live with each other and the Earth. Therefore, the Earth Charter represents many voices, many visions and many colours. It does not confuse the universal with the homogenous.

The idea behind is to have as many regional charters as possible emerging in the Alliance process from all over the world. Our suggestion is that the final global Earth Charter of the Alliance evolves from the insights and principles proposed by the regional Earth Charters.

The process of drafting the Earth Charter from South Asia came up for a lot of discussion at the Alliance workshop in Bangalore (April 1999). Everyone felt that the South Asian version of the charter had to reflect the distinctive identity of the region while at the same time expressing solidarity with the peoples of all the other regions of the world. It had to be a document that was both local and global. Accordingly, the subgroup that was constituted for the purpose of drafting the Earth Charter from a South Asian perspective held several meetings and came to the consensus that the Charter would have 4 parts*: The first part of the Charter is made up of true-life stories of people whose lives represent the present-day realities of South Asia. This puts a human face on the document and prevents it from becoming a mere list of abstract resolutions. Part two articulates the general situation in South Asia today: the problems, the struggles, and the hopes. Part three draws upon the wisdom traditions of the region to offer alternatives to the present crisis faced not just by South Asians but by people the world over. This is followed by a more formal articulation called the Charter Statement. It is our hope that in this format the South Asian Charter will be seen as a holistic document, one that bears the distinctive flavour of a unique civilisation. This then is a South Asian contribution to the cause of a united and responsible world.

Siddhartha (India)

* For lack of space, we are reproducing only part II. to IV. of the draft Earth Charter from South Asia. Copies of the full text may be had from: Pipal Tree, # 139/7, Domlur Layout, Bangalore - 560 071, India. Phone/fax: 91-80-551 1756. Email:

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Draft Earth Charter from South Asia

drawing of people riding globesOur Context

A young ant, trying to figure out what life was all about, noticed a commotion in the distance. He hurried to the scene to see more clearly. He saw a small mound of ants in front of him, with more ants trying to clamber to the top. Amidst all the pushing and shoving was a constant refrain: Got to get to the top! The young ant joined in the frenzy with the others and started pushing and shoving in the race to the top. It went on for several hours, during which time several ants were crushed and wounded. Finally one ant, swept by the momentum, was hurtled to the top. He was amazed at what he saw. There's nothing at the top! He exclaimed. There's absolutely nothing up here.

As we move into the next millennium, we are faced with choices that are essentially qualitative and spiritual in nature. We in south Asia have had enough of the approach where the goal of the individual is to reach the top rather than commune with his fellow beings and nature. The new technological and market forces have created large scale disruption in our societies where non-dualist world views that speak of the inter-wovenness of human beings and the earth are being replaced with one that is insensitive and greedy. South Asia is today a simmering cauldron of conflicts and confrontations. Apart from the conflicts, emerging from the oppression against the Dalits, Tribals and women, we also face ongoing wars such as the Sinhala-Tamil conflict in Jaffna or the conflict in Kashmir, not to mention large number of serious ethnic and class insurgencies. South Asia has suffered centuries of colonisation and neo-colonisation. We find ourselves in an unequal world. Apart from the more obvious crises a large number of people are still crushed under grinding poverty. In the new political climate in south Asia concern to alleviate the plight of the poor has all but disappeared from public discourse. The media is diverting people's attention to escapist fare; celebrity news, entertainment and leisure.

Although the general situation is alarming, we have still cause for hope. A large number of individuals, organisations and movements have been struggling in the past few decades to reduce our problems. While the struggle continues, we are also re-assessing our vision. We realize that our societies have much to offer to propose an alternative paradigm of livelihood and well being.

Without overlooking the serious defects in our traditional social systems, we wish to emphasize that there is much wisdom and truth to be gleaned from our cultural and social practices, be they in agriculture, in health, in the relationships between human beings and nature or the insights into the very significance of our lives. Today, we find ourselves seriously reconsidering the 'alternatives to development'which were fostered and nurtured in south Asia.

New Directions

The entire cosmos from the tiniest sub-atomic particle of the earth to the most distant and massive star is one unified field of sacred energy. This means that every little bit of this universe is inter-connected with every other bit and each and every bit has its own special sanctity, both individually and collectively. For us on earth, this universe, filled with infinite variety, is a perennial source of wonder and joy.

Earth, our home, a most beautiful planet is a living eco-system, which supports myriad life forms. We, as conscious and intelligent human beings, are the children of this eco-system. As it nourishes and sustains us, it is our responsibility to nurture and protect it.

For us, then, every part of this earth, every animal, plant, insect or mineral is sacred. We are imbued with respect for it just as we cherish every human being who inhabits this earth. The earth is not for our own enjoyment alone, nor are its resources merely for our consumption. We share this space not only with humans but with other forms of life and therefore need to adopt an attitude of respectful co-existence towards them. Wide Mother Earth, has enough for all our needs provided we use her resources sparingly and responsibly. Solidarity, sharing and frugality will help us tied over our present ecological crisis.

Because the earth is a living system, it has the capacity to regenerate itself. The damage and destruction of our environment is, therefore, only temporary, not irreversible. But to restore the health of the planet, requires great mind shift from consumption to sustenance and, further, from sustenance to subsistence. A new holistic and integrated paradigm needs to be adopted to grow out of our present life styles, which are self-destructive and violative of others. In this new paradigm, technology and ethics will be combined as will be politics and morality. A new global dharma will emerge which integrates the local with the global, the self with society, fact with value, lexis with praxis.

This dharma, haq, or cosmic law can be the basis of a new compact between the peoples and the nations of the world, between the corporations and their clientele, between human beings and the other living species. A new spirituality non-denominational, non-sectarian, trans- or poly-religious, multi-ethnic, plural and gender sensitive will help ease the barriers between men and men and between men and women of our world.

For world citizens and agents of social change turning inward that is simultaneous with outward effort is essential, like the drawing in of the bowstring before the arrow is released, swift and sure. Acknowledging our past mistakes denying nothing of the sordid record of human suffering and violence, taking into account the terrible and unshakable crimes we have committed against each other, forgetting nothing, accepting everything, yet moving forward cautiously, hopefully, with love and compassion in our hearts, begging forgiveness of each other and of the earth and its creatures, we human beings can forge a new destiny for ourselves and for the earth.

Who knows, whether in the centuries to come we may encounter other life forms from other planetary systems ? Shouldn't we as conscious beings endowed with the faculties of rationality and sagacity not present a better account of ourselves? Shouldn't we leave this earth at least slightly better than how we found it when were born? If our problems are self-made, surely their solutions also lie in our hands. Thus if we walk together in humility and wisdom, steering our way forward into the great unknown with hindsight and insight, cognizant of the huge interwovenness of things, we may yet succeed in turning a possible tragedy into a certain triumph for our species instead of adding our fossil record to that of the colossal failures of the past.

We the people of south Asia affirm our solidarity with the rest of the nations and communities of the world. Our common problems and concerns bind us all together both in sorrows and in joys. We wish to join the great adventure of humanity in its forward march to a better and brighter future. The men and women of south Asia will walk hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder with their other brothers and sisters of the planet. In this spirit we will advance over all our collective yesterdays towards that luminous tomorrow dawning before our very eyes in the distant horizon. Together we shall overcome.

drawing of person riding globeTowards a Charter Statement

We the people of South Asia, constituting over one-fifth of humankind, affirm:

- that above all we wish to live in peace and friendship with each other and with the other peoples of the world;

- that we desire for all our people an adequate standard of living, with enough food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, health care, education, and employment, safety and security, so that all of us can live in dignity;

- that for the above goals to be achieved we need good and responsible governance in a democratic system, which guarantees freedom and human rights to all our citizens;

- that all the peoples of South Asia have a rich and shared cultural and spiritual heritage, going back to thousands of years; we would like this to be preserved in the face of threats from a global culture;

- that we also share a struggle against colonial domination and its aftermath, which is bitter poverty and backwardness, and therefore need to work together to overcome these handicaps;

- that we cannot afford the pointless wars and internal conflicts that have plagued us since our independence, but must work at a people-to-people cooperation so that these bloody and mutually destructive conflicts can be ended;

- that we also share a history of the oppression of women, lower castes, and other marginalized groups such as tribals or ethnic minorities, which we would like to end; a combination of legislation and social action will help us alleviate these internal oppressions and work towards greater equality in our societies;

- that we shall endeavour to eradicate social ills like illiteracy, child labour, bonded labour, drug trafficking, prostitution, and so on, many of which arise out of the crippling poverty and inequality which plagues our societies;

- that we are committed to the preservation of our plurality, which means that all the various ethnic, religious, linguistic, and other communities in our region are free to practice their own ways of life and livelihood and that this celebration of diversities is perhaps the only way to protect local cultures from the threat of globalization;

- that religious and other forms of intolerance are abhorrent to us and that we will not permit religion to be abused by politicians for their own selfish ends, that instead, we need to strengthen and further our spiritual traditions which are unique for their depth and continuity;

- that all of South Asia, from the heights of the Himalays to the depths of the Indian ocean is one ecosystem, interdependent and interrelated and that therefore its preservation is the common concern of all of us; that this would mean, at the least, the preservation of biodiversity, the protection of flora and fauna, the prevention of the degradation of forests, soil, and water, and the conservation of natural resources;

- that for all these goals the demilitarization and denuclearisation of the region and the whole world, the removal of barriers between the peoples in the various states, and the establishment (or maintenance) of democracy, local self-government, and decentralization are imperative.

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© 2000 Alliance for a Responsible and United World. All rights reserved. Last updated March 23, 2000.