Ethical Globalisation

Global rules and ethical globalisation


United Nations Global Compact

The Global Compact is a framework for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of  human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption . As the world’s largest, global corporate citizenship initiative, the Global Compact is first and foremost concerned with exhibiting and building the social legitimacy of business and markets.

The Global Compact is not a regulatory instrument – it does not “ police”, enforce or measure the behavior or actions of companies. Rather, the Global Compact relies on public accountability, transparency and the enlightened self-interest of companies, labour and civil society to initiate and share substantive action in pursuing the principles upon which the Global Compact is based.

Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, United Nations, 53/144, 9 December 1998.

A Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, Proposed by the InterAction Council, 1 September 1997.

Universal Declaration of Responsibilities of Human Intercourse: a draft proposal, Anthony Judge, 15 July 2007.


Mary Robinson: The Ethical Globalisation Initiative

Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalisation Initiative

Our mission is to put human rights standards at the heart of global governance and policy-making and to ensure that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are addressed on the global stage. Realizing Rights was founded in October 2002 by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland (1990 – 1997) and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997 – 2002). Our supporters include Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and Musimbi Kanyoro. In collaboration with, The Aspen InstituteColumbia University and the International Council on Human Rights Policy, we are committed to convening key stakeholders in new alliances to integrate concepts of human rights, gender equality and enhanced accountability into efforts to address global challenges and governance shortcomings.

We harness civil society, government, business, and economic forums to build awareness for our select issues of concern.

We facilitate dialogues and relationships between decision makers and key stakeholders, particularly those most marginalized, to arrive at more transparent, ethical and responsible policies and joint actions to achieve change.

We develop specific policy recommendations and seek to communicate our findings to key decision makers and the wider public.

The Ethical Globalization Initiative has identified five critical global challenges to address:

  • Fostering Equitable Trade and Decent Work
  • HIV/AIDS Response in Africa
  • Humane Migration Policies
  • Strengthening Women’s Leadership
  • Encouraging Corporate Responsibility

Making ‘global’ and ‘ethical’ rhyme: an interview with Mary Robinson, Mary Robinson, openDemocracy, 9 December 2003.

I’m struck by how very few people outside a rarefied world of true believers understand what you mean when you say human rights – that includes development experts and economists who are very keen to implement the UN Millennium Development Goals. They’ve told me quite frankly, that they don’t know exactly what a human rights approach is.

I see our job at EGI as making the principles of human rights clear and accessible to people around the world. When I am asked, “What, in your view, is the worst human rights problem in the world today?” I reply: “Absolute poverty.” This is not the answer most journalists expect. It is neither sexy nor legalistic. But it is true.

We are working for what I call “values-led globalisation”. The international human rights framework is a vital component and engine for promoting global values. Governments have signed up to this international legal framework and we should hold them accountable, in all circumstances from environmental or labour standards, to trade talks, arms control and security issues as well as other international legal codes.

Inter Action Council

Dissemination of the Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, Chaired by Malcolm Fraser, Inter Action Council, March 20-21, 1998.

In Search Of Global Ethical Standards, Chairman’s Report on the High-level Expert Group, Chaired by Helmut Schmidt, Inter Action Council, 22-24 March 1996.

John Clark: civilizing global governance

Worlds Apart: Civil Society and the Battle for Ethical Globalization, John Clark, Earthscan, 2003.

Global Ethics, Peter Singer, Keynote Address, Association for Practical and Professional Ethic, March 1-2, 2001

Towards Ethical Globalization: The Role of Civil Society in Civilizing Global Governance, John Clark, Center for Globalization and Policy Research and Center for Civil Society, School of Public Policy and Social Research, UCLA, Working Paper No 13, 2003.

Peter Singer

One World: The Ethics of Globalization, Peter Singer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002)

Global Ethics, Peter Singer, Keynote Address, Association for Practical and Professional Ethic, March 1-2, 2001

One World: The Ethics of Globalization, Peter Singer, Joanne J. Myers, Carnegie Council, October 29, 2002.

If you can show that the dissonance between what we ought to be doing and what we are doing is sharp, clear, and inescapable, then perhaps what we ought to be doing does have some effect in the long run on what we are doing. In general, our ethics has been nationally focused—that is, we have seen national borders as being highly significant ethically as well as politically. John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice never explains the obligations of justice between societies; what does one wealthy society owe to another, much poorer society? It is extraordinary that such a large book on justice fails to address what is surely one of the most pressing questions of justice in the world today. It is that perspective that I am questioning. Should we continue to think of justice on a national basis?

Global Responsibilities: How Can Multinational Corporations Deliver on Human Rights?, Andrew Kuper, Peter Singer, Carnegie Council, 19 September 2005.

Peter Singer:
The approach that I take to ethics is not based on rights. I am happy to talk about rights, but to me they are not foundational. I don’t think we can just say, “Human beings have the following set of rights,” as if there were any self-evident set of rights that human beings have.

I think we need, rather, to begin the discussion by saying what kinds of things are in people’s interests and by arguing from the standpoint that we ought to be giving consideration to people’s interests; in fact, I would say we ought to give equal consideration to the interests of everyone affected by our actions. That is to me a fairly fundamental-level ethical principle: that if beings have interests, we ought to take those into account in what we are doing and we have at least no initial reason for saying that because someone is living in Mozambique or Bangladesh or Kenya or wherever, their interests are less significant than the interests of someone living in the United States.

So if we take the view that we ought to give equal consideration to everyone’s interests, then it immediately becomes obvious, of course, that there are vast numbers of people in the world whose interests are not being protected or furthered, and that there are various entities or moral agents if you like, who could be doing something about it.

Equally clearly, there are various moral agents who could do something about this. Andy has given you a list of them. It could be states. It could be perhaps global bodies, like the UN possibly, if it has the means, or the World Bank. It could be multinational corporations, perhaps. All of them could do something about this. The question is: Who has the obligation to do something about this? Who is responsible?

But of course, there is one very large class of moral agents that is left out of that list, and that is all of those individuals living in the world who have the means to do something about it, which probably means at least roughly a billion people living in the developed countries of the world.

But I think that there is a sort of a glitch in our moral view, if you like, that we don’t take this more seriously.

The Global Ethics Of Peter Singer, Arthur Ward, new thinking, Volume II, Issue 1, Winter/Spring 2004.


 Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
19 May 2008