Themes: Our Creativy Diversity
A new global ethics
A commitment to pluralism
Challenges of a media-rich world
recasting cultural policies
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A new global ethics

Globalisation is a buzzword of our times. States in all corners of the world are increasingly entwined in mutual interdependence. Since the fall of communism, a wider consensus on economic principles has been achieved worldwide; the global market has become a fact of life. But can we also speak of global ethics?

Cooperation runs more smoothly and conflicts are contained when people share certain basic convictions. So it is important for us to seek to define a core of ethical principles that make up a common denominator throughout the world. The World Commission on Culture and Development holds that there are a number of motifs that recur in virtually all traditions, such as the avoidance of unnecessary suffering and the principle of equality for all. The Commission also maintains that individual human rights are not merely a product of western individualistic ethics, but that these rights demonstrably form part of the ethics of all the major religions and philosophies of life.

Neither of these points of departure is beyond controversy. Yet together they make up the core of the notion of a global ethics. The starting-point of the discussion must indeed be: does such a thing as a global ethics actually exist? Or should we conclude that while it does not yet exist, there is good reason to impose such a set of values on the global community? And is such a project feasible?

The Commission also names a few basic elements that might be integral to a global ethics, around which the discussion could perhaps be structured.


The Commission posits that economic development can prosper under an authoritarian regime in its initial stages. But once a certain stage of economic development has been reached, the clamour for participation in the political process becomes so loud that it can no longer be ignored. In other words, the level of democracy is a derivative of economic development.

This ties in with a debate that has been exercising minds for some time, which centres on the "full belly" thesis. Two opposing points of view clash here: one states that only people who have enough to eat are interested in democracy, while the other maintains that only a democracy is capable, in the final analysis, of guaranteeing a "full belly" for all its citizens. Where does the notion of a global ethics fit into this debate?

Protection of minorities

The Commission states that cultural diversity should be fostered. But past experience has taught us that politics sometimes exploits culture to sow dissent.

An interesting question to initiate discussion is: at what point does cultural self-awareness become cultural arrogance? Or - and this is a topical theme in the debate in the Netherlands - where is the dividing-line between cultural pluralism and fragmentation?

Commitment to peaceful conflict-resolution and fair negotiation

The Commission holds that virtually all cultures include traditions geared towards preventing outbreaks of conflict and bloodshed. It is the responsibility of us all to cultivate this potential for peacemaking and to acknowledge its value.

This also links up with a topical discussion (concerning recent flashpoints in Africa for example): is sufficient use made of these traditions, or are they moribund and in need of resurrection?

Responsibility for future generations

The Commission suggests that where our responsibility for the future of the natural environment is concerned, modern civilisation may have something to learn from traditional cultures, which frequently view individuals and generations as links in long chains of ancestors and descendants.

The question remains of how such inspiration may be derived. And we must also ask whether this is not a romanticised or idealised view.

pijltje_beneden.gif (179 bytes) A new global ethics
Report text
pijltje.gif (179 bytes) A commitment to pluralism
pijltje.gif (179 bytes) Challenges of a media-rich world
General Introduction
General Summary
our creative diversity