Ethics of the Environment: working methods and outcomes
Environmental ethics has the potential to develop into a major area of interest of UNESCO.
It will be necessary to involve not only the other Sectors of UNESCO (in particular the Science Sector), but also to create networks and liaisons with all relevant stakeholders in the international arena. In order to guarantee the relevance of actions undertaken, it will be important to involve three categories of stakeholders.

The involvement of these categories requires the scheduling of activities in three subsequent phases:

First phase: identification of the moral dimensions

In this phase, a working group of experts in ethics and philosophy will be established. These experts will be invited to develop a written contribution focussing on two questions: (a) what is the state of the art in environmental ethics?, and (b) what are issues and opportunities for international action in this area? The expert group will meet to discuss draft papers. The papers will be finalised and presented in a volume, published by UNESCO. On the basis of the papers, a policy document will be drafted with various options and potential strategies for international action. In this stage, the work should also be evaluated in comparison with the work of the Precautionary Principle group that has started as COMEST activity in 2004.


  1. two meetings of ethics experts in 2004
  2. early 2005: finalised papers for volume
  3. early 2005: draft policy document
  4. consultation with UNESCO sectors
  5. early 2005: discussion in COMEST meeting

Second phase: testing the relevancy of potential international actions

It is important that the considerations of the ethics experts, as well as the draft policy document reflect the moral concerns of the scientific community. In this phase, representatives of the various sciences impacting on the environment will examine the strategies and options proposed. The draft can be circulated to a selected group of individual scientists. In this stage it is also important to involve the relevant Sectors of UNESCO. The draft policy-document will be discussed in COMEST and in an advisory conference with selected scientists.

Third phase: enhancing the political feasibility of potential actions

Before inviting the General Conference to provide a mandate in the area of environmental ethics, it is imperative that major significant stakeholders have been consulted and involved in the process. This means that first the relevant stakeholders need to be identified in an early stage, and second that they have been consulted about possible and desirable actions in this area. On the basis of this preliminary consultation process, a draft document can be prepared for the General Conference.

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