Santa Clara University


A Global Ethic and The United Nations

Kim, Yersu. “Philosophy and the Prospects for a Universal Ethics,” in Max L. Stackhouse and Peter J. Paris, eds., God and Globalization: Religion and the Powers of the Common Life (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International Press, 2000), 69-104. Kim led the UNESCO program to draft an “Ethics Charter for the Twenty-first Century.”

For over fifteen years Swiss theologian Hans Küng has fostered interfaith dialogue based on his conviction that:

  • No peace among the nations without peace among the religions.
  • No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions.
  • No dialogue between the religions without global ethical standards.
  • No survival of our globe without a global ethic.

Click here for Global Ethic website

Hans Küng, Selected Writings on a World Ethic.

See also Crossing the Divide: Dialogue among Civilizations (2001). This is the report of a UN committee chaired by Giandomenico Picco of Italy, with the staff support coming from the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University ( The eminent personages assembled were A. Kamal Aboulmagd (Egypt), Lourdes Arizpe (Mexico), Hanan Ashrawi (Palestine) Ruth Cardoso (Brazil), Jacques Delors (France), Leslie Gelb (USA), Nadine Gordimer (South Africa), El Hassan bin Talal (Jordan), Sergey Kapitza (Russia), Hayao Kawai (Japan), Tommy Koh (Singapore), Hans Küng (Switzerland), Graça Machel (Mozambique), Amartya Sen (India), Song Jian (China), Dick Spring (Ireland), Tu Weiming (China), Richard von Weizsäcker (Germany), and Javad Zarif (Iran).

The four chapters are Overview; The Context of Dialogue: Globalization and Diversity; A New Paradigm of Global Relations; and About the United Nations. At the end there are seven one-page biographies of “Unsung Heroes” and the biographies of the above. The “Unsung Heroes” are:

Dr. Faouzi Skali (Morocco) Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, especially Muslim-Chrsitian

Dr. Salahuddin Ramez (Afghanistan) global surgeon, died of sickness in Sierra Leone

Zlata Filipovic (Bosnia) diary of war, published by UNICEF

Jack Beetson (Australia) save indigenous culture

Margaret Gibney (Northern Ireland) childhood stolen by war, Blair reads letter

Sydney Possuelo (Brazil) Brazil’s Department of Isolated Indians

Dr. Sultan Somjee (Kenya) African Peace Museum, traditional approaches to conflict resolution

The book’s analysis of the changes in the United Nations begins with the founding in 1945. The founders sought above all to avoid World War III, so the institutional arrangements, especially the Security Council, were firmly anchored in the realities of power. The common denominator is as narrow as the UN Charter and as broad as the various International Covenants signed by the members. “The universality of the United Nations Organization and the diversity of its membership are at the basis of the tension between common values and identity.” (191) The text describes the bargain when some states seek “legitimacy” for their actions while others seek “participation” in the decisions. All give and get in that context.

In the beginning of the Cold War, the most desired U.N. stand seemed to be “impartiality,” often associated with Swedish leadership. This touchstone has to be succeeded by the notion of “credibility” which includes the idea of “fairness” to all. The Rwanda and Srebenica massacres brought a change within the institutions. Dialogue must lead to “reconciliation” or “transitional justice” which requires “spirituality”. (See the section on Reconciliation, pp. 198-216.) The writing of this report was coming to an end where 9/11 happened, so it is mentioned, but not worked into entire manuscript.

January 11, 2007