The Earth Charter is an ethical framework of values and principles for a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world. At the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Bangkok, November 2004, the organisations’ membership overwhelmingly voted in support of a resolution to endorse the Earth Charter and use it as an ethical guide to the organisation's policy and programme. In this context, it is useful to consider the contribution world ethics, and in particular the Earth Charter, can make to the work of the IUCN, and through it to international law and global governance.
Over the last decade, there has been a plethora of international ethical statements and commitments in relation to the environment and sustainability. These include the Stockholm Declaration, the World Charter for Nature, the Rio Declaration (UNCED), and the World Summit on Sustainable Development Political Declaration (WSSD). Such documents can be thought of as “paralegal rules” in the form of values, principles, and directives for policies, practices, and outcomes. Also of relevance are the ethical principles (such as the precautionary principle) contained within the introductory sections of legal instruments such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).