15. How can ethical considerations become more routinely incorporated into global decisions?
December2008 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of HumanRights, which has stimulated more than 60 treaties to protect individualfreedom and dignity and has inspired countless discussions about global ethicsand human rights. The evidence is now overwhelming that increasing governmentrespect for human rights correlates with economic development and thatunethical business practices ultimately lower stock prices, productivity, andprofits. Unethical decisions and corrupt practices are increasingly exposed vianews media, blogs, mobile phone cameras, ethics commissions, and NGOs.Collective responsibility for global ethics in decisionmaking is embryonic butgrowing. Global ethics are also emerging around the world through the evolutionof ISO standards and international treaties that are defining the norms ofcivilization. However, trivial news and entertainment floods our minds withunethical behavior, and each year over $1 trillion is paid in bribes, whileorganized crime takes in over $2 trillion. Although many socioeconomicstatistics show global improvement, gaps continue to worsen within manycountries.
The speedat which the fabric of life has begun to change seems beyond the ability ofmost people and institutions to comprehend, leading to ethical uncertainties.Do we have the right to clone ourselves, or rewrite genetic codes to createthousands of new life forms, or genetically change ourselves and futuregenerations into new species? Is it right for humans to merge with technology,as one way to prevent technological hegemony over humanity? Is a genetics raceto build a superior people possible? Experts speculate that the world isheading for a “singularity”—a time in which technological change is so fast andsignificant that we today are incapable of conceiving what life might be likebeyond the year 2025. Meanwhile, is it ethical to allow one population to payanother for their right to pollute? Since the poorest create the leastgreenhouse gas emissions but will suffer the most from climate change, shouldnot those who produced the most GHGs pay for adapting to climate change? Shouldinformation about how to make a roadside bomb or an epidemic-causing virus beposted on the Internet? What is the appropriate balance between security andpersonal freedom?
Globalizationand advanced technology allow fewer people to do more damage and in less time,so that possibly even one day a single individual may be able to make anddeploy a weapon of mass destruction. Hence the healthy development of anyoneshould be the concern of everyone. Such observations are not new, but theconsequences of failure to realize their importance may be much more serious inthe future than in the past. New technologies also allow more people to do moregood than ever before, such as single individuals organizing worldwide actionsaround specific ethical issues via the Internet.
Publicmorality based on religious metaphysics is challenged daily by growingsecularism, leaving many unsure about the moral basis for decisionmaking.Unfortunately, religions and ideologies that claim moral superiority give riseto “we-they” splits, yet spiritual education should grow in balance with thenew powers given humanity by technological progress. The moral will to act incollaboration across national, institutional, religious, and ideologicalboundaries that is necessary to address our global challenges requires globalethics. More of the very rich could form global partnerships for developmentwith the poorest 2 billion—as BillGates and Warren Buffet are doing in health, Richard Branson is doing inclimate change, and Ted Turner is doing with UN systems.
The Partiesto the UN Convention against Corruption have begun implementing the treaty, andthe World Bank is helping to strengthen national anticorruption units. Over4,000 businesses in 120 countries have joined the UN’s Global Compact to useglobal ethics in decisionmaking. The International Criminal Court hassuccessfully tried political leaders. Memes could be promoted, like “makedecisions that are good for me, you, and the world.” We need to promoteparental guidance to establish a sense of values, encourage respect forlegitimate authority, support the identification and success of the influenceof role models, implement cost-effective strategies for global education for amore enlightened world, and make behavior match the values people say theybelieve in.
Challenge15 will be addressed seriously when corruption decreases by 50% from the WorldBank estimates of 2006, when ethical business standards are internationallypracticed and regularly audited, when essentially all students receiveeducation in ethics and responsible citizenship, and when there is a generalacknowledgment that global ethics transcends religion and nationality.
Africa: Howmuch more suffering do the people in Sudan and Zimbabwe have to endure beforemoral outrage changes the situation? The South African special unit (theScorpions) that has been fighting organized crime and corruption since 1999 maybe eliminated. In eight African countries surveyed by TransparencyInternational, 20% of those interviewed who had contact with the judicialsystem reported having paid a bribe. Kenya’s Egerton University hosts theUNESCO Regional Bioethics Centre. The Business Ethics Network of Africa hasgrown and hosted the 2008 International Society of Business, Economics, andEthics in South Africa.
Asia andOceania: Should Myanmar’s refusal to accept international aid for its peoplefollowing the cyclone in 2008 cause the international community to define whenhuman rights or needs outweigh sovereignty of governments? A January 2008report on Iraq found that “$8.8 billion had been disbursed from Iraqi oilrevenue by U.S. administrators to Iraqi ministries without proper accounting.”The need to make so many decisions so quickly during Asian urbanizationapparently leaves little time to consider the ethical implications. Some do notbelieve there are common global ethics and maintain that the pursuit to createthem is a western notion.
Europe:UNESCO in Paris has opened a Global Ethics Observatory as a system of databasesfocused on ethics related to science and technology worldwide. The EU hascriminalized xenophobia and racism. The European integration process is helpingestablish ethical standards, yet increased non-European immigration raises newethical challenges. Russia has created anti-corruption committees in parliamentand the government, chaired by the President, and has begun implementing anational anti-corruption plan.
LatinAmerica: The Guatemala Declaration for a Region Free of Corruption signed byCentral American governments has made progress with public access toinformation. University courses in business ethics are beginning to be taughtin Latin America. The Inter-American Initiative of Social Capital, Ethics andDevelopment of the Inter-American Development Bank work to strengthen ethicalvalues in the region.
NorthAmerica: Increasing income divides and the number of medically uninsured arebeing discussed as issues of ethics in the political arena. Decisionmakingsoftware could prompt users through the ethical considerations of theirdecisions, based on universal values of respect, honesty, compassion, fairness,and responsibility, according to research from the Institute for Global Ethics.New campaign finance approaches are needed to improve ethics in politicaldecisionmaking, along with better real-time transparency to prevent corruption.