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Progress in the Ethics & Responsibilities Program

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats

Promoting cultures of Responsibility and a Universal Charter of Human Responsibilities
by Nicolas Krausz

At the start of the E&R Program in 2010, a number of goals were set. The program representatives have since accomplished in-depth research for their sector, and previous to the finalization of their respective “Reflection on Action” document, the E&R Program Officer for the FPH, Nicolas Krausz, analyzed the work done so far to identify the strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats involved in the promotion of cultures of Responsibility. Do not miss reading this interesting “state of the art”! …

Opportunities window by Madmoiselle Lavender lou

Early 2010 a fourfold framework of action was established for implementing the following objectives:

1. Civil society professional /social level

Publication of a series of Reflection on Action documents produced by professional / social networks that are prepared to launch a discussion on Responsibility with colleagues in their field of action. These documents will consist of an analysis of experiences and conclude with implications and proposals for the practice of Responsibility in the field concerned.

2. Geographical level

Representation at supranational regional levels in charge of detecting / contacting professional /social networks with a view to involve them in the process, and propose to influential organizations and personalities to work together towards a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities.

3. International political level

Involving the world of global politics for the promotion of the “Third Pillar” idea, a Universal Charter of Human Responsibilities, by drawing together international initiatives and high level political personalities. An important opportunity to forward the UCHR proposal will be the UN conference of Heads of State “Rio+20” and the parallel conference of the international civil society, both to be held in Brazil in June 2012.

4. E&R Program level

Organization of a Working Seminar, November 2011, to discuss the Reflection on Action documents, establish the State of the Art of the E&R program, finalize proposals for future action of the networks and the collective strategy for the years ahead.


A Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats (SWOT) methodology was applied to the work done previous to the working seminar by the different program representatives to identify and visualize the main concepts and trends involved without going into the details of each network or region. The Weaknesses and Strengths refer to the obstacles and assets of the partners. The Threats and Opportunities refer to the overall challenges being faced by the actors.

1. Weaknesses
Related first to the concept of responsibility:

  • perceived as an individualistic discourse that is right-wing, or even contrary to the principles of tolerance and freedom
  • perceived as opposed to that of rights and collective demands
  • perceived as a political failure of the welfare state

Related to certain socio / professional modus operandi:

  • the short term (aimed at production, profit, innovation, a scoop) as privileged over the long term (sustainability, preservation of nature, precaution, prudence)
  • absence of external regulations (laws, international regulations), as well as of information and financing to apply existing regulations (due to corruption, elitism, lack of education)
  • absence of internal regulations (codes or rules of conduct, of governance) due to co-option, economic priorities, conflicts of interest, risk-taking cultures, the complexity of globalization

Related to asymmetrical power relations between actors, of several natures:

  • hierarchical: boss / employee, soldier / officer / political official, student / professor
  • economic: ecology / industry, client / sub-contractor
  • legal: undocumented person / citizen, tenant / landlord
  • cultural: working / retired, believer / non-believer

2. Strengths
The strengths and dynamics of each network generally depend on two factors:

  • a cultural or regional context favorable to the concept of responsibility
  • emergence of the concept of co-responsibility, which facilitates negotiated solutions to conflicts and responds to specific expectations
    The partners’ strengths are expressed through good practices and operational proposals on themes where responsibility provides an added value:
  • local governance (indigenous territories, cities / inhabitants, citizenship) and world governance (charter of universal responsibilities, charter of migrants): participation, democracy, interdependence
  • social and responsible economy
  • education: environmental awareness raising, knowledge, critical approach to consumption
  • community of life, of work: becoming an actor and co-builder of one’s environment
    They rely on real dynamics:
  • internal: solidarity of the networks
  • external: citizen mobilizations claiming the “right to be responsible”

3. Threats

  • the consumer society, which encourages self-centeredness and individualism, and supports the neoliberal system
  • the Western paradigm of sustainable development, which is an impediment to a deep change in the paradigm
  • the over-cautiousness of states, which on the one hand are afraid of losing part of their sovereignty due to interdependent relations and on the other hand of giving up the initiative of standard setting to citizen networks

4. Opportunities
Three main types of dynamics for the future development of values of responsibility can be identified:

  • supporting the emergence of responsibility as a citizen and political value: the economic, environmental, and political crises are revealing of past and present indifference and blindness, and inspire as a reaction considerations and strategies to re-appropriate sense, to rebuild reference frameworks, from the local to the global levels, in all fields of activity
  • enhancing “know-how in responsibility”: the paradigm of responsibility is expressed by an abundance of initiatives carried out by civil society independently of states and politics: campaigns, charters, codes, forums, seminars, universities, community pacts, training, good practices, etc. There is substance to build a “right to responsibility” adapted to each sector but there is also a need to establish international reference frameworks (conventions) and universal ones (Charter of Human Responsibilities)
  • making of responsibility an instrument for protection and oversight: in some socioprofessional sectors (military, managerial staff, journalists), “responsibility of” is more protective and normative than the “right to,” which makes its institutional recognition more contentious. This is why, the same as for rights, it can be a social or even a societal demand
Published on: 14 December 2011
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