Who owns the Earth? 

We all do. Or more correctly, none of us does.


The Voice Of The World’s Future

© Catherine Iorns


Who owns the Earth?  We all do. Or more correctly, none of us does. All life depends on Earth’s life-supporting systems. Our legal system operates in a way as if there is no need for the sustainability and integrity of the Earth system. Laws protect and serve the well-being of people – some more than others -, but has little regard for the well-being of future generations, non-humans and the Earth as a whole.  Lack of listening Governance is largely organised and performed through sovereign states that compete rather than cooperate and, in this way, concern themselves with achieving short-term national goals. Earth is taken for granted and – like future generations – has no voice in either national or international decision-making. The world’s legal system is not geared for listening to Earth (who of course speaks to us in her own voice).

© Catherine Iorns


Give Earth a voice Yet, many people have become aware of this kind of deafness for our life support. They want to give Earth a voice and hence see themselves as guardians or trustees of Earth. Earth Trusteeship is a reflection of responsible citizenship. It is time to bring this caring for Earth to the level of legal significance and to the attention of governance.  Earth trusteeship Trusteeship is a form of governance that requires a person or entity to act (as ‘trustee’) on behalf and for the benefit of another person or entity (‘beneficiary’). Arguably, the very institutions that act on behalf of and for citizens, i.e. states and governments, have trusteeship responsibilities. Humanity’s common destiny depends on the validity and effectiveness of human rights and Earth Trusteeship. To be effective, citizens and their institutions will have to act as trustees of Human Rights and Earth. That is trusteeship of what generically can be referred to as the ‘common good’.


Heart of the Earth Trusteeship Initiative The inextricable connections between rights, responsibilities and trusteeship are at the heart of the Earth Trusteeship Initiative. Its first objective has been achieved now, a joint declaration on trusteeship responsibilities for both, human rights and sustainability called the “The Hague Principles for a Universal Declaration on Responsibilities for Human Rights and Earth Trusteeship”.  Earth Trusteeship Forum The “Hague Principles” will be presented at the Earth Trusteeship Forum in the Peace Palace, The Hague, on 10 December 2018 to mark the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to launch a global initiative towards Earth trusteeship.


The Hague Principles

The Hague Principles are the result of a collaboration between representatives of a wide spectrum of environmental, indigenous and human rights organisations under the auspices of the Earth Trusteeship Initiative.

The collaboration started with an Earth Trusteeship Symposium at Utrecht University in June 2017. This was followed by various consultations and drafts around human rights and responsibilities and eventually led to an Earth Trusteeship Gathering of 80 delegates in The Hague in June 2018. Following further consultations, the text of the The Hague Principles was finalised in September.

© Catherine Iorns



Endorse the The Hague Principles & attend the Earth Trusteeship Forum The objective now is to garner world-wide support. The impact of the 10 December Forum and subsequent events and activities will be substantially increased, if the The Hague Principles are endorsed by a significant spectrum of global civil society. To this end, over a hundred organisations and many individuals have been invited to endorse the The Hague Principles and attend the Earth Trusteeship Forum. The invitation has been made by the Earth Trusteeship Initiative in partnership with Earth Charter International, WWF, the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, the Ecological Law and Governance Association, the World Future Council and thirtheen other co-sponsoring organisations.

Klaus Bosselmann

Klaus is Professor of Environmental Law and Founding Director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law at the University of Auckland; • Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law Ethics Specialist Group • Chair of the Ecological Law and Governance Association • Co-Chair of the Global Ecological Integrity Group.

Hans van Willenswaard

Hans is the founder of Innovation Network International (INI) and advisor of the School of Wellbeing, Bangkok Metropolitan Area, Thailand. He is a social entrepreneur, social developer and coach for action research towards sustainability.  

Nnimmo Bassey

Nnimmo is director of the ecological think-tank Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and member steering committee of Oilwatch International. He was chair of Friends of the Earth International (2008-2012) and Executive Director of Nigeria’s Environmental Rights Action (1993-2013). He was a co-recipient of the 2010 Right Livelihood Award also known as the “Alternative Noble Prize.” In 2012 he received the Rafto Human Rights Award. Bassey has authored books on the environment, architecture and poetry. 

Leo van der Vlist

Leo is a lawyer by training. He works at the Dutch Center for Indigenous Peoples (NCIV) and the Embassy of the Earth and is a member of the international board of the Forest Stewardship Council.

Wallapa van Willenswaard

Wallapa van Willenswaard, Thailand, is a social entrepreneur and founder of the Mindful Markets movement, an Asian network for change makers and sustainable food system leadership development

Prue Taylor

Prue is deputy director of the New Zealand Centre of Environmental Law at the University of Auckland, member of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law and author of numerous books and articles on ecological approaches to law and governance.

Bert de Graaff

Bert is chair of the Dutch branch of the International Friends of Sekem organisation. Bert is retired vice president of the Dutch National Investment Bank. Formerly he coordinated, what is yet known as the Elizabeth Vreedehuis of the Antroposophical Society in the Netherlands.

Rembrandt Zegers

Rembrandt works on cultural change towards sustainabilty. He is a member of Climate Psychology Alliance, International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) and the Dutch foundation for the Mediation of Public Space Planning (MRO). He publishes on leadership and relating to nature.