Our Communal Charter

Our founding principle: engineers have a special role to play in working towards sustainable development.

We, as members of Ingénieurs Sans Frontières, consider it essential to help current generations to meet their needs without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet theirs. This belief, as well as our awareness of global interdependencies, is backed up by our twenty years of experience on the ground. This experience drives us to deal with the issue of dependencies engendering inequality on a global level. Indeed, we believe that the dependency issue represents a major threat to sustainable development for humanity and our planet.

These dependencies are partly due to the predominance of the universally accepted technical model. Typically, this model aims at improving the effectiveness of existing methodologies and sets success by this criterion alone, paying nothing more than lip-service to the fulfilment of humanist values. Moreover, every single subject, living or otherwise, is divided into as many areas as there are specialists able to deal with it. It is in this way stripped of its true significance. Technology is then tasked with going it alone in bringing its expertise to bear on a great many issues, striving for ever greater effectiveness with no regard for the values which form the basis of our societies.

Engineers then, driving technological change and changing society through technology, are directly responsible for the way technology is used and therefore have a very special responsibility within the system. Their role is essential in questioning technology and ensuring it remains a tool for the benefit of all humanity. Therefore, within Ingénieurs Sans Frontières, we want to exercise our citizenship, our individual as well as collective responsibility, towards the World’s populations.

In short, Ingénieurs Sans Frontières sees itself as a social movement of engineers and citizens working towards the sustainable development of our planet.

The aim of our common project: to strive for a harmonious use of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights on a global level.

We agree with the concept of sustainable development as defined at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992: “Development, that is to say the fulfilment of humanity’s needs, supposes to be sustainable not to build up its own obstacles. The consequences, in the medium or long term, of the chosen orientations must not lead to social, economic, biological or environmental impasses. […] Human beings must stay at the centre of our concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.”

Our wish is for every man and woman in a community to be able to use their inalienable right to shape their common destiny through self-determination. This is contingent upon the harmonious exercising of not only civil and political, but also economic, social and cultural rights, particularly within the areas of education, health care, food, housing and employment.

Amongst different peoples, we perceive stark disparities in fulfilling each of these rights. Their fulfilment is particularly hindered by economic, social or political dependencies. These dependencies act together on a global scale to form a strongly interdependent and unjust system whose enduring nature unavoidably affects future generations.

With this concept in mind, we oppose all forms of dependency which engender inequality on a global scale, especially those affecting the most underprivileged whom we place at the core of our response. With the spreading of dependency further strengthened by the prevailing model, we want to promote a diverse array of alternatives.

Finally, we argue that all human beings share a collective responsibility and a right to take part in building the world of tomorrow. Therefore, sustainable development requires solidarity between nations and generations.

Our guiding principle: engaging critically with engineering approaches in interconnected partner networks.

We want to firstly work towards sustainable development through a critical approach to engineering. This practice, being at the core of our commitment, must be carried out everywhere engineers are present (engineering schools, companies, public services, civil society, etc.).

We are thus working towards people taking back ownership of technology, its approaches and the issues it raises so that it may truly become a tool for sustainable development. In practice, we intend to act as mediators between people, technology and the changes it brings, on a local as well as global scale.

As far as we are concerned, actions on the ground cannot be divorced from a debate on the global issues related to them. Indeed, local engagement is essential in better framing both the global debate and its response. Equally, in working towards sustainable development, local responses must always be planned according to the global issues facing us.

Moreover, since we are aware of the growing interdependencies between generations and peoples as well as on the technical, social, cultural, economic, political and environmental fronts, we believe that our response requires a multidimensional approach.

We therefore wish to take our place in, and even set up, networks of interconnected partners. Each partner, including ours, is responsible for the commitments made and must enable local communities to handle the response process in its entirety. This is the main condition for enabling communities to fulfil their inalienable right to decide their own destiny.

These networks aim to bring together the roles and skills of each member and provide ongoing intercultural opportunities to question, evaluate, share and exchange. Thus capitalising, assessing and pooling experience and knowledge within solidarity networks is at the heart of our approach within Ingénieurs Sans Frontières.

We truly believe that this involves both knowledge and awareness of our limitations. Thus, tackling and studying the long-term and large-scale impact of our actions is fundamental to our ethos. Questioning each process, each piece of knowledge, in particular by opening ourselves up beyond the field of engineering, is vital to our response. Only then can knowledge be put to use for the betterment of all human beings.

The aim of Ingénieurs Sans Frontières as an international solidarity association is thus to contribute to the sustainable development of our planet through engaging critically with engineering approaches.

(This statement was approved at our General Meeting in December 2002)