For about two centuries after Magna Carta was agreed in 1215 it came to be seen as the authority on constitutional practice and used in practical ways as a document to which people would appeal in support of their legitimate rights. It was cited in constitutional debate in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the eighteenth century, in response to what American colonial landed gentry saw as the deprivation of their liberties as Englishmen by the Parliament in London, elements of Magna Carta were written into some state constitutions and then into the American Bill of Rights.

Lord Bingham of Cornhill summarised its importance in British law as follows:

"The rule of law requires compliance by the state with its obligations in international as in national law. Here we step outside the confines of Magna Carta. It was directed to the exercise of power by the King within his realm, not with relations between one state and another. But the Rule of Law cannot stop short at national boundaries because the problems which we face in our world today - climate change, pollution, financial regulation, crime, migration - do not stop short at national boundaries. The lesson, however, is the same. As kings are subject to the law and not above it at home, so states are subject to the law and not above it in their relations with other states. On acceptance of this lesson, it might be thought, depend the peace and prosperity of the world. It is not a lesson which Magna Carta taught, but it is an extension of the principle which Magna Carta so memorably gave to posterity around the world."
See his lecture in full.

For 800 years Magna Carta represents the core principle of civilized political life as now understood in the western world: that government shall ultimately be held responsible to the governed. It has served as a milestone for parliamentarians, a rallying point for revolutionaries against parliamentary tyranny and a lawyers' text in cases ranging from civil liberties to commercial transactions. It is now referred to by environmentalists who want a binding people's Earth Charter and by their opponents who regard environmentalism as infringing on their basic freedoms.

The term "charter" is used for particularly formal and solemn instruments, such as the constituent treaty of an international organization. The term itself has an emotive content that goes back to the Magna Carta of 1215. Well-known recent examples are the Charter of the United Nations of 1945 and the Charter of the Organization of American States of 1952.

In 1992 Maurice Strong was the Secretary General of the United Nations (UNCED) Earth conference in Rio. This gathering featured an international cast of powerful figures in the environmental movement, government, business, and entertainment.

Maurice Strong's wife Hannah, was involved in the NGO alternative meeting at the Summit which was called ‘Global Forum '92’. The Dalai Lama opened this meeting and, according to author Gary Kah, to ensure the success of the forum, Hanne Strong held a three-week vigil with Wisdomkeepers, a group of "global transformationalists." Through round-the-clock sacred fire, drumbeat, and meditation, the group helped hold the "energy pattern" for the duration of the summit.

It was hoped that an Earth Charter would be the result of this semi-spiritual event. This was not the case. However an international agreement was adopted by the politicians - Agenda 21 - which laid down the international "sustainable development" necessary to form a future Earth Charter agreement. Despite the disappointing setback of no official agreement toward a "people's Earth Charter", Maurice Strong forged ahead, with Rockefeller backing, to form his Earth Council organization for the express purpose of helping governments implement UNCED's sustainable development, which Agenda 21 had outlined. He said:-

"Agenda 21 was perhaps the biggest step taken to facilitate any future "enforcement" of a patently pagan Earth Charter. According to Strong "the Charter will stand on it's own. It will be in effect, to use an Anglo-Saxon term, the Magna Carta of the people around the Earth. But, it will also, we hope, lead to action by the governments through the United Nations."

In this sense Agenda 21 is a global action plan centred on the free self-rights of everyone to have fair access to the planet's resources for ever.

John McConnel’s Earth Magna Charta

Larry Rassmussen’s Earth Charter (1991)

Steven Rockofeller’s Earth Charter Initiative