Starting point of the charter

In April 2015, I was invited by the International Federation of Sport Climbing(IFSC) to lead an institutional initiative on Ethics within the IFSC governance activities but also within the Climbing Community. This mandate followed a decision at the IFSC Plenary Assembly in March 2015.

Discussion with the IFSC leadership identified two main intentions beyond the essential objective of promoting ethics within IFSC activities. Firstly, there is a desire to bring the IFSC and its activities to the centre of the different passions present in the climbing community. Secondly, there is an ambition to respond proactively to the call for improved ethics in sport and in sport institutions as formulated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in its Olympic Agenda for 2020. I felt aligned with these two intentions, in particular in the context of the current development of climbing and of a series of recently publicized ethical scandals in the world of sport. I accepted the mandate and began by asking a few of my colleagues in the academic world of ethics to discuss with me the process to follow.

Although I am myself a former climbing athlete (and somehow still try to be) and a professor of ethics, I knew that my knowledge of the current world of climbing competitions was not extensive: I would need to make sure I engaged with competition athletes and other relevant stakeholders. In addition, my academic expertise in ethics has taught me that institutional approaches to ethics may be rather ineffective if not properly supported by the leadership as well as by all the stakeholders. Finally, I also knew that ethics is much more than compliance and that I would need to identify climbing values more than merely drafting climbing ethical rules.

I thus proposed to start with a consultation of stakeholders about what gives value(s) to climbing and what in climbing offers value. I redacted a questionnaire that I sent to a hundred people. I gathered responses from all over the world, from people between 12 and 75 years old, from elite athletes to beginner climbers, from competition officials to sponsors, journalists, owners of climbing gyms, members of local communities, etc. The responses have been astounding and surprised me by the strength and diversity of the passions.

Climbing shows a richness of values that goes well beyond most of sports. Community, Freedom, Nature, Performance, Pleasure, Friendship and many other values are strongly held by climbers. These values can be an inspiration far beyond the climbing community and support the potential for future development. If ethics is about living values, then the ethics of climbing can be proud of a very powerful and diverse set of values.

Drawing upon this consultation, I drafted during 2015 a first prototype Ethics Charter which synthesizes these values.

I have been guided by three principles:

1) to be inclusive, so that every climber can recognize themselves in this charter,

2) to be open, so that ethics is firstly about values rather than compliance to rules,

3) to be inspirational, so that all stakeholders feel motivated to embody these values and promote them through the community and its activities.

The responses to this first draft have been very positive, encouraging me to continue such a process where climbers are both the authors and the audience.

After integration of comments and suggestions, this website starts with the third draft of this charter. In addition, we are working on a general architecture for approaching ethics within the IFSC and its activities. We will need to spell out explicitly in the near future how this charter will be used by an Ethics Commission. But most importantly, we need to make sure that our approach remains well integrated in the climbing community.

May this website be an inspiring place to visit. It is my hope that we can promote climbing ethics with the fantastic spirit that lies at the core of climbing.

Marc Le Menestrel
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