Embracing Future Generations

In the evolving landscape of policymaking, the need to safeguard the interests of future generations has gained recognition through legal, procedural, and evaluative initiatives. Based on the insightful article by Professor Alberto Alemanno, Founder of The Good Lobby, titled “Protecting Future People’s Future: How to Operationalise Present People’s Unfulfilled Promises to Future Generations” published online by Cambridge University Press, this blog post highlights key insights from the comprehensive exploration of present people’s responsibilities to the future.

Historically, moral and religious traditions, such as the Native American “seventh-generation” principle, acknowledged the responsibility of present generations to consider the welfare of those yet to come. International instruments, from the UN Charter to climate change conventions, mark a gradual shift toward recognizing and protecting the interests of future generations.

Defining “future generations,” addressing the non-existence challenge, and constructing their interests pose normative and practical questions. The challenge lies in balancing present and future generations’ interests while facing ethical conflicts and uncertainties.

Constitutions worldwide increasingly reference future generations, reflecting a qualitative change from generic language to identifying them as bearers of legal interests.

Two main approaches involve imposing duties on individuals or society and conferring rights to future generations. Constitutional provisions, like Germany’s, have become judicially actionable, particularly in climate litigation.
Initiatives can be institutional, procedural, evaluative, or policy-based, aiming to bring the future into policymaking by changing perspectives, altering systems, introducing metrics, or influencing public policies.

In conclusion, the article emphasizes the inadequacy of current approaches, calling for a “future-making policy mix” and a substantive interpretation of political equality. It advocates for a proactive and comprehensive strategy, extending beyond environmental concerns to encompass broader social issues.

It is necessary to think of a more imaginative theorisation and operationalisation of future generations’ interests, urging policymakers and courts to recognize the inherent link between commitment to future generations and the principle of equality. The time is ripe for a quantum leap in envisioning and crafting the future, moving beyond existing institutional and conceptual models.

Read the full article by Professor Alberto Alemanno to delve deeper into the intricacies of operationalizing present people’s unfulfilled promises to future generations.