UN Summit of the Future: Paving the Way for Future Generations

The proposal for a Summit of the Future first appeared in the report “Our Common Agenda”, which aims to tackle the obstacles and barriers to the 2030 Agenda, kick-starting action on the Sustainable Development Goals while providing practical recommendations for closing the gaps in global governance and addressing emerging challenges.

This high-level event will take place on 22 and 23 September 2024 and will bring together world leaders to forge a new international consensus on how to improve the present and safeguard the future.

It has two objectives: to accelerate efforts to meet existing international commitments, and to take concrete steps to address new challenges and opportunities. To achieve these, the UN will create a document called the “Pact for the Future”, which the member states will have to negotiate and approve before and during the Summit. It has already been established that the pact will have 5 chapters, one of which will focus on ‘youth and future generations’.

What does the summit imply for future generations?

In February 2024, a first draft of the Pact for the Future was published. The 20 pages documents count 148 points articles among which, two are particularly relevant for future generations. Indeed, the points 15 and 16 in the “Youth and Future Generations” section commit to provide youth “with a nurturing environment for the full realisation of their rights and capabilities”, involve “youth-led and youth-focused organisations meaningfully in the work of the United Nations”, ensure that “global governance meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” and commit to “steps to consciously avoid foreseeable harm to future generations and to safeguard their interests, by ensuring that decisions are taken with the long term in mind”

In March 2023, the UN Secretary General started to issue a series of Policy Briefs to help and support Member States in their preparations for the Summit.

The first policy brief is dedicated to Future Generations. This document contains suggestions for practical measures to respond to the long-standing commitment to meet the demands of the present while safeguarding the interests of future generations and preserving their ability to enjoy all human rights effectively.

The proposals for reporting on the situation of future generations follow on from the ‘Our Common Agenda’ report and include the following elements:

  • Appoint Envoy for Future Generations to serve as a voice for future generations in the United Nations system, 
  • Generate better use of foresight, science and data, 
  • Create a declaration to define and make concrete our duties to future generations,
  • Create a dedicated intergovernmental forum to advance implementation of the declaration and share experiences and innovations.

The third policy brief published in April 2023 focuses on youth engagement. In particular, it recalls that in recent years young people have become a driving force for societal change through social mobilisation in a number of areas such as climate action, racial justice, gender equality and dignity for all. Moreover, it argues that more meaningful participation by young people will make decision-making more effective and, in the long term, engender greater trust in public institutions. In this regards, this policy brief offers recommendations to Members States: 

  • Expand and strengthen youth participation in decision-making at all levels, 
  • Make meaningful youth engagement a requirement in all United Nations decision-making processes,
  • Support the establishment of a standing United Nations Youth Townhall and an integrated programme from the United Nations system to facilitate greater diversity, representativeness, and preparedness in youth participation.

It also calls to: 

  • Support the establishment of a standing United Nations Youth Town Hall to provide the world’s young people with a dedicated space to better prepare for participation in decision-making mechanisms of the UN, 
  • Support the development of an integrated programme of work by the UN system to facilitate more meaningful youth participation at all levels. 

The fact that youth and future generations are a key focus of the future summit shows a growing willingness to include them in the decisions being taken today. However, despite the encouraging proposals, it remains to be seen whether the efforts and changes proposed will be implemented in practice in the future.