If politi­cians want to be re-elect­ed they must first take into account the inter­ests of today’s gen­er­a­tions. This pro­vides a false incen­tive, name­ly for a pol­i­cy of “glo­ri­fy­ing the present and neglect­ing the future” (Richard von Weizsäck­er). Indi­vid­u­als born in the future have no voice right now. Through no fault of their own, politi­cians are forced to lis­ten to nobody else except those who are loud­est today.

Leg­isla­tive peri­ods can­not be too long with­out push­ing back the influ­ence of the elec­torate too far and thus endan­ger­ing the very essence of democ­ra­cy. How­ev­er, tech­no­log­i­cal progress ensures that the effects of cur­rent actions extend far into the future and can have a pro­found­ly neg­a­tive impact on the qual­i­ty of life of many future generations.

If future gen­er­a­tions could assert their inter­ests in the polit­i­cal deci­sion-mak­ing process, then the majori­ties for impor­tant polit­i­cal deci­sions would be dif­fer­ent. Take ener­gy pol­i­cy: today’s focus on fos­sil fuels cur­rent­ly enables a unique­ly high stan­dard of liv­ing, but accepts seri­ous dis­ad­van­tages in the medi­um run. Take finan­cial pol­i­cy: financ­ing today’s con­sump­tion through debt shifts bur­dens into the future and reduces the free­dom of future gen­er­a­tions of politi­cians to shape their own policies.

 

Institutions for Future Generations

Inter­gen­er­a­tional jus­tice must be anchored in the entire pol­i­cy process in order to reduce our fix­a­tion on the present. Insti­tu­tions sup­posed to ensure this in Ger­many are not suf­fi­cient. Whether the Ger­man Coun­cil for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment, the Par­lia­men­tary Advi­so­ry Coun­cil on Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment, the Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Impact Assess­ment or the Ger­man Advi­so­ry Coun­cil on Glob­al Change (WBGU) — they are not up to the task.

In oth­er coun­tries such as Israel, Wales and Hun­gary, but also in schol­ar­ly lit­er­a­ture, we find exam­ples of how it could be done bet­ter. Some of these no longer exist and they all have their strengths and weak­ness­es.  We exam­ined them in order to devel­op our own pro­pos­als for Ger­many: The sev­en build­ing blocks for a more future-ori­ent­ed democ­ra­cy by the Foun­da­tion for the Rights of Future Generations.

 

Intergenerational Justice in Constitutions

The Ger­man con­sti­tu­tion has so far pro­vid­ed lit­tle assis­tance, since our legal sys­tem cur­rent­ly priv­i­leges the rights of cur­rent indi­vid­u­als above all. For these rea­sons, an envi­ron­men­tal­ly sus­tain­able and inter­gen­er­a­tional­ly just soci­ety can only be achieved if the eco­log­i­cal demands of future gen­er­a­tions are insti­tu­tion­al­ly anchored. Future gen­er­a­tions need a voice in par­lia­ment, in the con­sti­tu­tion, or in both. Sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives have already been imple­ment­ed in Israel, Switzer­land and Hungary.

An impor­tant step towards mak­ing our democ­ra­cy more inter­gen­er­a­tional­ly just is the demand for  the right to vote for all cit­i­zens, includ­ing old­er chil­dren and young peo­ple. Read more on our “We Want to Vote!” campaign.

In 2005 to 2009 we brought togeth­er a cross-par­ty-ini­tia­tive to have inter­gen­er­a­tional jus­tice pro­tect­ed by the Ger­man con­sti­tu­tion. Find out about the cam­paign here.

 

Read our position paper on newcomer quotas (in English) and our other position papers (in German)