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). The indi­vid­u­als who are born in the future can­not par­tic­i­pate in the pro­cure­ment of today’s majori­ties. They do not appear in the con­sid­er­a­tions of the politi­cian who orga­nizes his or her re-elec­tion. One can­not blame the indi­vid­ual politi­cian for this, because the frame­work con­di­tions them­selves dic­tate it to him or her.

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, for exam­ple: today’s form of ener­gy pro­duc­tion with a focus on fos­sil fuels cur­rent­ly enables a unique­ly high stan­dard of liv­ing, but accepts seri­ous dis­ad­van­tages in the medi­um run. Take finan­cial pol­i­cy, for exam­ple: 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

In order to reduce demo­c­ra­t­ic pre­sen­tism and to strength­en future-ori­ent­ed poli­cies, jus­tice for the future must be anchored in the entire pol­i­cy process. The insti­tu­tions for future jus­tice that we have in Ger­many are not suf­fi­cient for this. 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 pro­tects above all the rights of cur­rent indi­vid­u­als (legal enti­ties). For these rea­sons, an eco­log­i­cal­ly sus­tain­able and gen­er­a­tional­ly com­pat­i­ble soci­ety can only be achieved if the eco­log­i­cal demands of future gen­er­a­tions are insti­tu­tion­al­ly anchored. There­fore it is nec­es­sary to cre­ate a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of future gen­er­a­tions by chang­ing the con­sti­tu­tion or the func­tion­ing of par­lia­ment. Sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives have already been imple­ment­ed in Israel, Switzer­land and Hun­gary, for exam­ple, or are includ­ed in the par­lia­men­tary deci­sion-mak­ing process.

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.

 

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The FRFG has lob­bied in 2006–2009 for the inclu­sion of inter­gen­er­a­tional jus­tice in the Ger­man con­sti­tu­tion. You find a com­pre­hen­sive chronol­o­gy of the cam­paign here.