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Intergenerational Equity

Environmental and Cultural Concerns

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Edited by Thomas Cottier, Shaheeza Lalani and Clarence Siziba

In Intergenerational Equity: Environmental and Cultural Concerns, the editors have produced an important, broad-based volume on intergenerational equity. The authors explore the principle of intergenerational equity in many dimensions, from the theoretical to the practical. While the primary focus is on intergenerational equity in the context of environmental resources and cultural heritage, the principle is also addressed in a broad array of other contexts. The final section of the volume considers intergenerational justice as it applies to indigenous peoples, genocide, migration, sovereign wealth funds and foreign investment. The chapters also provide a critical analysis of the issues and a consideration of the difficulties in implementing intergenerational equity.

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Michael Rose

Abstract

There is a tension between democracy and sustainable development: While democracies are jurisdictionally limited by national borders and are committed to the current interests of voters, the concept of sustainable development transcends these spatial and temporal boundaries. Regarding the intertemporal dimension of sustainability, the urgent issue of intergenerational justice is philosophically well-addressed. But what is still missing is an elaborated conceptual and argumentative link both to political science and to real-world democratic politics. Adapting concepts of democratic theory, this paper establishes the conceptual foundation for analysing how to consider the interests of future generations in our present-day democratic institutions.

First, it is laid out what is meant by future generations, and why it is so difficult to take their interests into account today. Second, the so-called non-identity problem is discussed and rejected. Third, it is demonstrated that future generations will be causally and legally affected by the political decisions of today, and therefore, that ignoring the respective policy impacts violates the democratic all-affected principle. Fourth, with this it is shown that the issue of future generations is an issue of deficient political representation. Therefore, the concept of proxy representation is being developed to encompass not yet present constituents such as future generations. Based on this, a list of real-world “proxy representatives” of future generations is presented.

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Volume-editor Thomas Cottier, Shaheeza Lalani and Clarence Siziba

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Volume-editor Thomas Cottier, Shaheeza Lalani and Clarence Siziba

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Otto Spijkers

Abstract

This article looks at ways in which the principle of intergenerational equity is applied in existing international and domestic water law. The international and domestic regulations and policies referred to in this article have been selected because they contain interesting ideas on how to give meaning to intergenerational equity in the framework of water law. They are to be considered best practices, and thus do not necessarily paint a representative picture of the current state of water law. Most water laws pay much less attention to intergenerational equity than the examples referred to in this paper. After a brief introduction to the principle of intergenerational equity in international (environmental) law, this paper zooms in on the role of the same principle in the general framework of international water law. It explores some examples of agreements regulating the shared use of a particular watercourse, and looks to examples of the principle’s application in domestic water law. Finally, the paper examines domestic policies which aim to apply the intergenerational equity principle to water law and offers a few general concluding remarks.

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Thomas Cottier

Abstract

Equity is a principle of law shared by all legal systems. It has played an important role in adjusting the law to new developments and challenges in society, bringing about new legal principles. While largely replaced by the advent of human rights, it gained prominence in the international law of natural resources and the law of the sea in contemporary legal developments. As intergenerational equity, it provides the underpinnings of the principle of sustainable development. The chapter traces the history of equity in law, its different functions and the potential of its methodology to be applied to other areas of the law of importance in protecting the interests of future generations.

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Xenia Karametaxas

Abstract

Some Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) are explicitly created as saving funds for future generations, with the objective to convert non-renewable assets into a more diversified portfolio and, therefore, to transfer wealth from one generation to another. As institutional investors, SWFs have the fiduciary duty to act in the best long-term interest of their beneficiaries. Given that SWFs are managed according to the sovereign, the beneficiaries are the state’s current and future generations. Yet, the fiduciary duties of SWFs towards their beneficiaries go beyond the economic maximization of returns on their investments. SWFs have the responsibility to respect and promote sustainable development through their investments in order to give future generations the opportunity to reap the rewards of the investments.

The existing international normative frameworks that advocate for greater social responsibility can also be applied to SWFs. The United Nations (UN) Principles for Responsible Investment, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the UN Global Compact all reflect the increasing relevance of environmental, social, and governance issues to investment practices of private and public actors. However, the only framework of investment and operational principles directed specifically at SWFs are the Santiago Principles. Surprisingly, this voluntary set of principles, does not address responsible investment practices in particular. This paper explores ways to improve the existing international regulatory frameworks that govern the responsibility of SWFs in order to enable SWFs to become more sustainable investors.

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Melanie Altanian

Abstract

Understanding transitional justice and dealing with the past as elements of intergenerational justice puts our focus on the establishment of sustainable, peaceful, social relationships among groups or members thereof within an intergenerational polity or society after violent conflicts, such as genocide or other crimes against humanity. However, what if this process is undermined by institutionally supported denialism? This paper addresses the question of the normative importance of genocide recognition negatively, by examining the way in which subsequent genocide denialism might be considered as a perpetuation of injustice against genocide survivors and their descendants. I will argue that genocide denialism can be considered as a continuation of genocidal violence in epistemic form, that is, an epistemic injustice, whereby members of the victim group are negatively discriminated against with regard to their credibility and intelligibility. Institutional genocide denialism, then, does not just prevent societies from dealing with their genocidal past, but in the first instance constitutes renewed humiliation and violation of the epistemic authority of genocide survivors and their descendants, thus becoming an instance of intergenerational injustice.

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Catherine Pearce

Abstract

The wellbeing of future generations depends on our decisions today. Challenges posed by climate change, environmental destruction, financial crises, and growing inequality endanger our very survival into the future.

Despite growing calls for integrated policy-making, it remains divided between and within governing bodies. This creates policy incoherence and emphasises short-term targets over long-term or future interests. Policy performance is measured on a concept of 'welfare' that focuses on GDP.

Establishing Guardians for Future Generations would help target political silo-thinking and short-termism, providing far-sighted policy-making that enhances the wellbeing of current and future generations. Keeping our common future in view, analysing how single-issue decisions might impact the future helps to nurture a common purpose: the shared responsibility to enable future generations to live happy, healthy lives.

A number of offices already exist including in Wales, Hungary and previously in Israel. International law explicitly links intergenerational equity and the environment, it is enshrined in some 20 national constitutions. The UN report Intergenerational Solidarity and the Needs of Future Generations (http://www.futurejustice.org/resources/#tabbed-nav=tab8) makes a strong case for action at the UN level proposing a High Commissioner for Future Generations.

Guardians for Future Generations offer an enabling role in steering policy-making into a new direction. Evaluating policy proposals for their effects on the lives of future generations invites a common vision and responsibility connecting them with the life of tomorrow.