Future Generations Zukünftige Generationen Generationengerechtigkeit Future Justice

What are Future Generations? And why do we work for their rights?

„We promise to do everything in our power to help sustain life with all ist beauty and diversity for future generations […]“

From the Founding Document of the World Future Council

Everything we do – or don’t do – today has an impact on future generations. For example, every tonne of CO2 we emit into the atmosphere today will remain there for centuries, affecting the climate now and in the future. A river that is polluted can no longer be used by generations to come. Therefore, it is only fair and sensible to deal with all our resources in such a way that they can still be used for our children, grandchildren and their descendants – so that they can thrive and live in dignity.

Politicians often only act with regard to the next term of office; large parts of the economy only look at short-term profits. The principle of intergenerational justice means that we always consider future generations: the 7th Generation Principle, for example, takes into account the well-being of seven generations after us, which would be about 150 years. We don’t know what people’s lives will look like then – but we do know a lot about what humanity needs survive and thrive: Opportunities for action, a safe and healthy environment, access to clean water, healthy food, clean energy, space to work and learn, a cultural heritage, and much more.

Future generations, however, by their very nature, are not around today to stand up for their rights; someone has to do it for them. An ombudsperson for future generations can institutionalise this role. That said, future justice and intergenerational justice are concepts that must guide all political, economic and cultural action – otherwise the survival of humanity and all life on our Earth is in grave danger.

Topics on this page

UN Summit of the Future

What is the UN Summit of the Future? Why is it so important?

The UN Summit of the Future will be hosted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 22 and 23 September 2024. The organisers speak of a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to strengthen global governance for the benefit of current and future generations. The aim is to agree in advance, by consensus through intergovernmental negotiations, on a concise, action-oriented outcome document (“A Pact for the Future”) to be endorsed by Heads of State and Governments at the Summit

Future Generations – Frequently Asked Questions

Future justice means considering in all decisions – such as political or economic ones – that the planet and people are interconnected. And that the rights of future generations are taken into account in all our actions and activities. They should be entitled to the same rights and opportunities that we want for ourselves today.

According to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), sustainability means “[…] meeting the needs of the present in such a way that the opportunities of future generations are not restricted”. Sustainability is therefore a very similar concept to future justice, but not exactly the same. Future justice has a focus on the rights of people in the future and aims, among other things, to enshrine them in law.

The world is facing a planetary triple crisis – the climate crisis, mass extinction and the pollution crisis. We cannot quantify exactly how much time we have left to stop mass extinction, pollution from plastics, chemicals and the like, and disastrous climate change. But with every year we lose, greater and more drastic efforts must be made to avert harm to humanity. That is why it is so important to act now and create such far-reaching political, social and economic framework conditions so that life on Earth is still possible in the future.

Future-just law-making takes future generations into account. Policy should adapt to scientific research (e.g. on climate change or biodiversity) and pave the way for a safe, just and equitable world. The World Future Council uses the 7 principles for future-just law-making as a framework for its policy work.

An ombudsperson for future generations is the institutionalisation of the principle of future justice. This means that there is a person at local, national or international level who monitors the legislative processes and always checks whether future generations are taken into account. This person has the right and also the duty to object or even to file a lawsuit if this is not done. The World Future Council is campaigning for such an office at various levels. For example, we launched a campaign on this in 2012.

Future generations and their rights play a central role in all our work. For example, with the Future Policy Award, we recognise effective legislation that promotes better living conditions for current and future generations. Future justice is always considered in our areas of work. You can find out more about our work here

Earth Trusteeship is a concept which recognises responsibilities and rights concerning humans and the Earth. A concept which is recognised by international law and informed by the wisdom of indigenous, cultural and religious systems and builds on the spirit of the Earth Charter, 2000. In 2018, the Hague Declaration on Responsibilities for Human Rights and Earth Trusteeship was adopted and in April 2023, the first book discussing an interdisciplinary approach to achieving Earth Trusteeship was published. The World Future Council partners with the Earth Trusteeship Working Group with several of its Councilors Members of this Group (see below).

Crimes against future generations means any human activity, when committed with knowledge of the substantial likelihood of their severe consequences on the long-term health, safety, or means of survival of any identifiable group or collectivity’ on our planet (page 2, draft definition on Crimes against future generations publication). There is momentum now build through the ECOCIDE Campaign which attempts to amend the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to include this crime.

These actions or threats can be individual, family, social, political, military, economic, cultural or scientific activities: some examples would be nuclear weapons, pollution, deforestation of the rainforest, banning girls from education and last but not least climate change.

Read more on our website: https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/crimes-against-future-generations

See also Publications below.

Articles & Publications

Since its founding, the World Future Council has worked for the rights of Future Generations. Here are a few highlights of our publications on this topic, as well as a selection of books from Councillors. Each one of these publications have resulted in a wider policy discourse, awareness and education leading to tangible results.

Envoy for future generations

Campaigners are hopeful that their long-held dream for the UN to embed consideration of future generations in decisions by creating a special envoy role will come true this year. We have been campaigning for the move for more than a decade when the idea was first discussed at the UN’s Earth Summit in 2012.

Herbert Girardet
Future – What Future? By Herbert Girrtet

A UN Summit of the Future, to be held in September 2024. The summit promises a ‘global pact for the future’, but will it match the historic challenges that humanity is facing?

Guarding our Future

We know that big changes in running our societies are needed. Laudable declarations and inspiring ideas abound. Yet we seem to be experiencing deep inertia. How can we turn fine words into action??

7 Principles of Future-Just Law-Making

Future Justice means putting the values that are essential to our survival at the heart of every law, and every policy. To help with this, our leaflet explains the seven policy principles for future-just law-making.

Future Just Biodiversity Laws
Designing Future Just Laws on Biodiversity

Training materials for Government officials and parlamentarians.

Crimes against Future Generations
Crimes against Future Generations

TA New Approach to Ending Impunity for Serious Violations of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and International Environmental Law

The Climate-Nuclear Nexus
Climate Nuclear Nexus

An extensive study of the linkages between climate change and nuclear security conducted for the World Future Council by Disarmament Working Group member Prof. Dr. Jürgen Scheffran of the University of Hamburg.

Creating the World Future Council

By Jakob von Uexkull and Prof. Herbert Girardet (2006)

ISBN‏: ‎ 978-1903998465


Tread Lightly on the Earth

A Report to the World Future Council by Judge C.G. Weeramantry, Former Vice-President, International Court of Justice, The Hague and Founding Councillor (2009)

ISBN: 978-9556581904

Reflections on Earth Trusteeship: Mother Earth and a new 21st Century Governance Paradigm

Collective Publication; authors include Alyn Ware, Neshan Gunasekera and Vandana Shiva. INI Publications (2023)

Videos & Webinars

In these videos we address issues around future justice, intergenerational justice, rights of future generations and much more.