During the World Leaders Summit on Climate on 22 and 23 April 2021 US- President Biden announced the ambitious 2030 emissions target as the new contribution of the USA under the Paris Agreement and urged the other 40 world leaders to contribute also to stronger climate ambition.
Press Release: Nuclear weapons in Germany inflame conflict between NATO and Russia
Hamburg, Büchel (Germany) 13th July 2018 – Peace and disarmament activists from the World Future Council, Büchel is Everywhere, Nukewatch, Abolition 2000 Youth Network, and other organisations gathering at the Büchel airforce base in Germany this weekend, claim that the U.S. nuclear weapons deployed at the base and at other NATO countries inflame the conflict between NATO and Russia, provoke nuclear counter measures and increase the risk of a nuclear exchange by miscalculation or accident. The weekend protest is part of an international peace action camp at Büchel which started on July 10 just before the recent NATO Summit and finishes two days after the July 16 Helsinki Summit of Presidents Trump and Putin. It includes delegates from a number of countries including Belgium, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States.
A principle target of the protest is the controversial practice of placing US nuclear weapons known as B61s in other countries, and US plans to replace the current bombs with new ones. Under a program called “nuclear sharing” Germany, Italy, Belgium, Turkey, and The Netherlands still deploy a total of 150 Cold War-era US gravity H-bombs. The governments admit to nuclear sharing agreements, but will not confirm the numbers or locations of nuclear weapons on their territories. Critics point out that all five countries are parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which explicitly prohibits nuclear weapons from being transferred to or accepted from others.
‘An overwhelming majority of the German public objects to US/NATO plans to replace the B61s deployed across Europe (including the 20 at Büchel Air Base) with new Hydrogen bombs called the B61-12,’ said Marion Küpker (Germany), a disarmament campaigner with the organization Büchel Is Everywhere. ‘Each of these bombs is more than 10 times as powerful as the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our united resistance will stop the new, illegal nuclear bombs nobody needs.’
‘The world wants nuclear weapons abolished,’ said Bonnie Urfer (United States), former co-director of Nukewatch. ‘To waste billions of dollars replacing them with new ones is outrageous considering the millions now in poverty or in need disaster relief, emergency shelter, and safe drinking water.’
‘Nuclear weapons threaten current and future generations,’ said Marzhan Nurzhan (Kazakhstan), Convener of the Abolition 2000 Youth Network. ‘We continue to experienced the catastrophic impact of nuclear weapons in our country decades ago, so we know that any use of nuclear weapons in a war would create a humanitarian disaster that would continue for hundreds and thousands of years.’
‘Presidents Trump and Putin are about to meet in Helsinki to discuss how to reduce the tensions and military provocations between the two countries,’ said Alyn Ware (New Zealand/Czech Republic), Council Member of the World Future Council speaking from Buchel. ‘The nuclear threat is the highest since the end of the Cold War. The two Presidents should use this opportunity to take their nuclear forces off high alert, commit to never initiating a nuclear war, renew the New START treaty and supplement the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty by removing all tactical weapons from forward deployment, i.e. the US nuclear weapons in Europe and Russian tactical weapons deployed near their western borders.’
On July 11, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation and Cooperation in Europe approved the Berlin Declaration which endorses the call for nuclear-armed States to adopt policies never to initiate a nuclear war (‘no-first-use’ policies) and to adopt other disarmament and confidence-building measures. The declaration also calls on OSCE governments to affirm and achieve the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
‘As the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly includes the legislatures of Russia and the United States, as well as of all NATO countries, the Berlin Declaration could be very influential in the run-up to the Trump-Putin Summit and beyond the summit,’ says Mr Ware who also serves as the Global Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. ‘The Berlin Declaration joins other parliamentary and civil society calls for Dialogue, détente and disarmament, indicating the breadth of support for the Buchel action this weekend.’
Note: The World Future Council 3DnukeMissile will be on display at the gate of the Büchel airbase on July 14.
Contacts for comments or photos of the action and 3DNukeMissile: Alyn Ware +420 773 638 867, Wolfgang Schlupp-Hauck +49 (0) 176 5062 8377, Marzhan Nurzhan +420 770 649 750 or Marion Küpker +49 (0) 172 771 32 66
For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact
Media & Communications Manager, World Future Council
Tel: +49 40 307 09 14 19
The World Future Council
The World Future Council (WFC) works to pass on a healthy planet and fair societies to our children and grandchildren. To achieve this, we focus on identifying and spreading effective, future-just policy solutions and promote their implementation worldwide. The Council consists of 50 eminent global change-makers from governments, parliaments, civil societies, academia, the arts and the business world. Jakob von Uexkull, the Founder of the Alternative Nobel Prize, launched the World Future Council in 2007. We are an independent, non-profit organisation under German law and finance our activities from donations. For information on the Future Policy Award, visit: https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/future-policy-award
For press enquiries, please contact Miriam Petersen, email@example.com, +49 40 307 09 14 19.
Guarding our future: All over the world climate change, environmental destruction, financial crises, and the widening gap between rich and poor are spreading insecurity and fear. 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?
Policy making seems to be stuck in a way of thinking that is inadequate in the face of severe global challenges. We have a collective responsibility to implement and deliver ambitious sustainable development strategies for an interconnected world of some 9.6 billion people by 2050. We believe there is enough wealth on the planet to provide peace and wellbeing for all.
If we update our policies to protect long-term interests. If the rules of engagement are fair and for the common good. If we protect diversity of life on this planet. The World Future Council is advocating a vision of Future Justice – common sense policy solutions that will benefit society as a whole and provide a high quality of life for generations to come.
Member of World Future Council and Ecuadorian Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, was elected President of the 73rd UN General Assembly
New York/Hamburg, 6 June 2018 – Dr. María Fernanda Espinosa, Member of the World Future Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility in Ecuador, was elected 73rd President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) yesterday.
According to the UN, Dr. María Fernanda Espinosa secured 128 votes against 62 votes obtained by the only other candidate, UN Ambassador Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake of Honduras.
Alexandra Wandel, Director of the World Future Council (WFC), congratulates:
On behalf of the World Future Council, I would like to congratulate you on your election, and send my best wishes in your esteemed position as 73rd President. Your leadership and inspiring vision will help to strengthen the United Nations, and global society as a whole.
The forthcoming 73rd session offers a key moment to advance intergenerational equity in the UN System to ensure that the needs of present generations are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. We recognise the longstanding interest and support shown by the Government of Ecuador in these efforts, not least during your former position as Minister of Natural and Cultural Heritage. We are confident that with you as President of the UN General Assembly, future generations will have a strong advocate within the United Nations.
The World Future Council is working with the informal Governmental Group of Friends for Future Generations, which provides an important platform to develop new initiatives in this area. The Group of Friends endorsed the proposal to establish Global Guardians for Future Generations, to provide balanced advocacy for future generations, so that the UN can play a leading role in securing intra- and inter-generational equity globally. The innovative nature and normative legitimacy of the Global Guardians for Future Generations will play an important role in complementing existing efforts to help ensure that the UN Development System is more inclusive, impactful and coherent. With your esteemed leadership, the 73rd session of UNGA will seize new initiatives at a time when achieving fairness between generations in the context of sustainable development is becoming all the more important. This as a unique moment for significant breakthrough on the Global Guardians proposal, which would be welcomed by Member States and civil society.
We wish you just the best success for your endeavours, and strongly hope that working together decisively, we will promote the interests of future generations and our mutual values.
World Future Council
For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact
Media and Communications Manager
World Future Council
Dorotheenstr. 15, 22301 Hamburg, Germany
About the World Future Council
The World Future Council (WFC) consists of up to 50 eminent global changemakers from governments, parliaments, civil society, academia, the arts, and business who have already successfully created change. We work to pass on a healthy planet and fair societies to our children and grandchildren. To achieve this, we focus on identifying and spreading effective, future just policy solutions and promote their implementation worldwide. Jakob von Uexkull, the Founder of the Alternative Nobel Prize, launched the World Future Council in 2007. We are an independent, non-profit organization under German law and finance our activities from donations. For information visit www.worldfuturecouncil.org
For press enquiries, please contact Miriam Petersen, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0049 40 307 09 14 19.
The relationship between indigenous peoples and nation states is historically marked by conflict and oppression. The exploitation of natural resources, usually ignoring indigenous knowledge, feed into these conflicts,threatening the sovereignty, rights, culture and ultimate existence of indigenous peoples. The historical relationship between the state of New Zealand and the Māori has proved to be no exception. However, the 2014 Whanganui River Deed of Settlement is an exemplary attempt to protect the River, and its natural resources while respecting incorporating the long ignored voices of the local Whanganui tribes.
The Whanganui River, home for a large proportion of Māori villages in pre-European times and regarded as taonga (special treasure), is sacred to the Whanganui Iwi Māori tribe and believed to have human traits. Prior to 1848 a substantial Māori population, which was dispersed along the Whanganui River and its major tributaries, enjoyed rights and responsibilities over it. This changed in 1848 when the Crown purchased 86,200 acres of land at Whanganui. The Crown proceeded to assert authority over the land and River within the area purchased and, as a result, faced Māori opposition, who asserted control over the rest of the area and continued to make use of the River.
Frequent conflicts arose between the Crown and the Māori. The River’s relevance as an important communication route motivated, in 1887, the inauguration of a steam-boat service, which was protested by the locals, who argued this would greatly affect fish and eel weirs population, their main food source. Only a few years later, by 1891 most fish and eel weirs had, in fact, been destroyed, and yet the boat services continued. Rights to extract and sell gravel from the River were equally protested by the Whanganui Iwi, who attempted to obstruct the River works, but were ignored by the Parliament. In 1903, the Coal-mines Act Amendment Act, without consultation with the Whanaganui Iwi, brought further misery, by declaring the beds of all navigable rivers to be vested in the Crown.
The Māori tribe continued to be voiceless throughout the 20th Century until the Whanganui River Māori Trust Board was established. It negotiated outstanding Whanganui Iwi claims for the settlement over the Whanganui River and, in signing the Deed of Settlement, the Crown recognised, amongst other things, “its failure to protect the interests of Whanganui Iwi, and the adverse effects and prejudice caused to Whanganui Iwi.”
Several settlements have, prior to the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement, recognised Māori conceptions of the environment, among them are settlements that relate to the Waikato, Waipā and Kaituna Rivers. The Waikato River settlement, for example, recognises that the River is an ancestor (tupuna) to the Waikato-Tainui and it possesses a life force.
On August 2014, and following numerous petitions to Parliament dating back more than a century, the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement (or Ruruku Whakatupua) was finally signed. Under the settlement, the Whanganui River is recognised as a legal person, granting the River rights, powers, duties and liabilities and “recognises the intrinsic ties which bind the Whanganui River to the people and the people to the Whanganui River.” Not only has Māori belief been incorporated into the Deed of Settlement but the River is also represented by two guardians (with advisors) who act ‘as one’: one is nominated by the Crown and the other one by the Iwi natives.
The Deed of Settlement helps ensure a more sustainable usage of natural resources by, for example, significantly limiting dredging from the riverbed. It also respects natural areas and traditional knowledge: S.3.3.3. states that Iwi and Crown guardians, working must “promote and protect the health and well-being” of the River within a framework of traditional Māori knowledge. Ensuring a less polluted River, not only helps to restore local ecosystems and balanced biodiversity, but it brings a significant impact on the ocean’s health as well.
This policy is not only vital for environmental and natural resources protection but it also recognises the local community and its relationship with the State, and the local environment. Poverty and human rights violations are addressed through the redress of historic exploitation by the Crown and the development of the River that had taken place without Māori consent. The Crown also “recognises its failure to protect the interests of Whanganui Iwi, and the adverse effects and prejudice caused to Whanganui Iwi.” The historical oppression by the Crown over the Iwi is also taken into account. By consulting and partnering with local tribes, the Crown provides an avenue to redress such atrocities and violations, where possible.
It must be noted, however, that this Settlement is only appropriate and well-adapted to the cultural values and traditions of the Iwi. Local inhabitants of other faiths don’t have their beliefs acknowledged within the Deed of Settlement. This means that the Deed does not have the neutrality of pluralism and secularism, which the New Zealand government displays elsewhere in its policies.
By electing guardians and advisors from the tribe and incorporating their beliefs, knowledge and practices, it further empowers the local Iwi. It also provides for public consultation and genuine engagement in its design and implementation such as the appointment of legal representatives who “must … develop appropriate mechanisms for engaging with and reporting to [local Māori] on matters relating to [the river]”. The Deed establishes a strategy group comprised of representatives of persons and organisations with interests in the Whanganui River. This includes the Iwi, local and central government, commercial as well as recreational users and environmental groups.
This Settlement is by no means the consequence of a fully healed relationship, both between New Zealand’s indigenous peoples and the State, and between humans and nature. However it is a cause for celebration. The burden of environmental degradation rests the heaviest on the shoulders of indigenous peoples, who are more likely to rely upon a healthy and thriving environment and yet, perversely usually have little say, or few means of access in these matters. Hopefully policies like the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement can inspire Governments around the world to take action towards recognising and respecting indigenous knowledge, and the restorative capacity of healing nature and communities.
As a British national, living in the UK, I am witnessing some of the most turbulent, destructive and unsettling moments of my country’s political history. And not only that, but the wider European region is going through some of the most worrying times.
I first began writing this comment a few weeks back. My draft, within a few a days, was already out of date, surpassed by events and fast moving developments.
I want to deconstruct some common myths, raise some uncomfortable realities, and remind ourselves of some fundamental limits, natural and otherwise which we are already bumping up against.
First off, the myth that there can be a view from Europe. There are many, many views. There are commonalities, of course, but Europe is a patchwork of different stories. Europe comprises over 40 countries. There are 28 countries and 24 official languages in the EU alone. It demonstrates a strong diversity of histories, cultures, identities, political views, realities and priorities. And it doesn’t stop there. Our views and perspectives are also informed by our neighbours: Africa, Russia, the Middle East. What is happening, immediately beyond our borders is perhaps posing the largest tension and conflict for Europe today.
One could argue that the painful and extended efforts to fix the EU project has provided a dangerous distraction. Whether it be saving the Euro or retaining its membership, the EU at least, has neglected or simply failed to respond to critical events around us.
Turning to the UK referendum, the vote divided and split the country on a number of different lines and demographics. By region, by age, by nationality, ethnicity, class even. Based upon certain myths, lies and allegations, the vote has created a fragmented country, threatening to split up the kingdom.
The truth is however that the “Brussels” against which British voters rebelled is a bureaucracy answerable to 28 contentious governments that has never constrained British sovereignty in defense or fiscal policy, or in dealing with refugees from outside the EU. And as the Brits will soon realize to our regret, we benefited handsomely from participating in a large common market.
All that has been amply chronicled, along with the real motives behind the Leave vote: the sense among older, provincial, white voters, the ‘middle Englanders’ that they are somehow being marginalized by globalization; they had been driven by a nostalgia for a simpler and often mythical past.
Certainly, there are valid points about the European Union and about globalization to which politicians should pay heed. But that isn’t why Leave won. It won because demagogic, charlatan politicians like Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party, and Boris Johnson, our newly appointed Foreign Secretary had no scruples about playing on base fears that ‘swarms’ of people of different colours and religions were threatening to overwhelm the native way of life. That is also Mr Trump’s refrain and the core message of right-wing demagogues across Europe, from Marine Le Pen in France to Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.
Ironically, after outsourcing our trade powers to Brussels for the last 43 years, the UK is now relying on the expertise of foreign trade negotiators – as Whitehall looks to recruit foreign nationals, experienced in trade negotiations, to help us. So much for ‘taking back control’!
While the UK vote has brought increased support for the EU in other parts of the region, it has also catalysed fragmentation as other EU countries seek to hold their own referendums. The Catalan government has recently intensified its war of words with Spain by vowing to use its democratic mandate to forge a long standing call for a separate Catalan state, with or without the approval of Madrid.
I could write at length about the political turmoil the EU has been plunged into via the Brexit vote, however I want to turn to immigration. An inflammatory issue that stirred up and played on emotions during the referendum and reaches the heart, and indeed the borders of Europe. It also brings into question the relationship that Europe has with the rest of the world.
The movement of people into Europe is happening on an unprecedented level since World War II. Europe has become the 21st-century destination of choice for the war-ravaged, the persecuted, the displaced, the homeless and the penniless from numerous less fortunate and less stable lands.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that over a million migrants arrived by sea in 2015, and almost 35,000 by land. And those figures are only the official records, many more arrive undetected.
Though its suffering is horrendous, Syria is but one of many disaster areas whose collective woes have led some experienced observers to assert that 2016 is already the worst year for humanitarian crises in living memory. Nearly all these crises potentially affect Europe.
Europe’s resources, capacities and attitudes are being tested, as the numbers of people, either moving through, or requesting asylum increase. So far, our response has been pitiful. Last September, Austria’s Chancellor compared Hungary’s treatment of refugees to the ordeal of Jews under the Nazis. Werner Faymann, a Social Democrat, launched a blistering attack on the handling of the migration crisis by Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister. Mr Faymann is reported to have said “Refugees put on trains in the belief they are going somewhere else entirely brings back memories of the darkest period of our continent,”
Racism and xenophobia are on the rise. In the week before and the week after the UK vote, reports to the police of racial hate crime increased by 42%, probably the highest ever recorded. Some had assumed that the Brexit vote had given them a free licence for open racism.
How secular, or mostly Christian Europe will cope with the mass migration, largely from Muslim Africa and the Middle East is now the dominant common factor at the heart of national politics across the region.
Recent horrific attacks in France and Germany also, inevitably give rise to the concern of opening our doors to potential terrorists, and creating our own ‘enemy within’.
Greece has been on the frontline of the mass movement of people. Greece, a country already on its knees economically, socially and politically, barely able to serve its own people. A country on the edge of the EU, quite literally, which has been on the receiving end of such draconian and harsh measures from Brussels, that a referendum resulted in a clear refusal to continue under the EU policies. Yet it was ignored by the governing party. And, despite the widespread suffering of its own, Greece continues to welcome the weak, vulnerable, scared and desperate, escaping some of the worst conflict zones the world has ever seen. These lands of war were, until recently, their home. To leave, with nothing, risking their lives and that of their children’s, not knowing what is ahead, or if they will ever return.
We, the Western world are guilty of the atrocities taking place in these regions. We have all, intentionally or not, assisted in creating the conditions for such dangerously unsettled and unstable parts of the world.
It is certainly grotesque that the UK, a key ally to the US in the Iraq War, and a driver of intervention in the region, now wishes to tightly limit the number refugees arriving, as a result of the conflicts. Meanwhile, Greece was a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq, yet is currently bearing the brunt of its consequences.
Poorly thought through, hawkish actions in Libya, led by French, US and British coalitions has left a country now ‘ungovernable’. To do this anywhere is reckless and foolish. But to do this on Europe’s doorstep denotes such idiocy that one wonders if the conspiracy to break Europe under further stress is so far-fetched. After all, it was not so long ago that David Cameron, as the UK Prime Minister had strenuously called for Turkey’s accession to the EU, hoping to stretch EU capacities even further, something he vehemently denied during the referendum.
There is no doubt that the numbers of people on the move today are nothing, nothing in comparison to what we face as the impacts of climate change really begin to hit.
We are only now beginning to understand how climate change will undermine some of our basic human rights, and we have yet to fully comprehend what this will mean, and the implications for what we all currently take for granted.
The organisation I work for, the World Future Council, identifies policy solutions to these challenges and helps to spread and implement them. Aware that only a rapid shift to renewable energies can address climate change, we are spreading the most effective law to achieve this – ‘feed-in-tariffs’ rewarding solar and wind energy producers, first introduced in Germany, to other countries.
In the UK, this law has increased solar PV production rapidly – although we are not a very sunny country. We are now showing policy-makers that 100% renewables is possible, taking them to places like the Spanish Canary island of El Hierro where it is already the case, and the lights haven’t gone off.
Of course, such changes require ecologically literate people and here, Europe can learn from the US. The Environmental Literacy Standards of the state of Maryland are the best worldwide, as they are a high school graduation requirement, and we are working to introduce them in Europe.
Less than a day into the job, UK Prime Minister May’s shocking decision to shut down DECC, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, brought accusations of downgrading our country’s efforts on climate change, of not taking the issue seriously. Climate has been eaten up by a newly beefed up business department, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Personally, I have never been entirely convinced by the UK government’s leadership on climate change. But in this case, climate appears to have been demoted. The move does little to reassure business, poised to invest in a renewable future, or to the broader, international community of our climate commitments, especially our COP21 pledges.
Ministries and their structures indeed shape the priorities and direction of a government, however, commitment can be demonstrated by more than just a name. Leadership from recently appointed Climate Minister Nick Hurd and the State Secretary Greg Clark can go some way in making sure climate change is elevated and hardwired into the new department. Both their records on climate are good, but it remains to be seen if they will be climate champions in the face of conflicting priorities. It has been assumed that the new department holds more power and influence than DECC, however in the face of the new Government, complete with a large number of prominent climate skeptics, it suggests we will witness a series of tug of wars.
The freeze last week, on the go ahead on the controversial Hinkley nuclear power station, at the eleventh hour, to read the small print, leads one to wonder, perhaps naively, if this presents the shift from outdated, centralised energy to distributed renewables and smart grids.
15,000 nuclear weapons are held in the arsenals of the nine nuclear-armed states. The US and Russia are responsible for 95% of those weapons, 10% of which are on what is called ‘hair-trigger alert’ – a policy left over from the Cold War, which allows these weapons to go flying within minutes of an attack being logged.
Five European states continue to host US ‘tactical nuclear weapons’. Even though every military commander agrees they serve no military purpose and can never be used, the US is about to spend $10 billion to modernise this arsenal.
The British Parliament, recently held a debate on our Trident nuclear programme. It was held thanks to outgoing Prime Minister Cameron, wishing to send a signal to the international community that we remain a player on the world stage, perversely through showcasing our stockpile of nuclear weaponry, and as well, knowing it would split the opposition, the Labour Party further still. During the debate, Prime Minister, Theresa May said she would be willing to authorise a nuclear strike that could kill 100,000 people. To gasps across the chamber, May confirmed she would be prepared to press the nuclear button if necessary as she opened the debate about whether the UK should spend up to £200bn replacing four submarines that carry nuclear warheads. “The whole point of a deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it”. These types of adversarial policies stand in the way of the unprecedented cooperation we need to tackle transnational challenges.
The World Future Council recently published a study on the Climate-Nuclear-Nexus, showing the inter-linkages between these two global security threats. Many policy-makers are very worried about this and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, based in Geneva, which brings together almost all parliamentarians in the world, asked the World Future Council to produce a handbook on exemplary nuclear disarmament policies.
Argentina’s National Programme for the Voluntary Surrender of Firearms, paved the way for a highly successful firearms and ammunition buyback and also promotes a culture of non-violence and peaceful conflict resolution. My colleague Rob van Riet brought this policy to Bosnia, a country still suffering from the animosities of the civil war 20 years ago.
The trade in weaponry, from Europe is adding to escalating conflict and wars in neighbouring countries. Since the escalation of the Syrian conflict in 2012, eight countries, including the Czech Republic and Romania have approved €1.2bn of weapons and ammunition exports to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey – key arms markets for Syria and Yemen. Eight European countries that fiercely opposed to receive refugees in the EU are the very same ones that are profiting from the war.
Allow me to turn to the obvious and uncomfortable parallels arising between the UK and the US. The UK referendum debate was based upon lies, propaganda and untruths. Tidy, appealing slogans such as ‘taking back control’ used during the referendum are being echoed in the US presidential race.
The Republican convention used the outcome of the UK vote to justify and intensify the patriotic, vitriolic fist pumping hysteria ‘to take back America’. The witch hunt on Clinton generated during those debates sat very uneasily for me. In the UK, we are still mourning the loss of one of our brightest and most inspiring political figures, Jo Cox MP, assassinated in her own constituency for her views. Some Labour MPs, particularly women, also continue to receive death threats, personal attacks and intimidation.
Trump, and many UK politicians leading the Brexit campaign have unleashed, and fuelled an almighty rage and anger based on fear. Regretfully, pandora’s box has been opened.
The fact that these fires are burning in two of the most unequal countries and societies should be no surprise. As human beings, we have deep-seated psychological responses to inequality and social hierarchy. The tendency to equate outward wealth with inner worth means that inequality colours our social perceptions. It invokes feelings of superiority and inferiority, dominance and subordination – which affect the way we relate to and treat each other. As well as health and violence, almost all the problems that are more common at the bottom of the social ladder are more common in more unequal societies – including mental illness, drug addiction, obesity, loss of community life, imprisonment, unequal opportunities and poorer wellbeing for children. The effects are not confined to the poor. Inequality is bad for everyone. It eats away at the social fabric of the whole society.
We need to find it in ourselves to think the unthinkable. Both of the negative, as hard and uncomfortable as that may be, of some unimaginable outcomes, but of the good too, of what we can achieve, together, if we are to turn things around.
Among other deficits, our democracy has become a dictatorship of the present, with no-one representing the interests of future generations.
Our ancestors thought differently, the most famous example being the Native American principle that the impact of any decision on the 7th generation to come had to be taken into account.
My work in the World Future Council has focused on reviving this principle, by establishing guardians for future generations. Hungary established a Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations in 2007 and last year, we helped to set up a similar institution in Wales.
We have also worked since Rio 2012 to establish a UN High Commissioner for Future Generations, an initiative now being discussed at the UN High Level Political Forum.
Thanks to the internet we believe we are engaging with the world around us like never before. This could not be more true for the millennials as they feel disconnected from the democratic systems designed to service them. Yet, in reality, our worlds are shrinking into the online bubble we wish to identify ourselves with. We know the platforms we can turn to in order to validate ourselves and affirm our views. Many Britons woke up on the 24 June and did not recognise the country they lived in. The online community they depended on and fed off, served only to feed their own beliefs and value systems.
The pace of change in technology, globalization and climate has started to outrun the ability of our political systems to build the social, educational, community, workplace and political innovations needed for citizens to keep up.
“Political power in the West has been failing its own test of legitimacy and accountability since 2008 — and in its desperation has chosen to erode it further by unforgivably abdicating responsibility through the use of a referendum on the EU,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, who co-leads the London-based global consulting firm Macro Advisory Partners.
After the destruction of World War II, the EU project emerged as a force for peace, prosperity, democracy and freedom in the world. This is one of our great achievements. Rather than let it be destroyed we must use the shock of the Brexit vote to reimagine, reform, and rebuild a new Europe.
We are all, Europe. We are all, America. We are all black. We are all refugees. The challenges we face know no borders. They transcend nationality. They transcend race. They transcend age, ethnicity and they transcend political lines.
Let us think the unthinkable.
The Future Justice team attended a talk concerning the relationship between climate change and human rights, hosted by the Global Governance Institute, UNICEF UK and UCL Grand Challenges, with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Prof. John Knox.
Mike Penrose, Executive Director of UNICEF UK, introduced the topic at hand by urging us all to place human beings at the core of this debate. Climate impacts causing the displacement of several tens of millions of people in places such as Bangladesh and food security crises in East Africa bringing a rise in child mortality, point to the key framing of the issue. It becomes even more pressing when we consider that it’s the young/future generations and the ones most vulnerable amongst the current generations who will bear the consequences of climate change first and hardest.
Climate impacts causing the displacement of several tens of millions of people in places such as Bangladesh and food security crises in East Africa bringing a rise in child mortality, point to the key framing of the issue.
With COP21, Penrose continued, we have an opportunity to stem this crisis – a sentiment later reiterated by Prof. Knox. Given that the governments have agreed to limit climate change to 2 degrees, or even 1.5, despite that still being a potentially catastrophic rise in temperature, it might just be within the realms of manageable. To go forwards with this daunting and ambitious objective Mike Penrose urged that we all need to move from words to actions.
Most importantly there needs to be early and heavy investment in mitigation measures that will reduce the climate impact on children. To achieve this we need to tackle the issue through a rights based approach, in order for human beings and children to be at the centre of the debate: ‘Their voice needs to be listened to because they will inherit this planet.’
The role of Prof. Knox as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment is to study this specific area of law and clarify how human rights law applies to environmental protection. Prof Knox’s work encompasses thereby also the study of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean and healthy environment.
It turns out that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights doesn’t cover the environment because human rights laws developed before our understanding of the environment. Thus work to combine the two is increasingly vital. Nowadays, already more than 90 national constitutions include a right to healthy environment, this includes but isn’t limited to tribunals that have effectively ‘greened’ existing human rights.
Prof. Knox shared some of his conclusions drawn from his extensive research:
- Environmental harm interferes with the full enjoyment of human rights
- Human rights laws set out procedural rules for environmental policy making
- Human rights law sets minimum substantive standards
- Groups vulnerable to environmental harm are owed heightened duties
A clear benefit derived from a human rights perspective to climate change is a clarified view as to what is at stake: whether all of us – especially the most vulnerable – will be able to live with dignity, equality and freedom and furthermore, it provides a solid guidance for robust and effective climate policies, by virtue of keeping humans at the core of this debate.
What we need to do now is to go further with the reframing of climate change as a threat to human rights; the fact that we see images of polar bears and post apocalyptic Mad-Max-Style environments, John Knox explained, is a sign that climate change and the real impact of it is still too far removed from us as human beings.
“Climate change is the greatest threat to human rights in the twenty first century.” Mary Robinson
The recent Paris agreement therefore has to be lauded in that this is the first time that such an agreement refers to human rights in relation to climate change. The narrative on climate change is broadening out to the human threat faced, especially as basic human rights are already being violated due to climate change, with the risks of greater and more extensive corrosion of rights becoming more apparent. A great deal needs to be done to bring Paris into action, to see a fast reduction in emissions.
The talk concluded by highlighting a new way, paved in lawsuits, to move beyond this rhetoric such as Asghar Leghari v Federation of Pakistan 2015, Urgenda Foundation v The State of the Netherlands 2015 and most recently a case where the young generation decided to fight for their right to a healthy environment : the Children’s Trust Lawsuit v The United States of America ( Kelsey Cascade Rose Juliana; et al., v. The United States of America).
The World Future Council is hosting an event in Sri Lanka to consider the concept of intergenerational equity, bringing together some key figures and authorities on this concept and its basis in international law. Leading experts will turn to the historic opportunity presented in the revision of Sri Lanka’s national constitution as a ‘once in a generation’ moment in recognising legal responsibilities to future generations. Discussions will include the challenges to implement the global sustainable development goals in Sri Lanka, and the opportunities it presents to introduce a long-term perspective. Panellists will also consider how the Government of Sri Lanka can offer leadership through supporting the proposal for a UN body for future generations.
High level speakers include:
- Sri Lankaabhimaneeya Judge C.G. Weeramantry – former Vice President, ICJ;
- Prof Mohan Munasinghe – Founder Chairman of MIND, Vice Chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC-AR4), Distinguished Guest Professor, Peking University, China, and Honorary Senior Advisor to the Government of Sri Lanka;
- Dr Uchita De Zoysa – Sustainable Development Advisor to the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Wildlife
- Ravi Fernando – Chairman, Global Strategic Corporate Sustainability Pvt.Ltd., Operations Director, Malaysia Blue Ocean Strategy Group.
3:00 pm Welcome
3:05 – 4:05 pm SESSION I – RECOGNIZING RIGHTS OF FUTURE GENERATIONS
This session will consider how looking to future generations will bring rich rewards today and tomorrow. Speakers will introduce how the principle of intergenerational equity can be reflected in present day decision making and legal processes while also drawing upon some of the leading experience elsewhere.
Chair: Dr Maneesha Wansinghe-Pasqual, Head, Department of International Relations, University of Colombo
Catherine Pearce, Director, Future Justice Commission, World Future Council
Professor Mohan Munasinghe, Founder Chairman of MIND, Vice Chair, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC-AR4) and Honorary Senior Advisor to the Government of Sri Lanka
Sri Lankaabimaneeya Judge C.G. Weeramantry, Former, Vice-President, International Court of Justice, World Future Council Honorary Councillor (Video Message)
World Future Council Ambassador Kehkashan Basu (Video Message)
4:05 – 4:15 pm Q & A
4:15 – 4:35 pm, Networking Break/Refreshments
4:35 – 5:35pm SESSION II – IMPLEMENTING RIGHTS OF FUTURE GENERATIONS: OPPORTUNITIES FOR SRI LANKA
This session will look to the unprecedented and historic opportunity in Sri Lanka to strengthen the new Constitution, reflecting a country ready to safeguard its future. Discussions will include the challenges to implement the global sustainable development goals in Sri Lanka, and the opportunities it presents to introduce a long-term perspective. Speakers will also consider the leadership and initiative that Sri Lanka can display on this issue at the international level.
Chair: Catherine Pearce, Director, Future Justice Commission, World Future Council
Uchita De Zoysa, Sustainable Development Advisor to the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Wildlife & Chairman of Global Sustainability Solutions
Dr Ravi Fernando, Chairman, Global Strategic Corporate Sustainability Pvt. Ltd., Operations Director, Malaysia Blue Ocean Strategy Group
Luwie Ganeshathasan, Attorney at Law
Naushalya Rajapakse, Sri Lankan Youth Delegate to the UN
5:35 – 5:50pm Q & A
5:50 – 5:55pm Vote of Thanks – Neshan Gunasekera, Attorney at Law
This hearing built upon the outcomes of an expert level workshop on the issue held in the European Parliament in April 2015. It aimed to provide an overview of existing practices at UN, EU and MS levels as well as to identify options for better integrating the rights of future generations.
What steps can be taken in Europe, to facilitate the shift from short-termism in policy making towards long-term decision making? What is the way forward?
Summary and main outcomes of the event organised by the World Future Council and MEP Benedek Jávor (Greens/EFA), cohosted with Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP) and Jo Leinen (S&D)
Monday 28 September 2015
The hearing built upon the outcomes of an expert level workshop on the issue held in the European Parliament in April 2015 with the participation of the Cabinets of Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.
It aimed to provide an overview of existing practices at UN, EU and MS levels as well as to identify options for better integrating the rights of future generations, better implementing intergenerational equity and bringing longterm thinking into EU policymaking with contributions from János Pásztor, UN Assistant Secretary General & Special Envoy on Climate Change, Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karl Falkenberg, European Policy Strategy Centre as well as highlevel representatives of particular Member States, NGOs and academia.
New, policyrelevant assessments and research results were presented and discussed including that of the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations, the Institute for European Environmental Policy and the World Future Council, the latter offering practical, credible options and recommendations for creating and formalising a ‘Guardian for Future Generations’ role at EU level.
Benedek Jávor opened the event by drawing attention to the close links between the rights of future generations and the recently adopted Agenda 2030 and the climate goals to be set by the COP21 in Paris later this year. Such decisions reflect the need for long-term thinking and integrating the interests of future generations in policy-making, which are indispensable for addressing challenges like climate change or biodiversity loss. Action at the EU level might influence other countries to follow the positive example. Mr Jávor reminded participants that despite efforts to improve governance in the EU, the interests of future generations are systematically underestimated in current decisions for a number of reasons. He made it clear that bridging the needs of present and future generations is possible and practical solutions are highly needed.
In his video message, János Pásztor, UN Assistant Secretary General warned that climate change will have the most encompassing impact on future generations. Therefore, the Paris Agreement is crucial and could mark a historic turning point, if everyone, including all sectors and all levels of society are on board. Commissioner Karmenu Vella called for the EU to live up to the UN commitments and fully implement the SDGs, keeping in mind that 2030 is around the corner. He mentioned the upcoming proposal from the Commission on the circular economy as one of the tools to do so.
Neil Kerr, deputy Permanent Representative of Malta offered a historic perspective on the role his country played in promoting the concept of a ‘guardian of future generations’ at the international level since the UN Sustainable Development Summit in 1992. In particular, he talked about the science-policy interface and the importance of a cross-sectoral and participatory approach.
The founder of the World Future Council, Jakob von Uexkull reminded the audience that climate change is not the sole issue affecting future generations, but it will have the most drastic impacts across all areas of life. In his opinion, we have enslaved future generations by our current lifestyles and it would be absolutely necessary to redesign policies (including education, security, energy and biodiversity protection) and create a Guardian at EU level. Karl Falkenberg warned us about various unprecedented environmental challenges, argued for a conservative approach, namely the duty of handing a liveable planet to the next generations. He called for policy coherence, a holistic and collective approach, mentioning examples of sustainable agriculture and cities. In his view institutions such as national level sustainable development councils to embed the concept of long-termism are more justifiable than giving a voice to future generations through a single representative due to difficulties in anticipating intents and attitudes that will prevail in the future. He also mentioned the value of mainstreaming such principles across existing work and processes.
Session 2 offered insight into current practices with possible lessons to be learnt at the EU level. As explained by Rita Singh, Director of Policy at Cynnal Cymru/Sustain Wales, in Wales the role of the Commissioner for Sustainable Futures is to bring attention to inter-connectedness of policies and promote sustainability. This is achieved through a collaborative approach, including consultations with key stakeholders and social groups on their vision for 2050, with the overall aim of engaging citizens. Tools to support such work include a specific checklist for public service providers, making sure their decisions are sustainable in the economic, social, environmental and cultural sense. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, introduced into law earlier this year has proven instrumental into prioritising attention, of both Government and public bodies to the long-term.
Another concrete example was presented by Dr. Marcel Szabó, Deputy Ombudsman for Future Generations in Hungary. Here the focus lies more on the question of constitutionality and
checking whether government actions are compliant with environmental law, either on the Ombudsman’s own initiative or based on citizens’ claims in order to ensure that future
generations have appropriate life conditions. Dr. Szabó listed success stories in the fields of awareness raising and education, as well as cooperation with academia.
Catherine Pearce from the World Future Council also draw the attention to inspiring institutions from various countries and provided a few common characteristics of these. The key functions
include policy evaluation, mediation to achieve policy coherence, balancing the interests of current and future generations. In terms of underlying principles to ensure impact, inter alia independence, effectiveness, transparency, legitimacy, accountability and accessibility were mentioned. She argued that representing future generations at EU level would reinforce
European values, support implementation and close governance gaps, and allow performance assessment of EU institutions.
Ms. Pearce also analysed the pros and cons of six different pathways to establish a Guardian at EU level, keeping in mind the desired scope of competence of this role and stressing that these options were not mutually exclusive:
● Treaty change
● Adapting an existing EU role (eg. EU ombudsman or European Fundamental Rights
● Stand alone legislation/new institution
● Separate sectoral legislation (eg. 7 Environment Action Programme)
● Ad hoc administrative arrangement
agreement, this being the stronger and preferred option going forward
Professor Simon Caney presented a list of areas where short-termism creates problems, such as macroeconomics, housing, pensions, foreign policies and disaster management. He summarised key drivers of short termism including human factors (such as ignorance, self-interest, tendency to focus on vivid risks and identifiable victims) and institutional factors (such as electoral dependence, economic dependence, media coverage, auditing timelines, ill-designed performance indicators). Finally, he offered a fivefold
proposal (tailored for the UK context nevertheless providing a source of inspiration for other Member States and the EU):
● Obligation for any incoming government to provide a “Manifesto for the Future” and
describe long term vision
● ‘State of the Union’ speech for the future ( a day dedicated to visions for the future in the
parliament), where the government defends its manifesto for the future
● Committee for the future to scrutinise policies for the long term
● Independent council for the future with an agenda setting power
performance indicators and audit
A number of comments and questions were raised covering the following aspects: providing the freedom of choice to future generations, going beyond advocacy, applying the concept of heritage when defining the role of an EU Guardian, strengthening existing tools such as environmental impact assessments, making use of an ensemble of governance instruments (complementing one another), a systemic approach with human rights and the precautionary principle at its core, decision makers to better link to academia and lawyers to find innovative and systemic solutions, measuring the sustainability performance of EU policies, using indicators to scrutinize them (possibly with a link to monitoring SDG implementation), taking into account Member State specificities, besides foresight tools (visions, scenarios), the need for back-casting and ability for identifying building blocks of transition putting the economy, institutional representation necessary for vulnerable groups under pressure.
Sirpa Pietikäinen, cohost of the hearing emphasized the importance of creating links with national campaigns (run by citizens or advocacy groups) as well as building on court cases which oblige national governments to protect their citizens from environmental threats, including climate change.
The event concluded with Benedek Jávor’s comments which included his intention to launch an EP written declaration on intergenerational justice to prompt action by the European Commission and Member States, suggesting also to establish an intergovernmental panel for future generations.