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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
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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, email@example.com, 0049 40 307 09 14 19.
On 13th October the World Future Council hosted a dialogue on ecological justice and political transition between WFC Councillors and students of the Masters in Transitional Justice of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.
This session formed part of Councillor Dr. Rama Mani’s course on ‘Transformative Justice in Theory and Practice.’ Councillors Ambassador Anda Filip and Professor Alexander Likhotal were invited to share their national experience and international expertise on this subject. The almost 30 graduate students in this MA programme hail from all continents. Many come from societies that underwent violent conflict, authoritarian regimes or other forms of violent transition, and several have professional experience in this area.
Participants shared their expertise on ecological justice at the international level, and responded to incisive questions and comments from highly experienced students from Cyprus, Mexico, Cambodia, Canada and Syria/USA. The ensuing dialogue ranged from the ecological causation of wars, to the nature and ramifications of democracy and globalization, to the role of business, to the criminalization of environmental crimes.
Dr. Mani introduced the session by explaining why ecological justice must be addressed as a priority issue in transitional societies, and indicated some innovative ways this has been and could be done. Ambassador Filip and Professor Likhotal shared a penetrating analysis of the political transitions in Romania and the former USSR respectively, and the relevance of ecological justice in these transitions. Professor Likhotal underlined that ecological justice had been a decisive issue in the transition in the former USSR, and how President Gorbachev had recognized this and responded to environmental grievances, despite the economic cost. Ambassador Filip provided an insightful personal perspective on the evolutions that precipitated the dramatic political transition in Romania, and gave her honest appraisal of the positive and negative developments since transition.
Councillors also shared their expertise on ecological justice at the international level, and responded to incisive questions and comments from highly experienced students from Cyprus, Mexico, Cambodia, Canada and Syria/USA. The ensuing dialogue ranged from the ecological causation of wars, to the nature and ramifications of democracy and globalization, to the role of business, to the criminalization of environmental crimes. Professor Likhotal underscored the vital need for a new paradigm based on a systemic understanding of the current crises and a recognition of the limits to growth, and cited some innovative and successful new business models. Ambassador Filip shared the key positive lessons from the Interparliamentary Union’s process of consultations with parliaments on the Sustainable Development goals, which give room for optimism even in these turbulent times of uncertain transition.
Following the dialogue with the Councillors, our Geneva Liaison Office Coordinator Ingrid Heindorf presented the work of the World Future Council in the context of ecological justice in greater detail. She explained WFC’s groundbreaking work on Future Justice, on crimes against future generations, and demonstrated how the Future Policy Award serves as an innovative and influential vehicle for ecological justice.
Overall, this fascinating and intense interaction between the World Future Council and the graduate students of the Geneva Academy underscored that ecological justice is a priority issue that is systemically interconnected with the range of other political, economic and social issues, both nationally and globally. It also highlighted how, with creativity and innovation, there are manifold ways in which, like the Future Policy Award, new policy instruments and economic and political incentives can be developed to implement ecological justice in times of volatile transition.
Earlier this month a group of representatives from civil society convened at the ‘Natural Partners’ event at London Zoo. Together they discussed how to integrate development and environmental needs in order to deliver sustainable development with regard to the Sustainable Development Goals. Joining the chair, Achim Steiner, Director of the Oxford Martin School, and former Head of the UN Environment Programme, were the President of WWF International, Yolanda Kakabadse, Chris Bain, Director of CAFOD and Loretta Minghella, Chief Executive of Christian Aid. Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of RSPB, Fiona Wheatley, Sustainable Business Manager with M&S and several stakeholder representatives talked about the positive impact of their projects, resulting from natural partnerships.
During Mr Steiner’s thoughtful opening words the agenda of the evening was framed by reminding us that it is impossible to have an encompassing development agenda unless we also posses proper stewardship of the environment, bringing to the heart of the event the notion that the two are intricately linked.
It is high time to really stand together for this collective cross-sector commitment to creating a sustainable future instead of going down separate paths.
Despite the misleading initial assumption that the ground conflicts between a variety of species of life are entirely unrelated, it turns out that, upon closer inspection, they are all merging and that, truly, the well-being of all life-forms is interdependent. We cannot consider one without the others. This closer interdependence highlights the importance of partnerships between environmental and developmental stakeholders, including members of civil society, in order to achieve a sustainable future for all.
In light of the presentations and panel discussion, several challenges were raised by Mr Steiner. Questioning the status quo was mentioned as well as the importance of learning how to think differently, to move faster in accordance to ever accelerating time lines, instead of reproducing reality as we know it. This call to action went hand in hand with everyone acknowledging the Sustainable Development Goals as a strong sign of commitment to work together to positively shape the future; particularly echoed in regard to SDG 17, which highlights the necessity and benefit of cross-sector partnerships, such as were discussed in the case studies.
Bird Life International partner, Nature Kenya’s Sarah Munguti spoke about the development of a strategic plan with environmental assessment and government collaboration to develop the Tana Delta, whilst minimising the environmental impact. The stakeholders involved with Net-Works, a collaboration between ZSL, the private sector, such as carpet tile manufacturer Interface Inc., fibre manufacturer Aquafil and local communities, explained to the audience how to empower communities, tackle inequality and develop an innovative approach to marine conservation, whilst, at the same time allowing for self-sustaining enterprise for the local communities. Finally, the better cotton initiative between WWF ad Oxfam in collaboration with Marks and Spencer, showcased how a good partnership surrounding a critical commodity can work, introduced by Fiona Wheatley, Emma Keller and Lena Staafgard.
The linguistics surrounding partnerships were also a topic highlighted during the evening, both by Yolanda Kakabadse discussing the elimination of the word ‘donor’ and by Achim Steiner highlighting the inherent differences we associate with the words ‘trade-off’, ‘win-win’ and ‘choice’ in collaboration situations. He explained that the development side dilemma mainly resides around the notion of trade-offs, the conservation side errs on advocating win-win situations. However, importantly, when merging the two in order to achieve a strong partnership we need to stop legitimising the concept of trade-offs as they inadvertently reinforce a negative notion of unequal partnerships. Instead, we should talk about choice. This includes considering what framework conditions would have to change in order for win-wins to materialise in all choice situations and therewith to interrogate the common notion surrounding trade-offs.
The panel discussion continued with a similarly collaborative tone with the panellists referring strongly to the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals, stating that it is high time to really stand together for this collective cross-sector commitment to creating a sustainable future instead of going down separate paths. Together we can lead change, recognise and drive forward a common agenda, through acknowledging our interdependence, deriving the benefit from collaboration with one another as members of civil society and by investing in strong partnerships in order to move forwards into a sustainable future, as highlighted by the multiple case studies and discussions throughout the event.
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.
Last weekend the CEO of Nasdaq complained in the Wall Street Journal about ‘The Overblown Brexit Market Panic’. Repeating the absurdity that the vote has created an “independent Britain”, as if the EU is a colonial power, he assured readers that “over the next two years, the timeline for EU withdrawal, Britain has an opportunity to become a trading magnet”.
It is rare to find so many errors and misunderstandings in such a short space. First, there is no panic because there has been no Brexit, only a non-binding referendum. This generated a small pro-Leave majority, which – according to numerous polls since – would not be repeated today.
Britain is a representative democracy with a sovereign parliament which chose to make this referendum non-binding. The Prime Minister who promised to implement it has since resigned. While the House of Commons could find strong reasons to ignore the vote, they will not (yet) dare to do so because of the fanaticism of the Brexiteers. Thus, Dominic Lawson, a columnist in the ‘Sunday Times’ has claimed (July 3rd), that ignoring the vote would cause such anger that “we could see tanks on the streets”.
So what is the most likely outcome? Will the British Parliament pass Brexit legislation, which most of its members do not believe in? The current House of Commons has a large pro-EU majority and it is unlikely that this will change after the next election.
So for now, it is likely that the process of the UK leaving the EU will go ahead, despite the growing opposition. Over 1000 lawyers have called for an independent body to examine the consequences, followed by a parliamentary vote.
Before the referendum, David Cameron said that the UK would trigger the EU exit clause (Article 50) quickly after a Brexit vote. Today this date is receding ever further into the future, with government ministers not wanting it triggered until the end of the year or even next year. Why? Because, having no Brexit plan, they have only now realized the complexities of unravelling 40 years of EU membership. As the Article 50 timetable stipulates that the UK will be outside the EU two years after triggering it, they are panicking that this will leave them without an alternative arrangement and at the mercy of their ex-partners. (Unanimity would be required to extend this two-year period). Experts have calculated that concluding negotiations and passing the required legislation may take seven years. The Austrian Minister of Finance experts Britain to still be an EU member in five years’ time…
As for negotiating new trade agreements, this may take even longer. For decades such agreements have been concluded at the EU level and the UK no longer has the required expertise. Last week, the media reported that New Zealand had offered to help out by lending London some trade negotiators…
While there is yet no panic, the Brexit insecurity is growing: “Sterling falls despite reassurance”, “Banks promise to boost lending to stop Britain falling into recession” (both headlines in the “Daily Telegraph”, July, 6th), and “Brexit vote may be the undoing of Italian Banks” (“City am”, July 6th). One of this paper’s columnists recommends that the UK adopts the cold war UN strategy of Stalin’s Foreign Minister Molotov and turns up at the EU Council of Ministers to “veto every proposal on any subject whatsoever, regardless of its merit”, until the EU agrees to Brexit negotiations before the UK has triggered the Article 50 exit clause.
One can only imagine the animosity and harm this will cause. Already, xenophobic and racist incidents have surged in the UK since the referendum. The vote has also created new inter-generational conflicts. Most young Britons voted to remain in the EU and many are furious with parents and grand-parents for depriving them of their freedom to live and work in other European countries.
So, as a result of holding this referendum at a time of strong anti-government feelings, and resentment against the privileged establishment after years of austerity, and promising to implement a non-binding vote come what may, the UK and EU now face many years of turmoil and disruption. At a time when many urgent issues — climate change, economic instability, terrorism, the refugee crisis, a resurgent Russia etc. — require the attention of European decision-makers, they will be busy unravelling the details of the UK’s EU membership and implementing alternatives. The simplest, guaranteeing continued full UK access to the EU market, would involve joining Norway and Iceland in the European Economic Area (EEA). Yet the UK will soon find that this involves accepting most EU laws and obligations — including free movement – but with no ability to influence them, and at equivalent financial costs for EU membership. The UK may believe it can get a special deal but this is very unlikely as the other members – who would all need to approve the outcome — would not want to create precedents.
So what is the most likely outcome? Will the British Parliament pass Brexit legislation, which most of its members do not believe in? The current House of Commons has a large pro-EU majority and it is unlikely that this will change after the next election.
The more time elapses since the Brexit vote, the more likely it is that MPs will assert their primary duty to act in the best interests of their country. This will particularly be the case if Scotland moves towards independence and the peace in Northern Ireland is threatened by Brexit, which will necessitate border controls between N. Ireland and the Republic.
In such a case it would be very surprising if MPs did not prioritize the peace and integrity of the UK above a non-binding vote taken years ago.
So, while it is likely that Article 50 will be triggered to appease the Brexit fanatics, it is even more likely that it will later be rescinded, i.e. that the UK withdraws its application to leave in a few years time. International treaty law allows this. Of course, this would require reversing the complex legislative process, wasting more years and risking more vetos along the way. David Cameron’s foolishness and arrogance will cost his country and Europe dear.
So what about immigration? Of course problems arise when health and educational facilities face years of under-funding due to austerity policies. But there can be little doubt that media anti-immigrant propaganda played a greater role in the referendum than actual immigration. I live in London which often really feels overcrowded with foreigners. But London voted to remain. On the other hand, areas of Britain which seem “unchanged since the 1950s” (to quote a retired lawyer living in Cheshire) voted to leave, despite very few immigrants. Voters there read the “Sun”, “Daily Mail” or “Daily Telegraph”, which worked hard to convince them that this was their last chance to stop the mass invasion of dreaded foreigners reaching their village…
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).