Ecological Justice in Times of Transition: National and Global Perspectives from the World Future Council

Ecological Justice in Times of Transition: National and Global Perspectives from the World Future Council

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.

Recognising and Implementing the Rights of Future Generations – Opportunities for Sri Lanka

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.

AGENDA

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

Speakers

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

Speakers

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

Photograph “Schoolgirls, Sri Lanka” by Milei.vencelCC BY-SA 3.0

How can Europe better consider future needs?

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.

Future_Needs_HearingThe 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
Agency)
● Stand alone legislation/new institution
● Separate sectoral legislation (eg. 7 Environment Action Programme)
● Ad hoc administrative arrangement
● Interinstitutional
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
● Longterm
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.

“Essential Ingredients for a Sustainable Future”

Anticipation is high that 2015 will be a landmark year for sustainable development. The 70th UN General Assembly in September will culminate in the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals with targets for all countries, up until 2030. It is in this favourable context that the conference ‘Essential ingredients for a sustainable future – Why do we need independent institutions, and how should they work for the long term?’ will take place in Cardiff in Wales, on the 28 and 29 April. The event is organised by the World Future Council, the Welsh Office of the Commissioner for Sustainable Futures, the Welsh Government, Sustain Wales and the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations. It will be the occasion to highlight the positive processes achieved or outstanding, at all levels; UN, EU, national, regional, etc.; where the needs of future generations are being actively considered and implemented.

The programme includes panels and workshops led by several eminent speakers from different horizons; including Edith Brown Weiss, Professor of International Law from Georgetown University Law Centre in Washington DC and Nikhil Seth, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, UNDESA (Department of Economic and Social Affairs). Themes will include ‘New institutions to drive the change – working with purpose and impact to protect our common future’, ‘Identifying the gaps for institutional innovation’, ‘Learning from the rich experience of existing examples elsewhere’ and ‘Looking to the future – perspectives in practice’.

As the conference coincides with the passage of the Well-being of Future Generations Bill in the Welsh Assembly, Cardiff offers the perfect backdrop to speak about a sustainable future. Indeed Wales is leading the way in taking on board the interests of present and future generations in the decision making process. The current Commissioner for Sustainable Futures has led a ‘National Conversation’ to build a picture of ‘the Wales We Want’ by listening to the people of Wales on their pressing concerns and the threats that they fear will face Wales in the future. More information on the Bill can be found here.

The conference will bring together a global community of institutions serving to safeguard the needs of future generations, all named by the UN Secretary-General in his Report of 2013, ‘Intergenerational Solidarity and the Needs of Future Generations’[1], including

–       the Committee for the Future in Finland, which deliberates parliamentary documents referred to it and, makes submissions to other committees on future-related matters.;

–       the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in Canada, Julie Gelfand, who is responsible for assessing whether federal government departments are meeting their sustainable development objectives, and overseeing the environmental petitions process;

–       Hungary’s Ombudsman for Future Generations, Dr. Marcel Szabó, whohas the task to ensure the protection of the fundamental right to a healthy environment. He examines individual measures and monitored policy developments and legislative proposals to ensure that they would not pose a severe or irreversible threat to the environment or harm the interests of future generations;

–   the Australian Capital Territory’s Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, Robert Neil who encourages sound environmental practices and procedures to be adopted by the Territory and Territory authorities as a basis for ecologically sustainable development.

–   Germany’s Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Developmentserves as the advocate of long-term responsibility in the political process, should structure policy for future generations and support the work of the bodies created by the Federal Government.”

All these institutions are the proof that future generations are being increasingly considered, and that dedicated mechanisms can support and facilitate the process.

Calling on the UN to better address the needs of future generations

World Future Council sets the case for a High Commissioner for Future Generations in order to safeguard the lives of tomorrow

Press release – for immediate release

London/NY, 1 July 2014 – The World Future Council has made a call for the UN to establish a High Commissioner for Future Generations to help facilitate a better understanding of how our actions today affect the lives of tomorrow. The appeal follows today’s UN convened discussion amongst governments and civil society on “Ideas and trends that can shape the lives of present and future generations” at the UN Headquarters in New York. Read more

Model Institutions for a Sustainable Future

Budapest: WFC Councillors Judge C. G. Weeramantry, Dr. Sándor Fülöp, and Dr. Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger as well as Future Justice Director Catherine Pearce contributed to this intensive three-day conference hosted by the office of the Hungarian Ombudsman for Future Generations.

BRAINPOoL Conference

Paris: At the conference “Beyond GDP – from measurement to politics and policy”, the key findings and recommendations of the BRAINPOoL project on alternative indicators were presented.>>

MEPs criticise lack of long-term vision

Press release

Brussels, September 16, 2010: Several European Parliamentarians said the European Commission’s “Youth on the Move” strategy paper is lacking a long-term vision. In the 18-page paper the Commission presents its proposals on how to fight youth unemployment in the European Union, which it estimates at 21%.
Read more