Giving Future Generations a Voice: Normative Frameworks, Institutions and Practice, edited by Jan Linehan and Peter Lawrence, is a compelling book that couldn’t be timelier.
It tackles the urgent and complex issue of how we can better consider the needs and rights of future generations, especially in the face of challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, and global poverty.
The book takes us on a global tour, showcasing a variety of strategies aimed at counteracting the short-term thinking that often neglects the long-term well-being of those who will inherit the Earth.
Exploring Institutions for Future Generations
The book is a rich tapestry of case studies and expert insights, woven together to explore the role and impact of what are known as Institutions for Future Generations, or IFGs for short. These institutions can take many forms, from simple sets of rules and norms to more complex organizations like legislative committees.
Lawrence, in one of the book’s standout chapters, zeroes in on the role of commissioners and ombudspersons. He argues that these individuals can serve as powerful advocates for the rights and needs of future generations, acting as their proxy representatives in today’s decision-making processes.
But the book doesn’t stop there. It delves into various perspectives, from human rights to sustainable development, to give us a well-rounded view of the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Nicky Van Dijk, for instance, introduces us to a ‘Capability Approach,’ suggesting a framework for defining what future generations might need based on the interests of the current generation.
Bridget Lewis takes the conversation a step further by exploring how human rights can act as a bridge, fostering a sense of solidarity between us and those who will come after us.
Challenges and Opportunities Ahead
While the book does an excellent job of laying out the landscape, it also doesn’t shy away from pointing out the limitations and challenges that lie ahead. It notes, for example, that many public bodies have found it difficult to shift towards the kind of long-term thinking that these issues require.
The book calls for stronger political leadership and more support to help these organizations make that shift.
One area where the book could have gone further is in the inclusion of younger voices, especially since they are the future generations we’re talking about. Their perspectives are not just valuable but essential if we’re to build a future that truly considers a diversity of interests.
In conclusion, the book serves as a crucial resource for anyone—be it academics, policy makers, or everyday citizens—interested in how we can not just give future generations a voice, but also secure their human rights.
It’s a call to action, urging us to move beyond mere talk and take concrete steps to ensure a just and sustainable future for all.