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Rights of Future Generations

The interests of future generations are often on our minds when we think about lasting environmental damage. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we actually followed through and held our governments to account when it comes to protecting natural resources for future generations? Well, this is what brave children are now demanding all around the world. And guess what? It is gaining traction!

Discussions surrounding environmental sustainability often mention the protection of resources, preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as environmental restoration. These goals ensure that not only present generations are provided for, but that future generations will be able to survive and thrive as well. This sentiment is expressed in the 1987 Brundtland Report which defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

The current climate change crisis threatens future generations immensely, as global warming will result in issues such as increased environmental disasters, ecological loss, land degradation, and social and economic inequalities. How do we protect humanity from these looming disasters? National and International laws protecting the rights of future generations may be the answer!

What are the rights of future generations?

According to an article written by Émilie Gaillard which was posted on the Ideas for Development blog, “the rights of future generations can be divided into two main categories: environmental rights (sustainable development) and bioethical rights (protection of the human condition)" (Gaillard, 2019).

Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act

While there are existing legal principles that acknowledge and recommend the need to protect future generations, we are starting to see this concept being taken more seriously around the world. For example, Wales has come out with a law that aims to protect future generations. The Well-being of Future Generations Act was passed in 2015, requiring all public bodies to consider the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of Wales.

Some of the public bodies included in the act are: National Park Authorities, Natural Resources Wales, and The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. Each public body must set and publish well-being objectives that correspond with the well-being goals designated within the act. They must also take all reasonable steps in order to meet those objectives.

Legal cases

In addition to emerging laws surrounding the rights of future generations, there have been numerous cases surrounding the violation of the rights of future generations being brought to court. In 2018, 25 Columbian children and youth filed a lawsuit against the Columbian government as a result of the inaction on deforestation in the Amazon. The plaintiffs claimed that the deforestation of the Amazon threatens their rights to a healthy environment.

The Supreme Court granted the plaintiffs’ petition, and as a result, the Columbian government was required to present an action plan to reduce deforestation. Additionally, the Presidency and the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture were ordered to create an “intergenerational pact for the life of the Colombian Amazon.” These lawsuits show that today’s youth are aware of what is at stake and are not afraid to take action against the violations of their rights.

The future is in our hands

In environmental, social, and economic sectors, it is important to consider future generations in each decision made. Enforcing sustainability wherever possible is key in order to preserve the environment. Although we can try to tackle every environmental issue one by one, the more effective route is to implement National and International laws that protect the rights of future generations.

Can you support this global movement in your area? Perhaps you can educate kids around you about this movement, or send an email to your elected officials asking them to pursue similar legislation. We all feel that protecting nature for future generations is imperative. Now let’s take real action!

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