WIFW: the start of a new network?

This week’s first ever Worldwide Intergenerational Fairness Week had modest ambitions: simply a blog week. But the contributions from around the world, or dealing with international intergenerational issues, have been excellent, and we hope WIFW can become something much bigger in the future – and the start of a global network. IF’s editor, Antony Mason sums up

This is the last entry in the Worldwide Intergenerational Fairness Week (WIFW) 2019, a final rounding off that gives me a chance to gather some of the salient threads – and also to say a big THANK YOU to all our writers, who have taken time out to contribute to the series.

I have listed all the articles at the foot of this post, with links.

Intergenerational Fairness networking

We have had an amazing response to the Blog Week from around the world. If this helps to kick-start new centres of intergenerational activity, lobby groups and think tanks, like ourselves, then that would be a fantastic outcome.

We welcome collaboration, so do get in touch with us (on [email protected]) if you are setting up, or if indeed you have been out there all along, but just haven’t introduced yourselves to us.

WIFW has underlined the importance of building this network of mutual exchange and support. The big lessons have been:

  1. that intergenerational issues are truly international: they are important to all societies, even if felt and experienced in different ways. All societies are concerned for the future of their children and for future generations – and ever more so in our rapidly changing world and in the face of the possible existential threat of climate change.
  1. that by pooling research, knowledge and policy proposals, we can hope to mend the intergenerational contract where it is broken, and make more rapid strides towards a properly sustainable future for coming generations.

Salient points raised by this week’s blog posts

Climate change has been a major theme: and with good reason of course. No planet, no future generations.

This issue, taken up so vigorously by the young, shows like no other what intergenerational (in)justice looks like in practice. It has played an electrifying role in concentrating minds on the well-being of future generations.

As Sophie Howe, Wales’s first Commissioner for Future Generations, puts it so succinctly in her article, this concern can be – and needs to be – embedded in institutions, but it still requires the passion and commitment of individuals to bring about change.

Six further thoughts to chew on:

  • The world’s population is set to peak and stabilise at 9.7 billion, defying the doom-mongers who predicted endless and self-destructing growth. (But the doom-mongers may yet have something else to cling to: as Felipe Fernández-Armesto has said elsewhere “Population growth may modify, but consumption is I think uncontrollable.”)
  • Little Goa, driven by the quest for intergenerational equity, provides a powerful model for holding mineral resources in public trust.
  • Intergenerational justice can still be put in jeopardy by pushing an agenda of reforms against the (self-)interest of older voters, as the recent Australian elections showed. (The gilets jaunes in France also hold worrying lessons about the practical difficulties of imposing unpopular policies in the effort to address environmental concerns.)
  • Demography and economics combine in very different ways to shape intergenerational problems in China and Japan. Meanwhile in Uganda, one of the world’s most youthful countries, it is not the older generation that is held responsible for environmental degradation, but the younger, economically-active one.
  • We might hope that government policies will have “welfare-maximising” results for future generations, but democracy may not always be the most reliable way to deliver these. So how else?
  • It is not all doom and gloom. As Dominic Roser explains, optimism is justifiable (just), and brings its own momentum for change.

The List

Monday 8 July

The smaller generation to come – worldwide

by Danny Dorling 

Here’s some good news for the planet: the human population is set to peak and stabilise, not rising much above 9.7 billion around the year 2050, according to the latest UN figures. Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at Oxford University, explains how this works, and why it is something to celebrate.

Without intergenerational equity, say goodbye to civilisation

by Rahul Basu 

The Goa Foundation, an environmental NGO in India, has had a remarkable impact. Their clear perspective on intergenerational equity, and practical path to implementation, have scored major wins in Goa and India especially on mineral policy (a permanent fund and caps), and helped to bring about groundbreaking interpretations of the Constitution to protect and conserve natural resources nationally. Rahul Basu, Research Director of the Goa Foundation, explains how this approach can be rolled out more widely for the benefit of future generations.

Tuesday 9 July

The rich world’s intergenerational challenge through the looking glass of China and Japan

by Lauren A. Johnston

China and Japan face unique intergenerational challenges – and represent divergent examples of a binary pattern that the rest of the ageing world might learn from. Lauren A. Johnston is Founder and Director of New South Economics (a consultancy specialising in research and advisory on China, Africa, China-Africa and global trends), holds a PhD in Economics from Peking University and, until recently, was Senior Research Associate at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (Merics) in Berlin. 

Intergenerational issues in Italy: a family matter?

by Martin Solly

Martin Solly, professor at the Department of Culture, Politics and Society at the University of Turin, looks at the implications of Italy’s ageing and shrinking population, and the perceptions and prospects of the young. 

“A hand to count on”: a proposal to assist younger generations in Italy

by Luciano Monti 

The Bruno Visentini Foundation has looked at international intergenerational initiatives to propose ways to tackle the intergenerational problems of Italy, one of which is an “opportunity income” scheme. Luciano Monti, Scientific co-director of Bruno Visentini Foundation, explains the background, and the proposal. 

Wednesday 10 July 

Intergenerational politics in Australia

by Danielle Wood and Owain Emslie 

In the 2019 election in Australia, the welfare of future generations was the focus of a raft of policy proposals – and from an intergenerational point of view the wrong side won. This might mark a regrettable setback for intergenerational politics as a whole. Report by Danielle Wood (Budget Policy Program Director) and Owain Emslie (Associate) at the Grattan Institute in Melbourne.

Uncovering the intergenerational stories of climate change in the Ugandan city

by Katie McQuaid

In Uganda, intergenerational tensions form one of the strands that intersect with other factors such as gender, ethnicity, religion, class, marital and migrant status, and urban/rural setting. Anthropologist Dr Katie McQuaid (Senior Research Fellow, School of Geography, University of Leeds) explains the need to look at the intergenerational dimension of climate change in this context, and why, in facing the challenges, urban settings should be taken fully into account.

Tap youthful energies to tackle climate change

by Kirsty Schneeberger

The growing sense of urgency about climate change has stirred government and institutions, but activists across the world still need apply their creative energies to keep prodding. Kirsty Schneeberger, Head of Strategic Partnerships at the environmental law charity ClientEarth, looks at the landscape of action, and sees the need for reenergised institutions with a truly intergenerational outlook.

Thursday 11 July

How can Wales invest in climate action today for future generations?

by Sophie Howe

Around the world, all who are interested in intergenerational issues look to Wales, whose government has created the role of Future Generations Commissioner, to assess the long-term, intergenerational impact of policy and legislation. Here, the first Commissioner, Sophie Howe, tells us more about her pioneering role, but begins with an impassioned plea for action now to avert the real menace of climate change.

Principles of law might work

by Sándor Fülöp

Sándor Fülöp held the office of the first Parliamentary Commissioner for future generations in Hungary from 2008 to 2012 – a pioneer in intergenerational government. Here, wearing his hat as an environmental lawyer, he defends the vital role that the law – reinvigorated by public participation and reformed at the deep level of its principles – can play in environmental action.

Intergenerational poverty and conditional cash transfers in Brazil

by João Cláudio Rocha Baeta Leal 

Brazil’s Bolsa Família (Family Allowance) social welfare programme has clear intergenerational aspects, as João Cláudio Rocha Baeta Leal explains. A 24-year-old Brazilian public administrator currently doing an MSc on the Political Economy of Late Development at the London School of Economics, João Leal has carried out research in local development, poverty, democratic participation, government cooperation and microfinance in Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia.

Friday 12 July

Brexit, democracy and intergenerational justice

by Thomas Tozer 

Brexit casts a long shadow that will unquestionably affect future generations. In the debate, the demands of democracy have been called upon by both sides. But when it comes to the interests of future generations, has democracy been found wanting? Thomas Tozer, author of IF’s “A New Intergenerational Contact”, leads us through the arguments.

Hope or fear in the face of climate change?

by Dominic Roser

Is there another justifiable attitude towards climate change besides doom and gloom? Dominic Roser – philosopher and economist and senior lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Institute for Ethics and Human Rights at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland – explores other options.


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