As part of the first ever International Intergenerational Fairness Day, on 16 November 2023, Germany’s Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations, explains why they support this new international day of action
Stand up for the long term
The Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations (FRFG) defines itself as a think tank and a do tank. We were founded in 1997 by a non-partisan alliance of five young people between the ages of 18 and 27, who shared a common conviction that the choices being made today should not jeopardize the well-being of tomorrow’s generations. Societies worldwide tend to focus on solving short-term problems with little or no regard to long-term intergenerational justice or fairness whether it be natural resources, government spending or investment in the futures of young and future generations. Politics and society are obsessed with the here and now and slowly emerging problems or ones that will affect us in the future lack public and political attention. Election cycles force politicians to focus on short-term political success and the costs of today’s political, economic, and social decisions are all too frequently shifted into the future. Younger generations are affected the most by today’s decisions long-term. Yet, their voices are under-represented in the decision-making process and unborn generations have no voice at all.
This is where we come in: future generations should have the same opportunities to satisfy their own needs as today’s generations. We do not want to live at the expense of those who come after us. This is why we are driven by a vision of young and old working together for justice and fairness that includes future generations. It is our mission to raise awareness of intergenerational justice in politics, business, and society and to write informative position papers that explain the problem and propose practical solutions. We work out how to be just to future generations and inject this into political debates. Our scientific output, new ideas and problem-solving methods are not only published in our journal – Intergenerational Justice Review – but also form the basis for our policy papers and press releases. We encourage young people to engage with these issues and we promote research on the topic of intergenerational justice through our work. Our work is non-partisan and independent of funding.
Intergenerational Justice Prize
We focus our work on intergenerational justice in different policy areas such as ecology, economy, and politics but the FRFG also awards the Intergenerational Justice Prize in collaboration with IF every two years. The prize of €10,000 is endowed by the Apfelbaum Foundation and has been awarded 11 times since 2001. It is an essay competition with different specific research questions each year that relate to intergenerational justice. Past papers have been submitted in the subject areas of enshrining intergenerational justice in national constitutions, lowering the voting age restrictions, ‘Long-termism’ and existential and unknown risks for future generations. The next paper will call for essays discussing the issue of how we can secure long-term peacekeeping in the nuclear age. Our aim is to promote discussion about intergenerational justice in society by providing a scholarly basis to the debate and establishing new perspectives. Achieving peace is vital for unlocking the potential of future generations and improving their quality of life.
Furthermore, an exceptional project, which we have successfully executed on four separate occasions is our Walkshop. It involves a unique blend of sports and education, where a select group of 20 to 40 young people embark on an extensive hike over several days. While on the excursion, they listen to podcasts or segments of an audiobook on a specific topic. This year’s subject matter focused on social security and pension politics, while the previous year’s centred on repositories for atomic waste. The team also visits relevant sites and engages with experts on the subject. In the evenings, we orchestrate podium discussions with experts to exchange knowledge and insights gained during the day. The event presents a remarkable opportunity to establish new connections, expand knowledge, and engage in a lively and exciting activity. The project’s relevance to intergenerational justice and fairness is integral to its success, and we are currently in the process of organising the next hike.
To us, intergenerational justice refers to the need to ensure that the coming generation has at the very least, the same (ideally even better) opportunities to fulfil their needs as the current generation. However, the future for today’s youth and future generations looks bleak. Global warming is on the rise, global security is at risk, and nuclear arms races are intensifying. The loss of biodiversity is increasing, and new threats such as artificial intelligence and human-made pandemics are emerging. In the public policy domain, we observe that national debts are growing rapidly, housing costs for young people are high, and pension systems are eroding due to demographic aging. Addressing these challenges requires updating national constitutions and institutions while also updating our mindset and prioritising long-term considerations. It is crucial to recognize that intergenerational fairness pertains to people worldwide, not just our children or grandchildren. We need collective action and mutual support during these times.