What is Intergenerational Equity?
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines intergenerational equity as the issue of sustainable development referring, within the environmental context, to fairness in the intertemporal distribution of the endowment with natural assets or of the rights to their exploitation.
More generally, it holds the natural and cultural environment of the Earth in common both with other members of the present generation and with other generations, past and future. It means that we inherit the Earth from previous generations and have an obligation to pass it on in reasonable condition to future generations.
Why should Intergenerational Equity be considered a Universal Human Right?
Intergenerational Equity will serve as the cement binding together the myriad and diverse perspectives into a solid foundation of universal human rights and environmental respect engendering more cooperation between countries and among communities to fulfill obligations to future generations. It is useful to elaborate and codify the relevant norms of intergenerational equity as codification reduces the ambiguities about expected behavior and defines cooperative behavior from uncooperative behavior.
Intergenerational Equity gives us a tool with which we can create positive change.
How might Intergenerational Equity as a Universal Human Right impact governments?
Some legal instruments may be binding while others may become so over time. The extent to which norms represent customary international law, they will be binding to all nations, whether or not they are party to a particular agreement. Governments need to encourage general legal instruments articulating intergenerational rights and obligations concerning our planet as well as binding agreements aimed at conserving specific resources like forests and living resources critical to maintaining biological diversity, cultural diversity or environmental governance.
How might Intergenerational Equity as a Universal Human Right impact companies and organizations?
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and companies are increasingly being charged with the integration and enforcement of international regimes or to coordinate measures for managing specific natural resources or environmental pollutants, oftentimes serving as government watchdogs. Once Intergenerational Equity is codified in international law, the resulting instruments will facilitate the development and exchange of information, make it more difficult for a party to defect since there are costs involved, and may contribute to the development of new norms. It is important for companies and organizations to participate in the regimes and to partner with governments in a synergistic manner so that these new instruments are realistic and to avoid havens for pollution or free riders in the international community.
How will Intergenerational Law differ from International Law?
Current legal structures do not adequately account for the long-term ramifications of decisions made today. Although some legal instruments have done well to include the spirit of intergenerational thinking, political short-termism has thus far hindered the creation of actionable policies. Intergenerational Law will incorporate the principles intergenerational equity, the Precautionary Principle, social equity, poverty elimination, among others.