Guest Contribution

Considering the Long-term in our Behaviour and Politics

by Ahmad Alhindawi, United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth

“We need intergenerational cooperation. We need innovation and creativity. We need to embrace the values of sustainability, equity, justice and respect for human rights. We need to recognise that material resources are finite, but human potential is not.”

This was an extract from the Children and Youth Closing Statement of the United Nations Rio+20 Summit in June of last year. The young people who collectively wrote this statement were attending the Rio summit, all prepared to speak to their leaders and show their willingness and support to improve our economies whilst protecting our environment.

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This was one of the resounding messages, from ‘Our Common Future’, the Report of the Brundtland Commission from 1987 – over 24 years ago and this definition still rings true today.

Current and future generations face huge challenges. Unemployment figures are threatening to create entire lost generations and economic recession around the world is making its presence felt. We have overstepped ‘planetary boundaries’ in several critical areas meaning irreversible ecological damage which will severely inhibit future generations’ chances to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.

The International Trade Union Confederation Global Poll of 2012 covers adult populations of Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and the United States. Approximately 1000 people were interviewed in each of these countries. The respondents were asked whether future generations were ‘worse off than their own generation’. 66% said yes. In the UK, US, Japan and Belgium this ‘vote of no confidence’ towards future generations was about 78%, in France reaching 93%! Having hope and trust that your children and grandchildren will be better off than you and your peers are one of the key drivers of societal and economic progress.

The United Nations through its global consultations is today seeking to include the voice of populations, including young people, to work towards establishing a sustainable post-2015 development agenda. Indeed, the current results of the World We Want debate and the My World 2015 survey reflect the voice of young people-70% of the total number of participants in the My World 2015 survey, who are demanding for a development agenda which takes into account the interest of future generations as a guiding principle at all stages and levels.

Our children and grandchildren should have the opportunity to lead sufficient and fulfilling life whilst living on a planet not wracked with resource wars and environmental collapse. And that is something we should all be working towards. Young people today are the parents, politicians and CEOs of today and tomorrow. Let us begin investing in their education systems, meaningfully implementing policies for sustainable growth that will protect the environment whilst creating more jobs and allowing young people to play a bigger role in political decision-making of their own future.

The UN Secretary-General report on Intergenerational Solidarity and Future Generations due this summer will be a guiding document to show the importance of taking future generations into consideration in political decision-making, and will present some strong and practical recommendations of how to implement this idea.

About the Author: Ahmad Alhendawi (أحمد رافع الهنداوي) (born 20 May 1984) is the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. He was appointed by the UN Secretary General on January 17th, 2013. “The Secretary-General in his Five-Year Action Agenda identified ‘Working with and for Women and Young People’ as one of his top priorities” said a UN spokesperson in a note to the media. “In this context, the Envoy on Youth will work to address the needs of the largest generation of youth the world has ever known.”

Prior to his appointment as the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad worked as Team Leader at a World Bank-funded programme to the League of Arab States on Institutional Development to Strengthen Arab Policy and Participation. Prior to this, he served as the Youth Policy Advisor in the League of Arab States in Cairo and as an officer in the Technical Secretariat of the Arab Youth and Sports Ministers Council, between 2009 and 2012.

Posted by Future Justice on 24 May 2013