A United Nations report, Our Common Agenda, commissioned for the international body’s 75th anniversary, proposes for states to issue a Declaration on Future Generations as a way to address the ongoing and urgent overlapping crises of the present and the deeper drivers such as climate change, technological and demographic transitions, and persistent underdevelopment.

Such a Declaration should firstly define future generations, and secondly delimit a list of issues that affect them such as sustainability, responsible development of emerging technology, management of existential risks, and long-term development. Additionally, countries should create a ‘voice’ for future generations in the UN system, such as a Special Envoy or High Commissioner, as well as a forum in which nations can share experiences regarding how to better safeguard future generations in their domestic systems. This can serve as a critical catalyst for broader changes in human governance.

In no way is a Declaration on Future Generations a panacea for the dilemmas of short-termism or the structural challenges we face. To address both long-term trends and the sharp, immediate crises they drive, a bigger, broader transformation of human governance is needed. Still, a Declaration on Future Generations and its institutionalisation can serve as a critical catalyst for these broader changes.