Humanity stands on the shoulders of its ancestors. Our world, our societies, democracies, cities, bodies and minds have been formed by the generations before us. Just like the generations before us have shaped the world we live in; we are shaping the world future generations will live in.
At the same time “future generations are politically powerless, with the representation of their interests limited to the vicarious concern of present generations." (report of the UN Secretary-General)
Already in its 1997 Declaration on the Responsibilities of the Present Generations Towards Future Generations, UNESCO recognized that “at this point in history, the very existence of humankind and its environment are threatened”.
Today, humanity faces a series of unprecedented and accelerating challenges. We are at an inflection point in history. The choices we make — or fail to make — today could result in further breakdown and a future of perpetual crises, or contribute to a better, more humane and sustainable, peaceful future for people and planet.
Inspired most recently by the 2023 UN Principles on Future Generations, we feel compelled to ask what our responsibilities - as an academic community - to those who come after us imply for our own work. In line with the University of Amsterdam’s current Strategic Plan Inspiring Generations that formulates four overarching themes that speak to some of the most pressing issues humanity faces, we intend to nurture a joint sense of mission and inspiration across and beyond disciplines.
We will host a series of conversations to examine the rights and interests of future generations from different perspectives, including the philosophical, legal, biomedical, economic, environmental and social perspective. This series will convene researchers, teachers, policy makers, artists and civil society in a joint exercise in imagination to direct our gaze beyond our immediate present and future, informed by our sense of responsibility to take intergenerational justice and solidarity seriously.
The series is aimed at making connections. First of all, it aims to connect our past, to the present and the future (to create a sense of intergenerational solidarity). Second, we aim to connect disciplines to truly build a transdisciplinary community. Third, we explicitly want to make a connection between science and society, connecting scientific research (and education) to societal challenges, and translating the most pressing questions about these societal challenges into questions that can be answered to fuel policy decision, as well as helping students experiment in practice with how they can make change).
In the Academic Year 2023/2024, we have launched the Future Generations series on November 7th with an event which brings together scientists, policy makers and societal organisations. The theme of this event was revolving around WHY we need to think about future generations. Throughout the same academic year, we will have two more of these bigger events bringing together scientists, policy makers and societal organisations. In this second event we focus on HOW we think about future generations (which will mainly focus on intergenerational justice and deep democracy).
7 November 2023
Why we need to take future generations into account
6 February 2024
How to take interests of Future Generations into account
21 May 2024
What can we do to take the interests of Future Generations into account?
Interested in joining one of the sessions? All upcoming events are listed on our event page.
Interested in convening a session yourself?
In the context of the IAS Series on Future Generations, Tessa Roseboom, initiator of the series and Future Generations Commissioner of Amsterdam UMC, has inspiring and hopeful conversations with guests from various backgrounds in the form of a podcast. In the first two episodes, she discusses the personal and professional commitment to bring about intergenerational solidarity and justice of Huub Dijstelbloem and Sir Peter Gluckman. Through these interdisciplinary dialogues, Tessa Roseboom aims to build coalitions and together take concrete steps towards a sustainable and inclusive future for humanity and the planet.
Intergenerational solidarity and the needs of future generations, report of the UN Secretary-General, A/68/322, 15 August 2023