Press releases

Escaping the dictatorship of short termism

Ombudspersons for Future Generations gain support in UN consultations

Hamburg / Brussels / London, 5 September 2011. The 64th Annual UN DPI/NGO conference in Bonn, Germany, a key milestone event on the road to the critical UN Earth Summit (UNCSD 2012) next June, ended on September 5 with an outcome document which will be presented to all member states at the UN General Assembly in September. Attended by over 2000 delegates from civil society, governments and UN institutions it served to identify promising proposals for the ongoing negotiations around a Green Economy and Governance for Sustainable Development.

Ombudspersons for Future Generations were included as a core solution to break the short-term orientation in our societies threatening our very future. “The role of an Ombudsperson at the local and the national level is an effective institution to act as a representative for those who are today not able to express their interests and also their needs and their responsibilities. It is a great step in the right direction,” commented Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme, (UNEP). See video statement -

The urgent need to address this democratic deficit has been put forward by the World Future Council, a Hamburg, Germany based foundation, after analysis of the implementation gaps around sustainable development commitments: “Without the courage to create effective monitoring of policies and subsidies on their long-term social, environmental and economic costs, we will keep on fighting symptoms instead of changing course,” explains Dr. Maja Göpel, WFC Director Future Justice. “We have to tackle governance structures hindering politicians and business to act as future-oriented leaders”.

Safeguarding the living conditions of children and future generations has been a common concern of cultures in the world. Making it explicit should find broad government support at the 2012 Summit. “All truly sustainable societies have always based themselves on future generations. Indian and native American societies have assessed every action on the basis of the impact it would have on the seventh generation. The least we can do is to think in terms of the next generation and generations to come, but for that we will have to have people who are trustees of the future,” says Vandana Shiva, Founder, Navdanya International and World Future Councillor.

After key groups in the UNCSD 2012 process and senior figures in the UN have added their reflections and support, civil society calls on governments to “call for the establishment of Ombudspersons for Future Generations, at the global, national and local level, who will advocate for sustainable development as envisaged and defined by the Brundtland Commission: ‘to enhance the well-being and prospects of present and future generations to meet their needs,’ serve as an auditor at the heart of governments and deal with citizen complaints.”

The final text will be an official contribution to the UN negotiations on the UNCSD final declaration.

For more supportive video statements from UN leaders, civil society and scientists from diverse countries, an animated short film and more information see


Notes to Editors

UN Conference on Sustainable Development: Background and Themes

Two themes for the event have been agreed: Green Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication and Institutional Frameworks for Sustainable Development.  The declared objectives are to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assessing progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of major summits on sustainable development and addressing new and emerging challenges.

What are Ombudspersons for Future Generations?

To create our common future, we need to have our voices heard through NGOs, the media and politicians. What’s missing is a voice with legal authority, a voice with the force of the law to protect our agreed goals. The commitments to a sustainable future made by politicians over the past years are commendable, but we fail to turn them into reality. Ombudspersons for Future Generations will help us turn sustainability goals into sustainability reality, and set us on the path to Future Justice. Ombudspersons are responsible for

  •  balancing short-term interests of political institutions with long-term interests of society
  • taking responsibility for oversight, for making sure sustainability policies work in synergy and are effective in practice
  • bringing authority to agreed sustainability goals, holding governments and private actors accountable for not delivering on them
  • connecting citizens and civil society with the core of policymaking, providing a formal channel for information on sustainability infringements.

Download a PDF file of the press release here

Support our work!

Stay in touch!

 Subscribe to our newsletter

Learn more!