22 January 2012

How to take care of our children's children...

By Rupert Read

Last week, the new ‘Green House’ thinktank launched, at Parliament, a new report that I’ve written about how to restructure democratic institutions, to take care of the people of our kingdom who are not here yet: future people.

Here are some pictures of the event. Have a butchers!

The starting point of my thinking on all this is this question:
‘Democracy’ means ‘government by the people’, but who are ‘the people’?

I insist, following Burke, that society exists over time and decisions taken today can have significant consequences for people yet to be born. My report argues therefore that the interests of future generations should be formally represented within our existing parliamentary democracy. Building on the philosophies of Plato and of deliberative democracy, and on the precedent of Hungary’s innovative office of Ombudsman for Future Generations, my report proposes the creation of a new legislative house, to sit above the upper house – ‘Guardians’ of Future Generations. The members of this body would be selected by ‘sortition’, as is current practice for jury service, in order to ensure independence from present-day party political interests.

The Guardians would have a power of veto over legislation that was likely to have substantial negative effects for society in the future, the right to review major administrative decisions which substantially affected future people and perhaps also the power to initiate legislation to preserve the basic needs and interests of future people.

I proposes the creation of such ‘Guardians’ locally, nationally, and internationally (e.g. at the U.N. level). A modest version of such a proposal (for an international ‘High Commissioner’ for future generations) is going forward to the Rio-plus-20 governance discussions (see http://rio20.net/en/iniciativas/zero-draft-and-sustainable-development-goals ).

There has been extensive coverage of my proposal: including for example in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Liberal Conspiracy, & www.politics.co.uk . The House of Commons launch last week was attended by an extensive range of journalists, politicians and civil society representatives. Speakers at the launch included Caroline Lucas MP (Leader of the Green Party), Jon Cruddas MP (a leading Labour intellectual), and Norman Baker MP (of the U.K. government). The Hungarian Ombudsman for Future Generations sent an explicit statement of support (for the proposal) to the meeting.

If you want to read my report, which I prepared with the assistance of the new ‘Alliance for future generations’ umbrella-group of NGOs, here it is.

And comment below, to let us know what you think of the idea!

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