Orienting Institutions towards the Long Term

a project within the climate change workstream of the Human Rights for Future Generations Programme

It is a common complaint that policymaking is too much oriented towards the short term. One countermeasure to this myopia consists in speaking to the conscience of policymakers and urging them to choose policies that take better account of the future. Another countermeasure consists in taking policymakers “as they are” and redesigning institutions such that they force or at least support them in choosing policies that take the future better into account. In this research project, we are focusing on the latter route, i.e. we focus not directly on outcomes but rather on the political processes that generate these outcomes. There are a number of suggestions for redesigning institutions with a long-termist focus, such as requiring governments to detail how their policies affect future challenges, constitutional clauses that protect the rights of our descendants, ombudspersons for future generations, etc. We evaluate such measures according to how well they tackle the drivers of short-termism and how well they are in line with democratic ideals.

We have organised events on this topic and are currently preparing a policy brief with specific recommendations.