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Declaration on the Responsibilities of the Present Generations Towards Future Generations

12 November 1997

UNESDOC - (PDF) English
- French - Spanish - Russian - Chinese - Arabic

The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, meeting in Paris from 21 October to 12 November 1997 at its 29th session,

Mindful of the will of the peoples, set out solemnly in the Charter of the United Nations, to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ and to safeguard the values and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and all other relevant instruments of international law,

Considering the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both adopted on 16 December 1966, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted on 20 November 1989,

Concerned by the fate of future generations in the face of the vital challenges of the next millennium,

Conscious that, at this point in history, the very existence of humankind and its environment are threatened,

Stressing that full respect for human rights and ideals of democracy constitute an essential basis for the protection of the needs and interests of future generations,

Asserting the necessity for establishing new, equitable and global links of partnership and intragenerational solidarity, and for promoting inter-generational solidarity for the perpetuation of humankind,

Recalling that the responsibilities of the present generations towards future generations have already been referred to in various instruments such as the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, adopted in Rio de Janeiro on 5 June 1992, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development on 14 June 1992, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights on 25 June 1993, and the United Nations General Assembly resolutions relating to the protection of the global climate for present and future generations adopted since 1990,

Determined to contribute towards the solution of current world problems through increased international co-operation, to create such conditions as will ensure that the needs and interests of future generations are not jeopardized by the burden of the past, and to hand on a better world to future generations,

Resolved to strive to ensure that the present generations are fully aware of their responsibilities towards future generations,

Recognizing that the task of protecting the needs and interests of future generations, particularly through education, is fundamental to the ethical mission of UNESCO, whose Constitution enshrines the ideals of ‘justice and liberty and peace’ founded on ‘the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind’,

Bearing in mind that the fate of future generations depends to a great extent on decisions and actions taken today, and that present-day problems, including poverty, technological and material underdevelopment, unemployment, exclusion, discrimination and threats to the environment, must be solved in the interests of both present and future generations,

Convinced that there is a moral obligation to formulate behavioural guidelines for the present generations within a broad, future-oriented perspective,

Solemnly proclaims on this twelfth day of November 1997 this Declaration on the Responsibilities of the Present Generations Towards Future Generations

Article 1 - Needs and interests of future generations

The present generations have the responsibility of ensuring that the needs and interests of present and future generations are fully safeguarded.

Article 2 - Freedom of choice

It is important to make every effort to ensure, with due regard to human rights and fundamental
freedoms, that future as well as present generations enjoy full freedom of choice as to their political, economic and social systems and are able to preserve their cultural and religious diversity.

Article 3 - Maintenance and perpetuation of humankind

The present generations should strive to ensure the maintenance and perpetuation of humankind with due respect for the dignity of the human person. Consequently, the nature and form of human life must not be undermined in any way whatsoever.

Article 4 - Preservation of life on Earth

The present generations have the responsibility to bequeath to future generations an Earth which will not one day be irreversibly damaged by human activity. Each generation inheriting the Earth temporarily should take care to use natural resources reasonably and ensure that life is not prejudiced by harmful modifications of the ecosystems and that scientific and technological progress in all fields does not harm life on Earth.

Article 5 - Protection of the environment

1. In order to ensure that future generations benefit from the richness of the Earth’s ecosystems, the present generations should strive for sustainable development and preserve living conditions, particularly the quality and integrity of the environment.

2. The present generations should ensure that future generations are not exposed to pollution which may endanger their health or their existence itself.

3. The present generations should preserve for future generations natural resources necessary for sustaining human life and for its development.

4. The present generations should take into account possible consequences for future generations of
major projects before these are carried out.

Article 6 - Human genome and biodiversity

The human genome, in full respect of the dignity of the human person and human rights, must be protected and biodiversity safeguarded. Scientific and technological progress should not in any way impair or compromise the preservation of the human and other species.

Article 7 - Cultural diversity and cultural heritage

With due respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the present generations should take care to preserve the cultural diversity of humankind. The present generations have the responsibility to identify, protect and safeguard the tangible and intangible cultural heritage and to transmit this common heritage to future generations.

Article 8 - Common heritage of humankind

The present generations may use the common heritage of humankind, as defined in international law, provided that this does not entail compromising it irreversibly.

Article 9 – Peace

1. The present generations should ensure that both they and future generations learn to live together in peace, security, respect for international law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

2. The present generations should spare future generations the scourge of war. To that end, they should avoid exposing future generations to the harmful consequences of armed conflicts as well as all other forms of aggression and use of weapons, contrary to humanitarian principles.

Article 10 - Development and education

1. The present generations should ensure the conditions of equitable, sustainable and universal socio-economic development of future generations, both in its individual and collective dimensions, in particular through a fair and prudent use of available resources for the purpose of combating poverty.

2. Education is an important instrument for the development of human persons and societies. It should be used to foster peace, justice, understanding, tolerance and equality for the benefit of present and future generations.

Article 11 - Non-discrimination

The present generations should refrain from taking any action or measure which would have the effect of leading to or perpetuating any form of discrimination for future generations.

Article 12 – Implementation

1. States, the United Nations system, other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, individuals, public and private bodies should assume their full responsibilities in promoting, in particular through education, training and information, respect for the ideals laid down in this Declaration, and encourage by all appropriate means their full recognition and effective application.

2. In view of UNESCO’s ethical mission, the Organization is requested to disseminate the present Declaration as widely as possible, and to undertake all necessary steps in its fields of competence to raise public awareness concerning the ideals enshrined therein.

UNESDOC - (PDF) English
- French - Spanish - Russian - Chinese - Arabic
Date of adoption 1997
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