Sustainability (2018-10-01)

Intergenerational Equity and the Sustainable Development Goals

  • Otto Spijkers

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 11
p. 3836


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The contribution of the present research is to link the global consensus in international legal scholarship on the principle of intergenerational equity to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The methodology used is, first, to provide a literature review of theories of intergenerational equity developed in international law scholarship, followed by a textual analysis of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that contains the SDGs. To place the SDGs in their proper context, an overview is provided of the most important declarations on sustainable development of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), and outcome documents of the most important World Conferences on sustainable development organized under the auspices of the United Nations. Two general conclusions can be drawn from the present research: in international law scholarship and in the SDGs and previous declarations, the earth is generally seen as a resource, to be used by present and future people, and not as something warranting respect regardless of its worth to human beings. Second, the main challenge is to find a proper balance between intergenerational equity—present and future people—and intragenerational equity—the rich and the poor of the present generation.