The New Principles Clarify and Crystalize International Law As It Applies To The Human Rights of Future Generations

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The Maastricht Principles on the Human Rights of Future Generations mark a significant step towards promoting a more sustainable future. Nearly sixty leading legal and human rights experts, including several former and current Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council, endorsed the new set of Principles, which serve to clarify and crystallize the present state of international law as it applies to the human rights of future generations.

A quote sheet with endorsements from leading experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, is included below.

Legal and human rights experts started working on the Principles in 2017. Their extensive research and law review found that the body of existing human rights law does not have temporal limitations: States’ legal human rights obligations also require them to protect the human rights of future generations.

CIEL expects the Principles to be used by States and courts, including in submissions to the International Court of Justice, and to shape the application of human rights law to better protect future generations.

Numerous courts worldwide are already considering landmark cases that consider the rights of future generations, most notably climate lawsuits. Some of these proceedings, as well as future proceedings, are likely to be informed by the new Principles.

Previous Maastricht Principles have transformed the legal landscape. For example, the 2011 Maastricht Principles on the Extraterritorial Obligations of States have informed the work of States in developing the treaty on transnational corporations, the UN guiding principles on business and human rights, and an array of human rights decisions.

The Maastricht Principles on the Human Rights of Future Generations were adopted earlier in 2023, and previewed alongside the UN Human Rights Council on June 21, 2023, in Geneva, Switzerland. CIEL, human rights organization FIAN, and academic experts from the universities of Lancaster and Maastricht supported the experts who produced the Principles.

Read the Principles.


Media contact: Niccolò Sarno, Media Relations Specialist: + 41 22 506 80 37 

Quotes supporting the Maastricht Principles on the Human Rights of Future Generations:


David Boyd, United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment:

“The robust Maastricht Principles provide humanity with a compass to guide us out of the current global environmental crisis. Governments, businesses, and courts must adopt and apply these Principles so that we all learn to be good ancestors.”

Sébastien Duyck, senior attorney; human rights and climate campaign manager, CIEL:

“The Maastricht Principles provide an extremely timely clarification of the existing legal obligations of States in relation to the protection of the human rights of future generations. In the context of ongoing political and judicial proceedings, we expect their impact to be far-reaching. They will provide a roadmap informing key upcoming UN summits and decisions by international courts and tribunals.”

Edith Brown Weiss, university professor emerita, Georgetown University:

 “We urgently need to consider future generations in our decisions today. The Maastricht Principles are a pioneering effort to implement human rights law for future generations.”

Vishal Prasad, campaign director, Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change:

The Maastricht Principles could not have come at a better time when the world has asked for precise clarification from the International Court of Justice on this theme. The Principles will undoubtedly and significantly add value to the current proceedings and will be instrumental in solidifying the status of intergenerational equity under international law.” 

Daniel Magraw, senior fellow, Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies:

 “There is remarkable overlap between what should be done to protect humans and nature now and what should be done to protect them in the future. The Maastricht Principles are complemented by the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment and are destined to be highly influential.

Miloon Kothari, independent expert on human rights and social policy:

 “At a time of multiple crises facing the earth and humankind and questions about the very survival of the generations to come, the Maastricht Principles offer hope for future generations, through powerful provisions for sustaining land, livelihood, and life based on Indigenous knowledge and human rights principles. Compliance with these Principles carries with it great promise for the survival of future generations and for empowering human rights and thriving ecosystems.”

Ana María Suárez Franco, permanent representative in Geneva, FIAN:

The Maastricht Principles serve as an indispensable guide to ensure that discussions on solidarity with future generations at the 2024 Summit of the Future are firmly rooted in existing human rights law, thereby providing consistency in the work of the United Nations. These Principles are grounded in established international law, encompassing the jurisprudence of diverse courts worldwide. They also draw inspiration from diverse faith traditions and cosmologies, which emphasize the consideration of future generations when making decisions. They provide an optimal foundation for shaping policy and regulatory processes at national, regional, and international levels within the framework of intra- and intergenerational justice.

Vanessa Nakate, Ugandan climate justice activist:

We have the responsibility to ensure that the coming generations can have a better planet, a healthier planet. They have the right to the basic necessities of life: to clean air, to clean food, to clean water. They have the right to thrive on a beautiful planet. There is no planet B; that is why we have to ensure that we leave a better planet for the coming generations.”

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