Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Facing the Future: Conceiving Legal Obligations Towards Future Generations

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Abstract:  Conceiving legal obligations towards future generations is challenging—especially from a positivist stance and if obligations and claims are understood as being correlative in nature. Legal obligations towards future generations are often rejected from the outset if (and insofar as) there is no explicit acknowledgement or established doctrine. This neglects the power of sound legal interpretation. I argue that obligations towards future people and generations are grounded in the relational character of human rights and that their positivity is not a problem in a legal order containing norm texts that can reasonably be interpreted as acknowledging human rights; no additional enactment is necessary for these obligations to be part of the positive law. This claim is based on a (novel) concept of fundamental rights which is compatible with legal positivism.

Keywords:  constitutional law; future generations; human rights; intergenerational justice; legal positivism; legal theory



© Svenja Behrendt. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.