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Now for the Long TermThe Report of theOxford Martin Commissionfor Future Generations1


Now for the Long TermThe Report of theOxford Martin Commissionfor Future GenerationsOctober 2013Members of the Commission:Chair: Pascal Lamy, former Director-General,World Trade OrganizationLuiz Felipe Lampreia, former Minister ofForeign Affairs, BrazilMichelle Bachelet, former President of Chile;former Executive Director, UN WomenLiu He, Minister, Office of the Central LeadingGroup on Financial and Economic Affairs,People’s Republic of ChinaLionel Barber, Editor, The Financial TimesRoland Berger, Chairman, Roland BergerStrategy ConsultantsIan Goldin, Director, Oxford Martin School;Professor of Globalisation and Development,University of Oxford (Vice-Chair)Kishore Mahbubani, Dean and Professor in thePractice of Public Policy, Lee Kuan Yew Schoolof Public Policy, National University of SingaporeTrevor Manuel, Minister and Chair of theNational Planning Commission, South AfricaArianna Huffington, President and Editor-inChief, Huffington Post Media GroupJulia Marton-Lefèvre, Director-General,International Union for Conservation ofNature (IUCN)Mo Ibrahim, Chair of the Board,Mo Ibrahim FoundationNandan Nilekani, Chairman, Unique IdentificationAuthority of India; former CEO, InfosysPeter Piot (Baron Piot), Director, LondonSchool of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; formerExecutive Director, UNAIDSMartin Rees (Lord Rees of Ludlow), formerPresident, The Royal Society; Fellow of TrinityCollege, University of CambridgeAmartya Sen, Nobel Laureate and Thomas W.Lamont University Professor, and Professor ofEconomics and Philosophy, Harvard UniversityNicholas Stern (Lord Stern of Brentford),President, The British Academy; IG Patel Professorof Economics, London School of EconomicsJean-Claude Trichet, former President,European Central BankChris Patten (Lord Patten of Barnes), Chancellor,University of Oxford; Chairman, BBC TrustThe Commissioners are acting in their personal capacity. They were selected because of their breadth and depth of expertise, their geographical reach, andtheir extensive leadership experience gathered over many years in large organisations, multilateral negotiations and complex national and global institutions.This report represents the collective views of the Commission, and does not necessarily represent the individual opinions of any single Commissioner orthe organisations to which they are affiliated.The Oxford Martin School Commission Secretariat was led by Natalie Day (Head of Policy), with Anushya Devendra (Communications and Policy Officer)and Dr Travers McLeod (Policy Adviser). This report was published by the Oxford Martin School.

5Abbreviations6Executive 06161626262636363654Governing for the futureOne world; many cultures, perspectives and identitiesAbout this reportPart A: Possible tyResourcesHealthGeopoliticsGovernancePart B: Responsible FuturesLooking Back to Look ForwardLessons from Previous SuccessesLessons from FailureShaping Factors: What Makes Change so Hard?1: Institutions2: Time3: Political Engagement and Public Trust4: Growing Complexity5: Cultural BiasesPart C: Practical Futures:Principles and Recommendations1: Creative CoalitionsC20-C30-C40CyberExFit Cities2: Innovative, Open and Reinvigorated InstitutionsDecades, not DaysFit for PurposeOpen up PoliticsMake the Numbers CountTransparent Taxation3: Revalue the FutureFocus Business on the Long TermDiscountingInvest in PeopleMeasure Long-term Impact4: Invest in Younger GenerationsAttack Poverty at its SourceA Future for Youth5: Establish a Common Platform of UnderstandingBuild Shared Global ValuesWhat Next?66Endnotes84Acknowledgements

2CPICSIRODNAECOSOCFAOFCFFCTCFDIFSBG7G8Acquired ImmunodeficiencySyndromeAssociation of SoutheastAsian NationsBase Erosion and ProfitShiftingCities Climate LeadershipGroupCollateralised DebtObligationsChief Executive OfficerEuropean Organization forNuclear ResearchChlorofluorocarbonConsultative Group forInternational AgriculturalResearchCarbon DioxideCorruption Perceptions IndexCommonwealth Scientificand Industrial ResearchOrganisationDeoxyribonucleic AcidEconomic and Social Council(United Nations)Food and AgriculturalOrganizationCommittee for the Future(Finland)Framework Convention onTobacco ControlForeign Direct InvestmentFinancial Stability BoardGroup of SevenGroup of PCCIUCNLPGMDGsNCDsNGOsNHSGroup of TwentyGroup of Thirty ConsultativeGroup on InternationalEconomic and Monetary AffairsGeneral Agreement on Tariffsand TradeGlobal Alliance for Vaccinesand ImmunisationsGross Domestic ProductHuman ImmunodeficiencyVirusInternational Food PolicyResearch InstituteInternational FinancialReporting StandardsInternational HealthRegulationsIbrahim Index of AfricanGovernanceInternational LabourOrganizationInternational Monetary FundIntellectual PropertyIntergovernmental Panel onClimate ChangeInternational Union forConservation of NatureLiquefied Petroleum GasMillennium DevelopmentGoalsNon-Communicable DiseasesNon-GovernmentalOrganisationsNational Health Service(United NEPUNESCOUNFCCCUNICEFWGIsWHOWIPOWTONational PlanningCommissionsOrganisation for EconomicCo-operation andDevelopmentOpen GovernmentPartnershipResearch and DevelopmentResource Governance IndexSevere Acute RespiratorySyndromeSingle Market Programme(Europe)TuberculosisTrade-Related Aspects ofIntellectual Property RightsUniversal Declaration ofHuman RightsUnited NationsUnited Nations DevelopmentProgrammeUnited Nations EnvironmentProgrammeUnited Nations EducationalScientific and CulturalOrganizationUnited Nations FrameworkConvention on ClimateChangeUnited Nations Children’s FundWorldwide GovernanceIndicatorsWorld Health OrganizationWorld Intellectual PropertyOrganizationWorld Trade Organization5

Executive SummaryAs the world slowly emerges from thedevastating Financial Crisis, it is time to reflecton the lessons of this turbulent period andthink afresh about how to prevent futurecrises. The Oxford Martin Commission forFuture Generations focuses on the increasingshort-termism of modern politics and ourcollective inability to break the gridlock whichundermines attempts to address the biggestchallenges that will shape our future. In Nowfor the Long Term, we urge decision-makersto overcome their pressing daily preoccupationsto tackle problems that will determine thelives of today’s and tomorrow’s generations.Dr James Martin, the founder of the OxfordMartin School, highlighted that humanity is ata crossroads. This could be our best centuryever, or our worst. The outcome will dependon our ability to understand and harness theextraordinary opportunities as well as managethe unprecedented uncertainties and risks.Our report identifies what these challengesare, explains how progress can be made, andprovides practical recommendations. TheCommission outlines an agenda for the longterm. Our case for action is built in three parts.The first, Possible Futures, identifies the keydrivers of change and considers how we mayaddress the challenges that will dominate thiscentury. Next, in Responsible Futures, theCommission draws inspiration from previousexamples of where impediments to actionhave been overcome, and lessons from whereprogress has been stalled. We then consider thecharacteristics of our current national and globalsociety that frustrate progress. The final part,Practical Futures, sets out the principles foraction and offers illustrative recommendationswhich show how we can build a sustainable,inclusive and resilient future for all.6Part A, Possible Futures, identifies a numberof interacting megatrends, grouped underseven headings: demographics (large, ageingpopulations); mobility (urbanisation and agrowing middle class); society (inequality andunemployment); geopolitics (power transitions);sustainability (resource insecurity); health(shifting burdens of disease); and technology(information and communications revolution).These megatrends apply the world over,reinforcing old and generating new sets ofchallenges.The Commission then considers five categoriesof challenges that arise from these megatrendsthat are likely to shape our future:1. Society: How can growth and developmentbe made more sustainable and inclusive?2. Resources: How can food, energy, water andbiodiversity be made more secure?3. Health: How can public health infrastructureand processes respond to the needs of all?4. Geopolitics: How can power transitions bethe basis for fresh forms of collaboration?5. Governance: How can businesses,institutions and governments contribute tomore inclusive and sustainable growth?Part A also highlights what is known aboutpossible responses to these challenges.New targets on growth and employment,and a focus on youth workers and flexibleworkplaces are presented. The importanceof resource transparency and informationsharing is reiterated, as are measures tocounteract climate change. Goals to reducenon-communicable diseases (NCDs),remedy deficiencies in public health systems,implement agreed best practice, and partnercreatively with the pharmaceutical industryare stressed. Countries are advised toidentify shared interests, update institutionsand develop cybersecurity capacity as theynavigate structural transitions in internationalpolitics. Better governance will aid this quest,particularly if technology is used creatively,indicators are improved, and business is rewiredto invest for the long term.In Part B, Responsible Futures, the Commissionexamines historical drivers of transformativechange, such as the existence of crisis, sharedinterests, leadership, inclusion, institutions andnetworks, partnerships, as well as goals andprizes. From campaigns to protect the ozonelayer and reduce tobacco use, to the EuropeanSingle Market and the Millennium DevelopmentGoals, there are many examples of wheredisparate groups have come together and madesignificant progress. At the other end of theresults spectrum, the Commission considersless successful characteristics of modernpolitics, including the tragedy of the commons,a lack of intergenerational vision and awareness,the absence of global oversight, and vestedinterests. Following these insights, Part B setsout five shaping factors that make positivechange so difficult:1. Institutions: Too many have struggled toadapt to today’s hyper-connected world.2. Time: Short-termism directs politicaland business cycles, despite compellingexceptions.3. Political Engagement and Public Trust:Politics has not adapted to new methods ormembers.4. Growing Complexity: Problems can escalatemuch more rapidly than they can be solved.5. Cultural Biases: Globalisation can amplifycultural differences and exclude key voices.

Part C, Practical Futures, contains theCommission’s Agenda for the Long Term.It is arranged around five principles, withpractical examples proposed to illustrate eachprinciple. Some build on possible responsesto the challenges identified in Part A. Othersrespond to the shaping factors outlined inPart B, and seek to address deeper political andcultural factors that obstruct a longer-termengagement. We provide indicative examplesof principles and proposals that advance theinterests of future generations and promoteresilience, inclusiveness and sustainability. TheAgenda is as follows:1. Creative Coalitions: Responding to thiscentury’s challenges will require multistakeholder partnerships. The Commissionsuggests three: C20-C30-C40: a Coalition of the Workingcomprising countries, companies and cities tocounteract climate change. CyberEx: a new early warning platform topromote a better understanding of commonthreats amongst government, corporate andindividual users. Fit Cities: a city-based network to fight therise of non-communicable diseases.2. Innovative, Open and ReinvigoratedInstitutions: Institutions and processesshould be renewed for the modern operatingenvironment. Five steps are suggested: Decades, not Days: invest in independent,accountable institutions able to operateacross longer-term horizons. Fit for Purpose: incorporate sunset clausesinto publicly funded international institutionsto ensure regular review of accomplishmentsand mandates. Open up Politics: build on initiatives such asthe Open Government Platform to optimisenew forms of participation and transparency. Make the Numbers Count: establishWorldstat to improve the reliability andavailability of statistics. Transparent Taxation: address tax abuse andavoidance through a Voluntary Taxation andRegulatory Exchange.3. Revalue the Future: Existing institutionalincentives should be rebalanced to reducebias against future generations. This can bedone in four ways: Focus Business on the Long Term: ensurecompanies and financial systems give greaterpriority to long term “health” and lookbeyond daily or quarterly reporting cycles. Discounting: future generations should notbe discounted against simply because theyare born tomorrow and not today. Invest in People: remove perverse subsidieson hydrocarbons and agriculture, and redirectsupport to the poor. Measure Long-term Impact: create an indexto track the effectiveness of countries,companies and international institutions onlonger term issues.4. Invest in Younger Generations: Greaterattention should be given to promoting amore inclusive and empowered society,particularly for younger generations. Twopriorities should be: Attack Poverty at its Source: break theintergenerational cycle of poverty throughsocial protection measures such asconditional cash transfer programmes. A Future for Youth: countries should invest inyouth guarantees to address unemploymentand underemployment.5. Establish a Common Platform ofUnderstanding: The ability to addresstoday’s global challenges is undermined by theabsence of a collective vision for society. Toremedy this, the Commission urges reneweddialogue on an updated set of shared globalvalues around which a unified and enduringpathway for society can be built.The Commission applauds the remarkableprogress of past decades: on balance, theworld’s population is safer, healthier, moreproductive and cooperative than ever.Nevertheless, much work remains to be done.Now for the Long Term aims to stimulateaction and debate. Commissioners look forwardto engaging with governments, businesses,NGOs and civil society in order to take theseideas and recommendations forward in themonths and years ahead.7


NOW is the best time in history to be alive.Our world has experienced a sustained periodof positive change. The average person isabout eight times richer than a century ago,1nearly one billion people have been lifted out ofextreme poverty over the past two decades,2living standards have soared, life expectancy hasrisen, the threat of war between great powershas declined, and our genetic code and universehave been unlocked in previously inconceivableways. Many of today’s goods are unimaginablewithout collective contributions from differentparts of the world, through which more ofus can move freely with a passport or visa,provided we have the means to do so. Ourworld is functionally smaller, and its possibilitiesare bigger and brighter than ever before. Neverbefore have so many people been optimisticabout their future.3While the future is full of opportunity arisingfrom the extraordinary advances of recentdecades, it is also highly uncertain andcharacterised by growing systemic risks. Inmany cases, these risks are the consequencesof our success, arising from rising incomes,population growth, interconnectedness andtechnological advances. Risks arising fromthe plundering of our planet’s natural capital,growing inequality, and the potentiallydevastating results of accidental or deliberateuse of new technologies are among thereasons we urgently need to deepen ourunderstanding of the threats posed bybusiness as usual.The empowerment of people throughinvestment in education and other forms ofhuman capital is critical for sustainable andinclusive growth. Entrepreneurs and investmentthrive when not only infrastructure andinnovative capacity is developed, but when therules governing society are also transparentand fair. Given the scale of the challengesand the prospect of very positive but alsopossibly disastrous change, the response ofgovernments, businesses and citizens shouldnot be to become more short-sighted. The scaleof the opportunities and risks requires moreattention to the future and a more far-sightedattitude. In an increasingly integrated andhyper-connected world, our individual futuredepends more than ever on our collective futureand our capacity to work together to deepenour understanding of the critical challenges.We need to ensure that we have the skills,tools, institutions and social fabric necessary tonavigate safely through the hazardous fog ofthe future.As the late French politician Pierre MendèsFrance used to say, “gouverner, c’est prévoir”– governing is looking forward, or foreseeing.Preparing for the future, however, seemsa luxury for today’s governments, who areincreasingly preoccupied with the present;indeed, many governments even “live with theireyes on the rear-view mirror, refighting ancientbattles and reigniting ancient enmities”.4 Aninability to “look forward” characterises muchof modern politics, especially in democraticcountries. Government and business leaderstend to focus on the short term, which offersquicker and potentially easier payoffs at lowerpolitical cost.The aim of the Oxford Martin Commission forFuture Generations (“the Commission”) is toidentify the scale of the challenges humanity isfacing and to offer suggestions as to how theymay better be managed. We believe that wecan and must do a much better job of securingthe opportunities and mitigating the risks.The Commission seeks to draw attention to agrowing gap between knowledge and action onmany of today’s challenges, identify why actionhas slowed, and suggest pathways to move theglobal agenda forward.Governing for the futureThe Commissioners have come together outof concern for the future. We agree governingrequires a dual vision: a commitment to addresscurrent needs and to build the foundations forvibrant generations in the decades ahead. Thisresponsibility transcends obligations to today’scitizens: it also relates to future generations and abroader societal ideal of trusteeship that requiresus to leave the world better than we find it.5This is a unique time in history. Our youngergeneration is the first to live free of the scarsof previous global wars. Given extraordinaryadvances in knowledge and scientificunderstanding, today we are more aware thanever of the implications of our actions on futuregenerations, not least in areas like climate9

change and biodiversity. And we could arguablybe amongst the last generations able to doanything to stop the long-term devastation ofour planet. Soon it may be too late. We hold aunique responsibility, arising from our advancedknowledge of the implications of our actionsand the potential that our actions could createor prevent irreversible damage to the livelihoodsof future generations. This report aims to helpus step up to this unique responsibility for thebenefit of those alive today and in the future.6Justice Weeramantry, former Vice President ofthe International Court of Justice, reminded usthat civilisations across the ages have “refusedto adopt a one‑eyed vision of concentration onthe present”.7 Sustainable development, he hasargued, “is one of the most ancient ideas in thehuman heritage”.8 Evidence of long-term thinkingcomes in a variety of forms, whether it is indefence, health care, fiscal planning, demography,migration, the environment, or governancestructures more generally. Governmentsregularly make long‑term commitments, suchas in education, welfare and infrastructure,though these are not necessarily guided by alonger‑term view or explicitly mandated toaddress difficult long‑term questions.Uncertainty about the future, the never-endingimmediacy of pressures at our doorsteps andthe rapidity of change in today’s society make iteasier to rationalise living in the eternal present.Changing course towards the longer termrequires society to devote sustained attention10to the transformational changes which willcharacterise our lifetimes and shape the futurefor the next generations. Taking a longer viewis no panacea; striking a sustainable balancebetween short‑term and long‑term interests iskey. Currently, there is a lack of understandingon the conditions under which long-termthinking might be improved.9 Existing structuresbestow a higher value to immediate returns oninvestment. Some of these returns exacerbatethe risks and social consequences posed bylonger-term challenges and delay collaborativeaction on them.One world; many cultures,perspectives and identitiesThe debate about the future, however, is notsimply about the virtue of long-term thinking.This is a debate about what is owed to futuregenerations. The Commission does not intendto settle this debate. We accept there area range of good reasons to care about theinterests of future persons, and to reflect onthe extent to which such interests should beprotected, considered, restored or enhancedby those of us living today. No one systemof government has a monopoly on thinkingabout, or governing for, future generations,even if certain systems may prove moreadept than others. We, the Commissioners,drawn from different parts of the world, areunited by a desire to harness the opportunitiespresented in today’s world for the benefit ofcurrent generations, whilst also ensuring thatwe leave the world in a better position forour grandchildren, and the generations thatsucceed them.Since the Second World War, there has beengreat progress in building trust and momentumon a number of national and internationalchallenges. This has often been done by focusingon mutual interests, not just between peoplebut also among cities, nations and businesses.Such a capacity has been necessary “to perceive,recognise, and deal with differences, conflicts,and oppositions and to arrive at workablesolutions to the problems and challengesthat result from an accelerating process ofglobalisation”.12 For the most part, however,today’s challenges are even more intertwinedand beyond the scope of national jurisdiction.Many of these challenges, not least thoserelated to climate change, are the by-productsof industrialisation and economic growth.While the already advanced economies havegenerated many of the externalities, much ofthe burden going forward will need to be sharedby the developing world, whose rapid growth isGlobalisation is not new but the global breadthand depth of its impact has changed. Manyasserted globalisation would result in greaterhomogenisation of customs and cultures, whichmay have assisted in developing a commonunderstanding and agreement on how toaddress today’s challenges.10 In fact, in somecases, the opposite appears to have transpired:globalisation has not been “equated withhomogenisation or uniformity” but has found“localisation as its counterforce”.11

compounding challenges such as climate changeand resource scarcity. Our hyper-connectedworld requires unprecedented collaboration.Reaching consensus on a path forward requiresa deep understanding of “how the one worldaffects the many and how the many worldsaffect the one”. This, in turn, necessitates adeep awareness of local and regional cultures,perspectives and identities, and how they areresponding to each other in an era in whichcooperation is a prerequisite for progress.13Individuals often take as a starting point difference,not likeness: we often define ourselves largelybased on what differentiates us from those weencounter.14 This “precedence of differenceover sameness” has important, and perhapsmisunderstood, consequences for the conductof multilateral dialogues and negotiations on thelonger-term challenges identified in this report.As Commissioners, we have observed thatglobalisation can sharpen cultural contrasts andinvoke stronger claims for localisation.15 While theinterconnections made possible via a globalisedworld provide hope for “economical, ecological,educational, informational, and military forms ofcooperation”, this environment can also trigger“a counter-reaction to what people experienceas a threat”.16 Such a reaction – defensivelocalisation despite globalisation – might comefrom individuals, communities, or take place withininstitutions. This means the Commission cannotbe starry‑eyed about the prospect of broad,sweeping changes and position leaps on thechallenges it identifies. Movement along pathwaysnecessary to tackle challenges common to all andrequiring national and wider cooperation may needto occur incrementally.categories are used to illustrate key challengesthat need to be grappled with, the links betweenthem, and how they might be addressed.About this reportPART B: Responsible Futures seeks to diagnosewhy gridlock and a lack of political will for changepersist on many challenges where action isimperative. It draws lessons from examples whereimpediments to action have been overcome,and also considers why certain efforts havefailed or stalled. Five shaping factors that impactthe ability to get things done are identified:institutions, time, political engagement andtrust, complexity and culture.This report aims to contribute to the ability ofnational and local governments, internationalinstitutions, businesses and the broadercommunity to understand and navigate thesecompeting tensions in order to grapple with themajor long-term issues of today. It examines fivesets of challenges requiring concerted attention.The Commission does not attempt to provideone-stop solutions and we are aware of thewide-ranging arguments regarding the rightcourse of action. Today’s challenges are deeplycomplex and interconnected, and will requiremultiple and sustained actions in order to be fullyaddressed. Our aim is to highlight areas whereaction could be taken if the political will weremobilised to do so, and how it could be taken. Wetry to understand why action has become moredifficult and provide recommendations which wehope will be useful in terms of moving forwardthe agenda for future generations.PART C: Practical Futures builds from thepossible and responsible futures suggested inParts A and B, and offers practical, overarchingrecommendations to overcome the gridlock ofmodern politics and shift mindsets towards thelong term. The recommendations are arrangedaround five key principles: creative coalitions;innovative, open and reinvigoratedinstitutions; revalue the future; investin younger generations and establish aplatform of understanding.The report comprises three parts:PART A: Possible Futures gives a synopsis ofglobal megatrends and introduces the keychallenges on which action is essential. Thesechallenges are introduced within five broadcategories: society, resources, health,geopolitics and governance. This is by nomeans an exclusive or comprehensive list, but the11

Part A:Possible Futures12

MegatrendsTaking stockMegatrends mark important shifts in theevolution of society.17 They tend to persistover the long term, at times with impacts thatare not immediately evident. Some are morereversible than others. Megatrends can beextremely positive, such as poverty reduction,the emergence of the Internet, longer lifespansand the decline of great wars. They can also benegative, as is evidenced by growing inequalityand the rising threats of both infectious andnon-communicable diseases (NCDs). Eitherway, megatrends can and often do generateprofound and potentially permanent changes tothe way societies are governed.Presenting a picture of the future can be risky.It can leave us jumping at “distant and fragileshadows” and unprepared when the real worldknocks at the door.18 We know events are oftenunanticipated. The future is bound to be full ofgood and bad surprises. This does not mean weshould be complacent about what is happeningaround us, and ignore what that might mean forthe future.In this section, we identify a number ofprominent global megatrends. Some date backto before the Industrial Revolution; othershave become influential since the end of theCold War. We do not seek to be too predictive.Ensuring that one is able to seize the positiveopportunities and build resilience against thedownside risks will require an open mind andconstant commitment to discovery and learning.Figure 1: Global megatrends in the 21st centurySource: Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations.The megatrends are grouped under sevenheadings but are highly interactive. Manymegatrends are slow, whilst the direction ofothers may turn or accelerate unexpectedly.Globalisation underpins them all. Together,these megatrends are transforming the worldand doing so in a manner that is distinct fromthe drivers of change in earlier times.13

DemographicsOver the next century, changes in the world’sdemography – the characteristics andcomposition of the global population – arelikely to be dramatic. This is not just aboutgross numbers; it is also about the age, lifespan,distribution and activities of people. The world’spopulation has climbed from 1.6 billion in 1900to around 7 billion today, and is projected toexceed 8 billion by 2025 and perhaps 9 billion by2050. Over 60 percent of the global populationis likely to live in Africa and Asia by 2050.19Approximately 70 percent of the growth is likelyto occur in 24 of the world’s poorest countries.2Half the world’spopulation lives inthis circleAgeing nationsFigure 2: Global population dist

New targets on growth and employment, and a focus on youth workers and flexible workplaces are presented. The importance of resource transparency and information sharing is reiterated, as are measures to counteract climate change. Goals to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs), remedy deficiencies in public health systems,

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