The Maastricht Principles on the Human Rights of Future Generations

The rights of future generations have long been neglected in the analysis and application of human rights. Yet, human rights law does not limit itself to present generations. The foundations for international law to address the rights of future generations are established in international instruments in an array of subject areas spanning nearly a century; in constitutions and legislative acts adopted by the majority of the world’s States; in the laws, traditions, and cosmologies of Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities from every continent; and in the doctrine of major faith traditions representing the majority of the world’s people. 

The Maastricht Principles on the Human Rights of Future Generations seek to clarify the present state of international law as it applies to the human rights of future generations. The Principles consolidate the developing legal framework and affirm binding obligations of States and other actors as prescribed under international and human rights law. They also provide a progressive interpretation and development of existing human rights standards in the context of the human rights of future generations. They further recognize that States may incur additional obligations as human rights law continues to evolve. 

These Principles provide examples of how realizing rights of future generations requires attention to the distinct rights of particular groups and peoples, but does not do so comprehensively. It is important to read these Principles together with other human rights standards setting out the implications of human rights for particular groups, including groups subject to historic and current systemic discrimination in its many forms.

The Principles represent the result of a process of nearly six years of research, dialogue, and analysis, drawing on the expertise, experience, and perspectives of some 200 legal and human rights researchers and practitioners, national and regional current or former human rights mandate holders, members of Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities, and representatives from civil society organizations and social movements. They build on historic traditions and knowledge spanning millennia. 

The Principles were adopted in Maastricht on 3 February 2023. Signatories include experts located in all regions of the world and include current and former members of international human rights treaty bodies, regional human rights bodies, and former and current Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council. This initiative builds on expert legal opinions adopted in Maastricht, the Limburg Principles on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1986); the Maastricht Guidelines on Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1997); and the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2011) and its accompanying commentary.

The full explanation of each Principle, and the sources supporting them will be set out in the Commentary to these Principles.