Monthly Archives: January 2013

One Worry about Representatives for Future Generations

Future generations are affected by present-day decisions but the choices they would make if they could participate in these decisions obviously cannot enter the present-day democratic process. However, their interests can enter the present democratic process and they can do so in at least two ways:

  1. There can be special representatives for future generations in parliament. For example, 10% of the seats in parliament could be reserved for such representatives of future generations with the right to vote.
  2. The normal MPs can incorporate the interests of future generations in their normal decision-making. That’s what we currently do (though we could improve the current model by supporting the incorporation of the interests of future  generations by an ombudsman laying out the interest of future generations for MPs  and exhorting them to take account of them).

There are further options – such as constitutional provisions that put limits on what can be done to future generations – but I want to focus on one specific problem that the first option (representatives for future generations) has in contrast to the second option (expecting normal MPs to incorporate the interests of future generations in their choices).

If a country were to introduce special representatives for future generations in parliament by reserving 10% of the seats for them, then there are three effects:

  1. The interests of future generations enter the present democratic process better because 10% of MPs are supposed to incorporate and represent exclusively those future interests.
  2. The interests of future generations enter the present democratic process better because 10% of the MPs constantly remind the other 90% of the concerns of future generations.
  3. The interests of future generations enter the present democratic process worse because the 90% “normal” MPs might give less weight to the interests of future generations than they would do if there were no 10% special representatives. In other words: The fact that there are special representatives for future generations “crowds out” the motivation in normal MPs to take account of future generations. They can tell themselves that the concerns of future generations are already taken care of (by the 10% special representatives) and thus they can stop worrying about the future themselves.

I am worried that the third effect might outweigh the first two (and countervailing) effects. Even though it seems that reserving a certain number of seats in parliament for future generations would serve future generations well, the opposite might possibly happen. If special representatives mean that everyone else stops considering the future their own responsibility, then it’s better not to have special representatives.


Call for Applicants: The Yaoundé Seminar on Theories of Justice, 26.08-01.09.2013

Below you will find a copy of the call for applicants to the Yaoundé seminar, organized by the Centre of Study and Research on Political and Social Justice -CERJUSP – (Catholic University of Central Africa), and the Hoover Chair of Economic and Social Ethics (Catholic University of Louvain).

Justice and Agents of Justice


If political and moral philosophers have worked to define the principles of justice by identifying the fundamental rights and correlative obligations, there is however less interest on questions pertaining to agents of justice which if well-constructed will include both moral agents and individuals or institutions who can be attached certain obligations of justice. In other words, the issue of ‘what we owe to each other’ (Scanlon, 1998) has attracted more attention than reflections on who actually owes what to whom? Or who should be obligated once a moral imperative has been identified (O’Neill, 1999). This blurring situation on the identification of agents of justice is often confronted when examining global problems such as hunger. If we recognize this situation as ‘unacceptable’ and a violation of the fundamental rights of the less privileged, we must also accept that many scholars are more divided when it comes to identifying the actors who have the obligation to rectify this. If the issue of agents to implement the principles of justice is less explicit, it is probably because of the contention that the State, as a source of law and stakeholder in international human rights agreements, is immediately in charge of the obligations related to these rights.

If any theory of justice therefore aims to identify principles that should regulate the coexistence and cooperation between various individuals recognized as free and equal, it therefore implies that the State, as an organized group of free and equal people living in a given territory, is the principal agent of justice. It is because the state has power that theorists of justice assume she is the principal agent of justice. And because other actors of the society would be deprived of the same power that they are regarded as secondary agents of justice. However, considering the state as the main agent of justice may seem problematic for the protection of fundamental rights if one takes seriously into consideration some social facts: What becomes of the protection of fundamental rights when the State practices injustice, either through violation of her own citizens’ fundamental rights, or just because she is not democratic? What happens to the protection of fundamental rights when the state becomes weak due to lack of resources –political and financially. Such weaknesses can lead to a power or authority vacuum thus the privatization of many state prerogatives to private actors or agents. How then identify potential agents of justice in these contexts?

After devoting its first edition to the theories of global justice, the second edition of The Yaoundé Phd Seminar – “Theories of Justice” attempts to address the criteria enabling the identification of different agents of justice at the global and national, through three main segments: lectures, project presentations and feedbacks.

The Application Process

The organizing committee welcomes applications from doctorate students – African PhD students (max. 10) and the other half non-African PhD students (max. 10) who are interested in this subject. Applicants will be selected according to their projects or ongoing theses on aspects related to theories of justice in general and other related fields (philosophy, law, theology, canon law, sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, history, human rights, etc. However priority will be given to those which are directly related to this theme as well as female candidates. Non-doctoral candidates may also be considered based on the substance of their application.

Applications are expected by 28 February 2013 in French and / or English and include:

1) a project (max. 2 pages) in a pdf format.

2) One letter of recommendation from the supervisor sent to: or,

3) One brief CV highlighting the University to which the candidate is affiliated, his research interests and scientific publications if possible.

The entire file must be sent to or
Successful applicants will be notified by 31st March 2013 at the latest.

They should undertake to:

1) Pay 150 Euros participation fee (for African PhD students) and 300 euros (for doctoral non-African) no later than 30 June 2013 and

2) Their travel costs to Yaoundé (Cameroon).
Once in Cameroon, accommodation, transportation and catering will be fully taken care of by CERJUSP. (NB: there are opportunities to reduce costs of participation for African PhD students, but they are very limited).

In addition to the scientific aspect of this event (26/08/13 to 31/08/13), this second edition will offer a touristic weekend for interested participants (31/08/2013 to 01/09/13).

Lecturers Invited:

Prof. Philippe Van Parijs, Philosophy & Sociology (UCLouvain, Belgium and Oxford, UK)
Prof. Florian Wettstein, Law (St. Gallen, Switzerland)
Prof. Ernest-Marie Mbonda, Philosophy (UCAC, Cameroon & CREUM, Canada)
Prof. Godfrey Tangwa, Philosophy (Yaoundé I, Cameroon)
Prof. Jonathan Wolff, Philosophy (UCLondon, United Kingdom)
Prof. Thierry Amougou, Economy (UCLouvain, Belgium)
Prof. Georges Pavlakos, Law (Antwerp, Belgium) (to be confirmed)

Scientific Committee

Ernest-Marie Mbonda (UCAC, Yaoundé)
Mikael Petitjean (UCLouvain, Belgium)
Geert Demiujnck (UCLille, France)
Axel Gosseries (UCLouvain, Belgium)
DanyRondeau (UQAR, Canada)
Ryoa Chung (UdM, Canada)
Emmanuel Babissagana (Saint Louis, Belgium)

Organizing Committee

Ernest-Marie Mbonda
Thierry Ngosso
Atabong Tamo