Combating 'short-termism' in modern politics

The Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations has published a report arguing that the increasing short-termism of modern politics needs to be overcome with serious and urgent reform to address key challenges facing humanity.

The report, called 'Now for the Long Term', is by a commission of eminent leaders set up a year ago by the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University. The commission is chaired by Pascal Lamy, who was until recently Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

The report follows research and debate involving the group, which is comprised of Michelle Bachelet (former President of Chile), Lionel Barber (Editor of the Financial Times), Professor Roland Berger (Strategy Consultant), Professor Ian Goldin (Director of the Oxford Martin School), Arianna Huffington (President and Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group), Dr Mo Ibrahim (Chair of the Board, Mo Ibrahim Foundation), Luiz Felipe Lampreia (former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Brazil), Minister Liu He (Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, People's Republic of China), Professor Kishore Mahbuban (Dean and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy, National University of Singapore), Minister Trevor Manuel (Minister and Chair of the National Planning Commission, South Africa), Julia Marton-Lefèvre (Director-General, International Union for Conservation of Nature), Minister Nandan Nilekani (Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India; former CEO, Infosys), Lord Patten (Chancellor, University of Oxford; Chairman, BBC Trust), Baron Piot (Director, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; former Executive Director, UNAIDS), Lord Rees (former President, The Royal Society; Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge), Professor Amartya Sen (Nobel Laureate and Thomas W Lamont University Professor, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, Harvard University), Lord Stern (President, The British Academy; IG Patel Professor of Economics, London School of Economics), and Jean-Claude Trichet (former President, European Central Bank).

Recommendations in the report include:

  • The creation of a coalition made up of G20 countries, 30 companies, and 40 cities to accelerate action on climate change, with measurable targets for initiatives that include energy-efficient buildings, faster market penetration of fuel-efficient vehicles and tracking emissions.
  • To establish a voluntary taxation and regulatory exchange to address tax abuse and avoidance; and to promote a sharing of information between companies involved in taxation arrangements in order to enhance transparency and governance.
  • To establish 'sunset clauses' for publicly funded international institutions to ensure regular reviews of accomplishments and mandates to ensure they are fit for 21st-century purpose.
  • The introduction of a new early warning platform aimed at promoting a better understanding of common cyber threats. The platform would identify preventative measures and minimise future attacks for the shared benefit of government, corporate and individual interests.
  • That 'perverse subsidies' on hydrocarbons and agriculture be removed, and support should be redirected to the poor.
  • To introduce the means of fighting non-communicable diseases with a new 'Fit Cities' network: a collaboration of food, beverage and alcohol providers with public health and city authorities aimed at reducing the burden on health systems.
  • To end discrimination against future generations by revising discounting methods, adjusting them to take account of the uncertainties, risks and ethical implications for the long term.
  • To set up a specialist agency charged with undertaking quality control on global statistics that would assess domestic practices, regulate misuse and improve data collection.
  • Social protection measures such as conditional cash transfer programmes should be used to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Guaranteed work schemes for the young would help reduce 'scars' of long-term unemployment and disconnection.

At the launch in London today, Professor Ian Goldin said: 'Failure to address long-term issues exposes current generations to unacceptable instability and risk; it threatens our ability to build a sustainable, inclusive and resilient future for all. The Oxford Martin Commission analyses the issues, examines the lessons from past successes and failures, proposes a set of principles to overcome deep political and cultural divides, and provides practical recommendations for action on critical challenges.'