Francis Kwesi Otoo


Following the judgment of the Supreme court in Philippines in the celebrated case of Minors Oposa v Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 1993 the idea that future generations have a vested interest in the natural resources exploited by the current generation has become settled law and Inter-generational equity as a concept has come to stay. The concept of intergenerational equity argues that we inherit the Earth from previous generations, our ancestors and have an obligation to pass it on in reasonable condition to future generations our descendants. It means that in between generations will exist vested rights which will need to be protected and therefore natural resources will have to be used with inter-generational equity in mind. The effect of this ruling was to stretch and expand the meaning of the word "society" to include not only future generations but also past generations for in truth we inherit the earth and its resources from past generations, our ancestors and much as we owe a duty to pass it on to future generations in a reasonable condition so also do we owe it to our ancestors to be good custodians and exercise good stewardship over the earth and its resources.

A group of children, including those of renowned environmental activist Antonio Oposa, brought this lawsuit in conjunction with the Philippine Ecological Network, Inc. (a non-profit organization) to stop the destruction of the fast disappearing rain forests in their country. The plaintiff children based their claims in the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, which recognizes the right of people to a “balanced and healthful ecology” and the right to “self-preservation and self-perpetuation”. Oposa also raised the idea of “intergenerational equity” before the court, which is the idea that natural resources belong to people of all ages and that if adults were to harvest all of a country’s resources, they would be stealing from their children, their children’s children, and all future generations.

In this essay, we will be concerned with making on behalf of our ancestors the same argument made in favor of future generations in the above cited case by investigating what legal or vested rights if any a person retains or has once he or she is dead and gone. We will deal with issues of capacity and the locus standi of our ancestors to an action for the protection and preservation of these rights if any exists in law or in equity.

The question that needs to be answered then should be whether a person can similarly bring an action in court where it finds that the current generations use of its natural resources is guaranteed to deprive future generations of the benefits there under and are therefore in breach of trust.

Keywords: Inter-generational equity, locus standi, capacity, ancestors, descendants, equity, fiduciary, settlor, trustee, vested rights, juridical, voidable

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3240 ISSN (Online)2224-3259

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