Wales is leading the way to protect future generations, the United Nations has said.
Following the success of the UK's first Future Generations Commissioner, the only role of its kind in the world, appointed in Wales in 2016, the UN has announced its support for the establishment of a UN Special Envoy for Future Generations, a Futures Summit in 2023 and a UN Declaration for Future Generations.
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, has been advising the UN on the need to establish future generations governance throughout the UN institution and has engaged with UN senior officials and departments including the UN Climate Change Envoy, UN Environment Programme, UN Women and the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy for Youth.
She is currently attending COP26 in Glasgow and has called on other countries to adopt similar Future Generations legislation and approaches.
This week, the commissioner is calling on countries to establish governance mechanisms for future generations, building on the leadership in Wales and at the UN. With concerns from some youth delegates that political leaders and systems are only paying ‘lip service’ to their interests, the commissioner is highlighting the importance of placing future generations at the centre of decisions and ensure that they have a voice at the policy level.
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, said:
“Action across the world is slow to protect the needs and interests of future generations.
I am calling on governments to adopt future generations legislation to ensure decisions taken today meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
“The climate and nature crisis is here, it’s now – that’s why every country in the world needs a future generations act to limit the impact. We all have a duty to protect people not born yet, from the harm they’ll suffer without serious climate action.
“The announcement from Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General is a significant step towards the rest of the world adopting this made in Wales approach to protecting the interests of future generations. It shows that as a small nation we really can provide leadership to the rest of the world”
Jayathma Wickramanayake, United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said:
“The UN Secretary General’s landmark report ‘Our Common Agenda’ recognises that young people must be at the heart of political processes at national and global level in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Our vision for a UN Special Envoy for Future Generations is inspired by the progress being made in some countries around the world, including Wales, which demonstrates that it is possible to legislate and take action to put the interest of future generations at the heart of government.”
The Welsh legislation has also inspired other countries across the world.
In August, the Scottish Government announced plans to establish a Future Generations Act and Commissioner.
Ms Howe, who has just published a report highlighting the link between the climate and nature emergencies and inequality, met with Scottish Minister Patrick Harvie this week to share learning from the Welsh approach.
Mr Harvie later tweeted:
“Scotland has a lot to learn as we follow in your footsteps.”
Earlier this month, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told Welsh ministers on a visit to Wales that the Well-being of Future Generations Act was inspirational and that the Irish Government would be keen to replicate it.
Today (November 10) at COP26, Ms Howe will take part in a youth-led event with the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales – a group of 15 young climate voices from across Wales.
The event, Connecting Wales and COP26: action, lessons and future generations, supported by Size of Wales and the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) will also include representation from key policy makers and influencers, and indigenous voices.