An interview with Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

In 2015 Wales passed a new law, The Well-being of Future Generations Act, that has caught the imagination of countries across the world.

It offers a huge opportunity for us to make a long-lasting, positive change to the way we do… well, everything.

We hope that what Wales is doing today the world will do tomorrow.”

Making changes

We’re the only country in the world to have legislated to protect the interests of future generations, and we’re the only country to have appointed somebody independent to oversee this.

And that’s my job. At the moment, I’m the only Future Generations Commissioner in the world, but I hope that many more countries will follow our lead. 

Wales has a template to share with the rest of the world. The UN has now announced its support for a Special Envoy for Future Generations, a Futures Summit in 2023 and a UN Declaration for Future Generations. Across the world, our systems of government, politics and economics have tended to act in the short term.

But in Wales we are trying to change that. Our government and all our main public institutions need to demonstrate how they are acting for the long term, and how the decisions they take don’t harm the interests of those yet to be born.

This calls for a new way of thinking of what ‘success’ means. For too long, governments have tested their success on the measures of economic growth, but in Wales our measures of success are around our seven well-being goals.

Make well-being your metrics. Test everything you do across the four pillars of well-being: social, economic, environmental and cultural. 

Perhaps the most important aspect of these well-being goals is that they recognise everything is interconnected. We will not have a prosperous Wales if we do not tackle our climate and nature  emergencies. There are no jobs on a dead planet. And we won’t have a healthier Wales if we don’t have people working in decent jobs — not jobs that are bad for their health, or that don’t pay a decent wage.

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It also means looking beyond our own borders.

We are determined not just to be global consumers but to be global citizens. That’s why we have set ambitious climate change targets for decarbonisation. We are absolutely determined that we will be at the forefront of this low-carbon revolution. And it’s why we have a Wales for Africa programme.

As a mother of five, I am absolutely passionate about ensuring that we’ve got a planet to leave behind for future generations: a world where they can thrive rather than just survive.

Everyone must play their part: individuals, organisations and companies.

It will take forward-thinking nations like Wales with big ideas to be taken up by other parts of the world. That’s my job as a mum, and that’s my job as Future Generations Commissioner.

And that should be all of our jobs.

Our seven well-being goals

The Well-being of Future Generations Act set out seven clear goals. And because everything’s connected, our public bodies must work to achieve all of them.

A prosperous Wales.
A resilient Wales.
A more equal Wales.
A healthier Wales.
A Wales of cohesive communities.
A Wales of thriving culture and vibrant Welsh language.
A globally responsible Wales.

Find out more:

A woman standing in a field, looking at the camera,  against the backdrop of a festival
View up through the tops of trees from within a forest
Image courtesy of Office of the Future Generation Commissioner for Wales

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