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Landmark UN Summit on Future Generations takes place in Wales

30 Apr 2024 7 minute read
FILE – The symbol of the United Nations is displayed outside the Secretariat Building, Feb. 28, 2022, at United Nations Headquarters. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Martin Shipton

Global experts are meeting in Cardiff today to agree on approaches to solve critical challenges facing people and the planet.

Wales is the only country in the world with a Well-being of Future Generations Act after the Senedd passed a law in 2015 to protect people not yet born.

Now, almost a decade later, the United Nations, which praised the progressive policy, will be in Cardiff to learn from  Wales’ approach.

The Future Generations Forum, hosted today by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales Derek Walker and in partnership with the Welsh Government, will co-produce the Wales Protocol for Future Generations – a blueprint that will support and guide countries ahead of the UN’s Summit of the Future in New York this autumn.

“Critical challenges”

The summit in September has been described as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for the nations of the world to gather to tackle the critical challenges they face today and tomorrow, such as the climate crisis, growing inequality, and strengthening collective security.

Wales is playing this pivotal role due to its pioneering future generations legislation, which requires all government policies made today to consider the impact on the generations of tomorrow – putting an end to short-term decision making.

Copyright: Manuel Elías / United Nations Photo

The legislation places the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into law and establishes an independent Future Generations Commissioner, tasked with advising and monitoring public institutions’ adherence to the Act. The Forum today will look to the Welsh approach, while also encouraging shared learning from across the world in acting for the long-term.

Today’s event will also provide countries with an opportunity to engage directly with global experts in future generations and foresight practice as they negotiate a UN Declaration on Future Generations, facilitated by Netherlands and Jamaica. The Zero Draft Declaration on Future Generations features commitments from governments including:

* Implementing policies to eliminate gender discrimination in all its forms and promote women’s empowerment.

* Eliminating all forms of persistent historical and structural inequalities, including racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and all other forms of discrimination.

* Achieving sustainable development, global resilience and eradicating poverty, including extreme poverty, in all its forms and dimensions.

* Guaranteeing climate justice by prioritising urgent action on climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, desertification (land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas as a result of various climatic and human factors), water scarcity, and other environmental challenges.

* Calling for a UN Special Envoy for Future Generations.

The Declaration is seen as timely, with all governments grappling with global issues such as climate change, the nature emergency, and growing inequality.

First Minister Vaughan Gething – Image: Ben Birchall

The Future Generations Forum will include statements by First Minister Vaughan Gething and Huw Irranca-Davies MS, the Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs; keynote addresses from international experts, including Claudette Salinas, United Nations Foundation Next Generation Fellow from Mexico and Klara Wyrzykowska, UN Executive Office of the Secretary-General; a sustainability panel featuring Derek Walker and representatives from across Wales, including Tracey Cooper, (Public Health Wales), Eluned Hâf (Wales Arts International) and Jessica McQuade (WWF); presentations by the World Economic Forum and the Club of Rome; a workshop by the School of International Futures on the Wales Protocol for Future Generations; and a high-level roundtable discussion on the Declaration on Future Generations, moderated by the UN Foundation.

The event is being seen as a rare opportunity for the UN and its member states to hear evidence directly from experts as the draft Declaration for Future Generations is being negotiated.


Mr Walker placed an emphasis on supporting the involvement of young people at the event, including those from the global south. These young people include Claudette Salinas (Mexico), Felipe Bosch (Argentina) and Divya Sharma (India). UN member states including Switzerland, Ireland, Mexico, Mauritius, Malawi, Germany and Jamaica will attend the Future Generations Forum remotely.

Mr Walker said: “This is an important chapter in Wales’ sustainability story – recognition that Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act is important for Wales but also for the international community, as an example of the practical steps countries can take to deliver for future generations.

“During these difficult global challenges, through Wales’ leadership for future generations we have provided space for dialogue, collaboration and intergenerational solidarity and now the Forum presents an opportunity for drawing on global learning to support Welsh public bodies, fostering shared knowledge and providing a platform for public services to gain insights that can drive positive change in Wales.

“We look forward to welcoming the world to Wales, and to grow our own learning of accelerating the change needed to make the world a better place for current and future generations.”

Mr Gething said: “I’m proud that Wales has been at the forefront as a globally responsible nation, underpinned by our Well-being of Future Generations Act, one of the most radical and pioneering pieces of legislation in the world.

“The biggest factors facing the world today and tomorrow – the climate and nature emergencies, demographic shifts and the emergence of powerful digital technologies – are defining the course of humanity’s progress. But where there are challenges, there are even greater opportunities.

“As a government we are committed to tackling the biggest challenges, not only for people today but in the future, including prioritising the first thousand days in a child’s life and a just transition to net zero.”

“Perfect location”

Guy Ryder, UN Under-Secretary-General for Policy said: “The Future Generations Forum is an inspiring opportunity to mobilise partners from across the world to advance a successful and ambitious Declaration on Future Generations ahead of the Summit of the Future.

“Wales, with its pioneering Well-being of Future Generations Act, provides a perfect location for these forward-looking and necessary exchanges. I thank the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales for his hospitality and wish you fruitful discussions.”

Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO, said: “As we reflect on Wales’ leadership, and as we strive to build a better world for generations to come, let us heed the call to action, recognising the urgency of our task and the profound impact of our collective efforts.

“Together, we can ensure that future generations inherit a world that is just, sustainable and prosperous.”

Felipe Paulier, UN Assistant Secretary General for Youth Affairs, said: “The Future Generations Forum, hosted by Wales as the only country to legislate to protect the interests of the not-yet-born, is an opportunity to mobilise people of all generations in support of a successful Summit of the Future and an ambitious Declaration for Future Generations.

“Young people in all their diversity are essential in designing this declaration for future generations and will play a key role in how it’s put into action.

“The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales’ efforts to ensure that young people are meaningfully involved in the Future Generations Forum demonstrates Wales’ commitment to intergenerational equity and justice.”

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