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Can Cymru?

19 Feb 2024 4 minute read

Wales has a globally admired law, enacted in 2015, designed to hardwire the integrity and wellbeing of the nation’s future into our lives and our public institutions.

Nine years later and already it is failing in every respect. The current future generations commissioner for Wales acknowledged this in September 2023. “We’re not making enough progress in delivering the Well-being of Future Generations Act, as there is a mixed picture against national indicators”.

Tied to the failures of the broader UK state, it would be fairer to say that Wales is going backward on many of those ‘indicators’.

Some Detail

Sadly, very few people in Wales have heard of the Future Generations Act.

As is often the case, Welsh Government’s communication strategies have not succeeded in informing and educating the Welsh public.

For those who have heard of the Act I would warrant that barely any could list the seven core well-being goals.

Here’s a refresher: a prosperous Wales; a resilient Wales; a more equal Wales; a healthier Wales; a Wales of cohesive communities; a Wales of vibrant culture with a thriving Welsh language; and a globally responsible Wales.

This is not just ambitious and aspirational but written into the laws of England and Wales. It sits within that peculiar carve out for Wales specific legislation inside the devolution settlement envelope.

It’s a law imposed by Welsh Government on Welsh Ministers and public bodies. A law designed to make them accountable to the future generations of Wales.


It is very clear that Welsh Ministers and all other public bodies covered by the law are failing to fulfil their legal obligations under this law. Unlike the Children’s Commissioner, who has admirably shown a willingness to criticise Welsh Government for their failures and the weakness of their strategy to tackle child poverty in Wales, the Future Generation Commissioner has chosen to toe the line and inflate the feel good rhetoric.

The ‘Cymru Can’ campaign is vacuous. It does not hold Welsh Government to account. It does not demand that Welsh Ministers do everything they can to implement the goals of the Future Generations Act. It doesn’t shout and scream and rail about the ways in which Wales today is systemically and systematically destined to fail its future generations.


No one has drawn the line between the minimum recommendations of the recent McAllister/Williams report and the legal obligation on Welsh Ministers to do what they must to improve the lives of our future generations.

That report is categoric that urgent changes are needed just for Wales to stand still, with major changes to the way Wales is funded also essential. Little more than a month after publication and it has all but disappeared from Welsh political life.

The report is already being referred to as yet another ‘shelf warmer’, destined to take its place in a long line of dusty commission reports whose contents are quietly ignored because Ministers have no appetite for the hard work and confrontation needed to force these issues into the light.

Who will risk their political career, their party career, by raising their voice at every opportunity to make the case for the powers and resources that must be made available for Welsh Ministers to have the ability to implement the goals of the law they’ve imposed upon themselves.

Legal Obligations

As the Future Generations Commissioner has chosen to be silent who will hold Welsh Ministers to account? Where is Wales’ Good Law Project? Who will test the law in court by suing Welsh Ministers and other public bodies on behalf of future generations? If there is no one to do so then the Act is just window dressing, empty words, good intentions – paving stones on the road to failing future generations just as the current generation is being failed in Wales.

A Brighter Future?

It doesn’t have to be this way. Welsh Ministers can stand up and recognise their obligations, insist on changes in the way Wales is governed so that they can make a difference to the lives of future generations.

Welsh people can stand up and insist that Welsh Ministers and other public bodies demand the ability to implement changes which will benefit future generations. Welsh leaders at every level can stick their heads above the parapet and insist on changes which will allow us, collectively, to really make a difference to the lives of those future generations who will live here in Wales.

Cymru’s future generations have been made a promise – how will we keep that promise?

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Richard 1
Richard 1
2 months ago

The Wellbeing of Future Generations legislation is an excellent idea, crippled in practice. An early test was EDF’s plan to dredge mud contaminated with radioactivity and dump it on Cardiff Grounds. The then Commissioner was unable to address the issue and the Assembly Member who pushed the legislation through suddenly popped up chairing a committee that failed to look at key evidence with any thoroughness.

James Wilson
James Wilson
2 months ago

Doesn’t the Future generation commissioner also have a significant budget (salary&office) to enable them to deliver on their responsibilities? Nevertheless less a great read – pity you’re not leading a high profile national organisation to allow you to highlight the obsequious apathy that infects much of WG and it’s arms length entities

Arfon Jones
Arfon Jones
2 months ago

Great article and yes as PCC for North Wales the act did underpin much of my ethos in addressing adverse childhood experiences, crime prevention and progressive drug policies. Sadly none of this work was acknowledged by Welsh Ministers.
Jeff Cuthbert the PCC for Gwent was the Deputy Minister who took the act through the Senedd. Perhaps he should be asked what as a PCC has he done to promote the seven wellbeing goals. A question to him via his Police and Crime Panel perhaps.

2 months ago

Perhaps a major reason “the Welsh people do not rise up and insist” is the perception formed over the past twenty years that Wales’s governance is ordered by itself, for itself. As long as it collectively ticks over and reward, position and patronage flow nicely, then it’s job done. Across the board. There is no longer any real public expectation of change. A perception which is perhaps totally accurate. No one’s going to rock this political boat as it brings home it’s selective treasure. And wasn’t the creation of Future Generation Commissioner post itself (despite the high minded rhetoric) a… Read more »

Steve George
Steve George
23 days ago

It’s a ludicrous law. The idea that you can just legislate and wishes will then come true is arrant nonsense.

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