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Opinion

Why I’m optimistic about Wales’ ambition to be a nation of good ancestors

21 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Radnor Primary School pupils

Derek WalkerFuture Generations Commissioner for Wales

Wales has a commitment to protect people who haven’t been born yet. We’re in a climate and nature emergency and global warming has exceeded 1.5C across an entire year for the first time ever– the results of which we’re seeing in floods, droughts, heatwaves and wildfires all over the world.

As the only country with a Well-being of Future Generations Act, we have a legal obligation to do something about it, protecting us all – and the four-year-old child who will be 30 in 2050 – but we must act now.

It’s my job as Future Generations Commissioner for Wales to hold those in power to account to use this unique and world-admired legislation to improve our lives today and secure a future for that four-year-old child to thrive.

At its heart, the Act is about improving public services, largely by preventing problems from happening in the first place.

The national well-being goals of Wales followed a national conversation, “Y Gymru a Garem, the Wales we Want” and provide us with a compass towards a shared future where everyone’s lives are better.

The goals have achieved success already – like a greener transport strategy after helping to divert funds from an M4 relief road that would have compromised sites for nature, a progressive national curriculum educating ethical, global citizens, and a new way to define prosperity that focuses on people.

But when I started in the role in March 2023, I called for more, quicker and wider, transformational change, then, I set a new, clear direction in my seven-year strategy, Cymru Can.

Optimism

I understand that people are frustrated with progress. I am, too.

My office doesn’t have a casework function meaning we cannot help with particular cases, but we can intervene on common issues.

I’ve been clear that we’re not making enough progress in delivering the Act –
that’s why we’ve taken a new approach, refocused our work and stepped up our efforts to support public bodies, so this law works harder.

Now, our core mission in Cymru Can is to work with others to ensure the  implementation of this landmark legislation lives up to its potential. And I’m optimistic about the future.

We’ve had a positive response for our rallying call for a major upping of scale and pace, and a focus on tackling inequality, to protect people on the sharpest end of many of Wales’ biggest challenges.

We’ve heard, via hundreds of conversations all over Wales, the need to work together to protect and grow the good work and common sense solutions that already exist.

Possible

Welsh Government, I’ve urged, must involve communities, build on the transformative local examples, such as Morriston Hospital’s solar farm, which projects energy savings of up to £1m, to increase our ambition nationally and ensure we have a liveable Wales for now and future generations.

Combined crises and the funding settlement from the UK mean we are working in a period of increased pressures. Conversations about our constitutional future must be kept alive.

I’m challenging Welsh Government to shift its focus to long-term, and calling them out when they don’t, from the Economic Mission to the Carbon Budget and the food system.

In evidence to the Senedd Finance Committee last month, I warned the government’s draft budget risked storing up further inequalities and future pressures for our already depleted National Health Service and that future generations will have to rebuild what we stand to lose with more cuts and a lack of creative solutions.

Food strategy

Food is a stark example of another long-term issue with an urgent need for change
and I’ve been calling for that change through the Cymru Can strategy.

My ongoing challenge to Welsh Government is to create a national food strategy, to tackle our huge problem of food insecurity, climate instability and the health of our nation – and to support public bodies to make long term plans for how we’ll feed ourselves in the future.

High food prices mean one in five people in Wales are hungry, disproportionately affecting more disabled people, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people. Global conflict and climate change will pose even greater challenges to Wales’ food supply in coming years and we need to prepare for that.

I’m working for that change in the food system by involving farmers, food businesses, policy makers and the public in a debate on how to shape Wales’ food future.

New way

By setting in law the ways of working – involving people who have a stake in your decision, preventing problems from occurring or getting worse, collaborating with a range of people, integrating your efforts across departments, sectors and the well-being goals, and thinking about the long-term impact of what you do, we can revolutionise how Wales delivers for each of us.

Ramping up our support for public bodies to enable the bold action needed is a huge part of Cymru Can. As just one part of our programme, a new online
tool is up-skilling anyone in the 400,000- strong public sector workforce to future-proof their planning and service delivery.

The Well-being of Future Generations Act belongs to everyone and these are high stakes. It’s in all of our interests to create a better future for tomorrow’s 30, 50, 100-year-olds (who’ll include you and me) and that should involve challenging how this law is put into action.

I’m thankful for the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which, while not perfect, is making a difference. Many tell me the Act makes them proud to be in Wales.

Cymru Can? The alternative is unthinkable. It has to.


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Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
1 month ago

Words fail me! So many problems and there is a Department of Motherhood and Apple Pie!!

David Smith
David Smith
1 month ago

Universal Free School Meals and healthy school food initiatives, align perfectly with the principles of the ground breaking Well-being of Future Generations Act. In recognising the need for updated regulations and improved monitoring of school food standards Welsh Government need to take swift action in the following areas:   (a)   Accelerate updating the 2013 Healthy Eating in Schools regulations that further support the inclusion of fresh, locally produced, minimally processed food, including portion sizes tailored to different age ranges and promoting healthier pupil eating habits, aligned with pupil well-being, sustainability, and climate goals. (b)   Working with local government to implement this locally,… Read more »

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  David Smith

Sounds good. I have to say the current free school meal provision is not great. Lots of processed food and small portions

Mawkernewek
1 month ago

“Y Gymru a Garem” – an inflected imperfect subjunctive in the wild! Had to get A Welsh Grammar by Stephen Williams out for that one!

Last edited 1 month ago by Mawkernewek

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