Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
What is the role of the Commissioner?
The Commissioner’s role is to be the guardian of future generations. This means helping public bodies and those who make policy in Wales to think about the long-term impact their decisions have.
For example, if we know that around 35% of jobs in the UK may disappear as a result of robots, artificial intelligence or computers, what’s that going to mean to you, your children and your grandchildren?
We know that we’ll be living longer, but are we going to be living healthy, active lives or are we going to be living lives with long-term illness and health conditions?
Public bodies really need to be focusing on how their decisions are going to impact in the long-term, and working together to prevent problems occurring, recognising that no single public body can respond to some of the big challenges that need to be addressed.
We’ve all got a part to play in constructing the Wales that we want to see in the future.
Who is the current Commissioner?Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.
Sophie took up post in 2016 and has led high profile interventions around transport planning, education reform and climate change challenging the Government and others to demonstrate how they are taking account of future generations.
Described by the Big Issue Magazine as one of the UK’s leading Changemakers, her interventions have secured fundamental changes to land use planning policy, major transport schemes and Government policy on housing - ensuring that decisions taken today are fit for the future.
She has represented Wales at the UN the OECD and on a number of International Forums including Chairing the Network of Institutions for Future Generations.
Listen to Sophie Howe’s Radio 4 ‘Four Thought’
What are the Commissioner’s powers and duties?
Her general duties are to:
“Promote the sustainable development principle, in particular to act as a guardian of the ability of future generations to meet their needs and encourage public bodies to take greater account of the long-term impact of the things they do.”
“Monitor and assess the extent to which well-being objectives set by public bodies are being met.”
- Provide advice to Public Bodies and Public Services Boards
- Carry out reviews into how public bodies are taking account of the long-term impact of their decisions
- Make recommendations following a review
The purpose of my organisation has been defined as to:
Highlight the big issues, challenges and opportunities facing future generations
Support and Challenge
Support and challenge public bodies to think about the long-term impact of the things they do
Work with others to drive the changes needed
Walk the talk
Walk the talk – be the change we want to see in others
What powers does the Commissioner have?
The Commissioner must promote the sustainable development principle , act as the guardian of future generations and encourage public bodies to think of the long term effect of their decisions. To do this, the law allows the Commissioner to:
- provide advice or assistance to a public body;
- provide advice to the Auditor General for Wales on the sustainable development principle;
- provide advice or assistance to a public services board in relation to the preparation of its local well-being plan;
- provide advice or assistance to any other person who the Commissioner considers is taking (or wishes to take) steps that may contribute to the achievement of the well-being goals;
- encourage best practice amongst public bodies in taking steps to meet their wellbeing objectives in accordance with the sustainable development principle;
- promote awareness amongst public bodies of the need to take steps to meet their well-being objectives in accordance with the sustainable development principle;
- encourage public bodies to work with each other and with other persons if this could assist them to meet their well-being objectives;
- seek the advice of an advisory panel in relation to the exercise of any of the Commissioner’s functions.
The Commissioner can also undertake research into the extent to which the well-being goals and national indicators are consistent with the sustainable development principle, as well as the extent to which the sustainable development principle is taken into account in national indicators set out by the Welsh Government.
Finally, the Commissioner can conduct formal reviews to provide her with insight on how public bodies apply the Act. However, it is important to note that conducting a review does not allow the Commissioner to overturn specific decisions that have already been made. It is a mechanism to find out if public bodies are protecting future generations and to check if they have thought of the long-term impact of their actions. At the end of a review, the Commissioner can make recommendations to advice on how the public body should apply the Act in the future.