New Future Generations Commissioner calls for ‘urgent and transformational change’ as he takes up post on St David’s Day
Wales’ new champion for the future of the nation is using his first day in the job to call for “urgent and transformational change” to improve people’s lives now and in the future.
Wales is the first country in the world to create an independent office to act as a guardian for future generations and Derek Walker, the second ever Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, begins work today [March 1] on St David’s Day.
Mr Walker said he wants to build on the momentum created by his predecessor, Sophie Howe, and the energy of the movement of people working hard to improve life in Wales and its future – and that he is committed to hearing about what measures can have the most impact on people’s lives today and in 50-100 years from now, in his first few months of the seven-year post.
The commissioner role exists under the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which requires public services to create a positive impact today, for tomorrow’s world. Mr Walker was selected by a cross-party Senedd panel and the role provides advice and support to government and public bodies to take a longer-term view on policy decisions, and to protect and promote the needs of future generations.
The 50-year-old father-of-two, originally from Cwmbran and now living in Cardiff, said: “Wales’s law to protect the well-being of the unborn is pioneering, and a lot has been achieved in a short space of time, but we need to increase the pace in turning that ambition into action that people can see in their lives every day.
“Now is not the time to be pausing – the need for transformational change is urgent and the issues of today – like the cost of living, nature and climate emergencies – require decisive intervention.
“The green shoots of change to improve lives now and in the future are happening across Wales but we need more and they need to be more widescale.
“From day one, we’ll be putting my office’s energy where we can have the most powerful impact.”
Welsh Government declared a climate emergency in 2019, with the Senedd declaring a nature emergency two years later.
The impact of the cost-of-living crisis tops the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2023 list of the most severe threats over the coming two years, and food price increases are having devastating effects on the poorest and most vulnerable.
Mr Walker added: “The way our public services are delivered is such an important part of my job and my first priority is meeting people around Wales involved in that mission – to listen and understand how we can work together to ensure we’re creating a Wales fit for the future.”
The new commissioner will start his role by beginning a ‘listening exercise’ – and collaborating with a wide range of organisations across Wales to share information on well-being. This will enable him to set his priorities, which he will publish in the autumn, for the seven-year-term – to help meet our well-being goals in Wales.
The new commissioner will share details later in his term on how more people can be involved in the office’s work over the next few years.
His first fortnight will include meeting national bodies, an online climate event with Welsh schools, and the community launch of Ynys Enlli’s Dark Sky Sanctuary status. The island, two miles off the Llŷn Peninsula has been announced as the first Dark Sky Sanctuary in Europe, meaning its unspoiled view of the night sky is protected for current and future generations.
Mr Walker was previously CEO of Cwmpas, the UK’s largest co-operative development agency, which helps people and communities to create jobs and strengthen communities. While there, he changed the organisation’s focus to development that meets the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations.
He has also worked as Head of External Affairs at the Big Lottery Fund (Wales), as Head of Policy and Campaigns at the Wales TUC and was the first employee of Stonewall Cymru.
- You can put your questions to the new Future Generations Commissioner for Wales on his first week, in a Twitter Space (@futuregencymru) conversation this Friday, March 3, at 12.30pm. To submit your questions, e-mail email@example.com by 4pm on Thursday, March 2, 2023.
- For more information on the commissioner and the Well-being of Future Generations Act, go to https://www.futuregenerations.wales
What is the Well-being of Future Generations Act?
Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales.
The legislation puts a legal obligation on public bodies in Wales (including Welsh Government, local councils and health boards) to meet today’s needs without compromising the needs of future generations, via seven interconnected national well-being goals.
Wales is the only country in the world to have put the UN’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) into statute and in September 2021, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, endorsed a proposal for a special envoy for future generations who will be tasked with representing the interests of those who are expected to be born over the coming century. When Wales’ Act was passed into law, Nikhil Seth, then UN Assistant Secretary General, said: ‘What Wales is doing today, the world will do tomorrow.’
Achievements of the Act include a fundamental change to the way Wales measures success – evaluating progress based on well-being, rather than GDP – defining ‘a Prosperous Wales as one which delivers decent work and a low carbon society. It also helped create a future-fit schools curriculum, a new transport strategy and a 10-year national healthcare strategy, focusing on preventative measures such as social prescribing.