The Well-being of Future Generations Bill could change how people and nature are affected in Wales and all over the world. It will hopefully provide strong legislation to shape a sustainable future and provide a duty for public bodies to take global responsibility for the environment and its people.
In recent weeks, government and opposition parties are currently drafting and tabling amendments, and key sections of the Bill have been relaid ahead of the plenary debate on 10 March. The Sustainable Development Alliance wants Assembly Members to vote in favour of amendments which emphasise actions on our global responsibilities.
Sustainable development is something which happens within a global context. The 1987 Brundtland Report which popularised the term makes it clear that “the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given” is one of two core concepts, along with the concept of limitations on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs. Brundtland’s conclusion stresses the need for equity, both between and within generations.
Sustainable development requires us to take action so that we meet the needs of everyone on the planet by only consuming a fair share of those resources which can be used within environmental limits.
This should not come as news to the administration in Cardiff Bay. In 2009 it published One Wales One Planet which defined sustainable development in Wales as “enhancing the economic, social and environmental well-being of people and communities, achieving a better quality of life for our own and future generations; in ways which promote social justice and equality of opportunity; and in ways which enhance the natural and cultural environment and respect its limits – using only our fair share of the earth’s resources and sustaining our cultural legacy.”
This manages to include the idea of environmental limits and, through the concept of fair shares, puts Wales’ role within the global context.
Tackling climate change is also a top priority for combatting global poverty. The changing climate is hitting the world’s poorest countries first, and it is hitting them hard. A robust Well-being of Future Generations Bill should set a clear path for Wales to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases which are causing this problem.
The Well-being of Future Generations Bill (Wales) was billed as making sustainable development the “central organising principle” of our devolved public sector, including the Welsh Government, local councils and the NHS.
The idea of the Bill was enthusiastically welcomed by charities and campaign groups in Wales seeking to put some flesh on the bones of the Welsh Government’s commitment to sustainable development enshrined in two Government of Wales Acts.
The international development sector in Wales has been particularly supportive of a strong Bill. International organisations like Oxfam and Christian Aid, as well has home grown groups including Fair Trade Wales believe there is much more that the public sector in Wales could do to help the world’s poorest people. We’d like to ensure that public bodies can no longer buy products such as clothes made in dangerous sweatshops or timber logged from endangered forests. We want to see public money spent on fair trade goods and other ethical products including supporting Welsh agriculture and business.
The well-being of people in Wales is linked to people and the environment all around the world. Our fuel, our food, our paper and timber all come from international sources.
The Welsh Government has already done some brilliant things to support international development. Volunteers around Wales already contribute to tackling global poverty as community-to-community projects work to support resilient livelihoods and doctors, surgeons and midwives support projects in partner health institutions in Africa. With Welsh Government leadership, Wales became the world’s first Fair Trade Nation in 2008.
We need a strong Well-being of Future Generations Bill. The Sustainable Development Alliance is a group of nearly thirty organisations from development charities to faith and belief, language, community, environment and women’s groups. The Wales International Development Hub, and other international development groups in Wales have been working as part of the Alliance to get a better Bill.
When Desmond Tutu visited Wales he flattered us: “People in Wales have big hearts. They belong in a small country but, oh man, they really have the kick of a mule!” Let’s prove him right by getting our Assembly Members to pass a strong Bill with global goals into law.
The Welsh Assembly will be amending and voting on the Bill on 10 March. See more about the campaign to strengthen the Well-being of Future Generations Bill here.
Wales international Development Hub
Photo Credit: ‘Welsh Government, Wales for Africa Programme, October 2012’
Caption: Desmond Tutu receives a rousing reception from pupils of Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr in Cardiff, 2012.