From Wales to the Future

At the end of April and first days of May, I had the privilege to be in Cardiff, invited by the Office of the Commissioner for Future Generations of Wales, with a group of worldwide CSO representatives, futures practitioners, and policy leaders, with support from SOIF – School of International Futures. We had the opportunity to discuss the Well-being of Future Generations Act, passed by the Welsh Government in 2015, and build on shared best practices across several continents to collaboratively develop some contributions towards the implementation of the commitments we all hope can be established in the coming UN Summit of the Future. This article is an intent to share some highlights of this journey in Cardiff.

Setting the Stage for a Common Agenda on Future Generations

In its decision 77/568, the General Assembly committed to adopting a Declaration on Future Generations which would, if intergovernmentally agreed, be annexed to the Pact for the Future and form one of the outcomes of the Summit of the Future to be held on 22 and 23 September 2024 in New York. The idea of such a Declaration is not new and indeed the International Community has already made countless commitments to take future generations into account, dating back to the UN Charter.

The UN Secretary-General, in his “Our Common Agenda Report”, invited Member States and other stakeholders to consider specific steps to account for the interests of future generations in national and global decision making and to consolidate these efforts in a Declaration on Future Generations. The Wales Protocol is a concrete response to this challenge.

Discussed in Cardiff has been the “Wales Protocol for Future Generations”. The Wales Protocol was developed by the Office of the Commissioner for Future Generations of Wales with the support of a high-level coalition of global early adopters. The substance of the protocol was informed by a community of over 150 policy leaders, CSO representatives and practitioners from more than 60 countries in a consultation process that explored pioneering experiences from all over the world. This Protocol has been written under the expectation that the United Nations uphold their commitments at the Summit of the Future to:

  • Agree an ambitious Declaration for the rights of Future Generations.
    • Appoint a strategically positioned and well-resourced UN Special Envoy for Future Generations.
    • Commit to substantive action to build futures-oriented governance.
    • Institutionalize the principle of intergenerational fairness.

The Essence of the Wales Protocol: A Shared Vision for a Sustainable Future

The protocol rests on the understanding that future generations deserve a world where their needs and rights are respected. It emphasizes:

  • Inclusivity: Recognizing the importance of gender equality, disability rights, and the invaluable contributions of indigenous knowledge.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Prioritizing the restoration of environmental resilience as a cornerstone of intergenerational justice.
  • Collective Action: Calling for a collaborative approach involving individuals, communities, governments, and international institutions.

The Wales Protocol is a call to action, to transform our world for future generations. It outlines a series of impactful proposals, directed for:

  • People and Communities: Fostering intergenerational dialogues, promoting futures literacy, and empowering citizens to shape their communities with a long-term perspective.
  • Governments: Encouraging political leadership in adopting future-oriented policies, building technical capacity for foresight, and engaging the private sector in sustainable development.
  • Multilateral Systems and Institutions: Promoting inclusive multilateralism, strengthening monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for future-oriented goals, and fostering regional collaboration.

Building Impact Networks at Multiple Scales

As we are advocating for a stronger EU institutional and policy focus on future generations, in close alignment with current draft of the UN Summit of the Future Declaration, we may also consider some of recommendations of action directed towards government institutions, proposed by the Wales Pact, as relevant to the EU Institutions:

  • Supporting Political Leaders: Encourage political leaders to adopt long-term, preventative policies that promote intergenerational equity and strengthen parliamentary oversight for future generations.
  • Building Technical Capabilities: Develop government capabilities in foresight and long-term thinking, ensuring intergenerational fairness in policy design and resource allocation.
  • Co-creating Future-Prepared Policies: Engage intergenerational groups in dialogues and citizens’ assemblies to create inclusive policies that protect local knowledge and commons.
  • Engaging the Private Sector: Involve the private sector in national strategies for long-term development, holding them accountable for their impact on future generations.
  • Establishing Independent Measurement and Accountability Mechanisms: Create mechanisms to measure progress and ensure accountability for sustainable development.

Furthermore, as a Fit for Future Generations EU Coalition of European CSOs for Future Generations, we can also be inspired by the recommendations addressed to the “People and Communities”:

  • Developing Collective Narratives: Engage communities in conversations about their futures, respecting their culture, values, and languages. Connect with youth and indigenous voices.
  • Convening Intergenerational Conversations: Facilitate spaces for intergenerational dialogues to understand diverse perspectives and their impacts on future generations.
  • Investing in Futures Literacy: Promote futures literacy across society, especially among youth, to help them navigate societal challenges and have agency over the future.
  • Establishing Participatory Mechanisms: Ensure citizens can shape their communities by involving businesses, academics, media, civil society, and others in future generations’ needs.
  • Promoting Cultural Shift and Protecting the Commons: Shift mindsets to long-term participatory approaches, protecting the Commons through trust-based alliances between citizens and governments.

All this recommendations and the diversity of those that contributed to the Wales Protocol, are joining efforts to influence, not only the Summit of the Future Declaration for Future Generations, but also to ensure the actual implementation of institutional and policy reform at multilateral, regional (EU, LATAM, Africa, etc.), and national levels, while fostering cooperation and advocacy efforts on behalf of long-term political thinking and intergenerational fairness. policy design best practices.

One concrete action, resulting from the Cardiff gathering, was the draft of an ImPACT Coalition for Future Generations, presented by Jacob Ellis, UN Foundation Next Generation Fellow for Future Generations and Alimi Salifou, Partnerships for Future Generations in Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya on the 10th of May, in the framework of the preparation of the intergovernmental processes related to the Summit of the Future.

The ImPACT Coalition for Future Generations is a global network, dedicated to reimagining the United Nations to effectively address the challenges of the 21st century. Acknowledging that short-termism perpetuates inequalities, the coalition is dedicated to championing the rights of future generations to inherit healthy and sustainable ecosystems through intergenerational equity, trust, and solidarity and ensuring no one is left behind.

As an umbrella coalition uniting a wide range of partners and networks, it will facilitate meaningful and actionable collaboration to amplify long-term governance for the benefit of all. This coalition will explore existing and innovative solutions to balance the needs of the current generation with the needs of future generations. It will play a pivotal role in shaping global discourse and action on sustainable development, climate change, and systemic global challenges like poverty and peace and security through a long-term perspective. Through its work, the Coalition not only supports the UN’s transformation to think, plan, and act for the future, but also sets a standard for future-oriented, multilateral cooperation.

One final word, to acknowledge the learning journey during the preparation of the Wales Pact, mainly due to an immense diversity of experiences, knowledge, practices, technical backgrounds and cultures, age, and gender, represented in Wales. On of such enlightening discussion, was a conversation I had with several participants, on practical aspects of building and leading impact networks. Among the presents was Yuna Lee (Yale University) and Shakil Ahmed is an educator, futurist and storyteller from Bangladesh. Both shared shared some thoughts inspired by David Ehrlichman writings on “Impact Networks”, especially the Four Principles of Network Leadership: trust not control; humility not brand; node not hub; mission not organization.

I believe these principles should always be present in the processes of coalition building for future generations, avoiding the always tempting culture of short-term gains, and extractive practices. Together with resilience, patience and hope, our common causes can succeed, and we can become “good ancestors” (Roman Krznaric, also present in the Cardiff event), even if our name and protagonism is not recorded in the history books.

João José Fernandes,

Oikos – Cooperação e Desenvolvimento