What really scares you?

Mike Palmer, Sustainable Development Manager, talks to us about the “Wales We Want” report and the impact of the Well-being of Future Generations Bill is going to have on the Wales Audit Office as it gets closer to becoming law.

It’s been an eventful journey. From day one of the first consultation to where we are today there have been many ups and downs, twists and turns but finally we are at a point where the landmark Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill is now nearing the finish line.

So a quick history lesson for those who haven’t been keeping up!  A duty to promote sustainable development was included in the legislation which established the National Assembly for Wales. Since then it has been at the heart of the evolving process of devolution. Back in the last century, the Bill started out as the next step, in learning from the first ten years of seeking to promote sustainable development, and looking forward to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century. The United Nations are engaged in a similar global refresh to establish a set of international sustainable development goals. If the Bill becomes law in a few weeks’ time, it is likely to be the first piece of legislation in the world to refer to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The-Wales-We-Want-Logo_0So that brings me nicely to the event I attended at the beginning of the month. The launch of the Wales we Want report is a key step in the process and as I stood there watching Peter Davies, Sustainable Futures Commissioner, launch the report, I knew just how much it meant.

Making strides in the right direction

Peter Davies has been facilitating and enabling the national conversation through a growing network of Future Champions. It has engaged nearly 7000 people across Wales, as individuals and as members of communities and organisations. The idea has been to pilot a process that could be used to underpin the Future Generations report, which is a key part of the architecture of the Well-being of Future Generations Bill. The publication of the ‘Wales We Want’ report is also a pilot for the Future Generations Report.

An important moment for me at the launch came when two young people from Ysgol y Creuddyn in Conwy read from the 2009 Eisteddfod lecture, which Morgan Parry delivered in 2009. Morgan Parry was a leading figure in the environmental movement in Wales. As the founder and head of WWF Cymru, chair of the Countryside Council for Wales, and latterly a member of the board of the newly formed Natural Resources Wales, he played a key role in shaping the commitment to sustainable development that has been at the heart of the Welsh devolution process. He died of lymphatic cancer in 2014. In the lecture he imagines that he is his son aged 50, in 2050, is looking back over his life. The combination of the excellent delivery of the Creuddyn pupils and the power of Morgan’s words made a big impact.


Questions and surprising answers

For the question and answer session, I was on the panel alongside Iolo ap Gwynn (Snowdonia National Park), Paola Dyboski-Bryant (Dr Zigs Extraordinary Bubbles), Dewi Llwyd Evans (Grŵp Cynefin) and Alun Ffred jones AM (Chair Environment and Sustainability Committee). This was an opportunity to tackle a number of hot topics, including the role of indicators and targets, in tracking the progress we are, or are not, making towards a more sustainable Wales. I will revisit that topic in a future blog.

The experience of Dr Zigs Extraordinary Bubbles, which Paola Dyboski-Bryant shared with us, was an inspiring and encouraging example of progress in the right direction. The company began as a kitchen sink start up and now employs a small but growing number of permanent staff, and a large crew of seasonal staff. It was also fascinating to hear how a small start -up had been able to access the expertise of Bangor University, through the WISE network.  The company’s environmental and social ethics are integral to its plan for sustainable growth, which has seen its turnover increase and its activities extend into Europe.

Equipping us for the future…

At the end of the event, the host, TV presenter and naturalist, Iolo Williams spoke about how people often ask him if there is anything which scares him, as he is often in wild places with even wilder animals. He always replies that, what really scares him is the thought of being on his deathbed looking in to his children’s eyes, and having to say sorry for the mess that he, and we are leaving behind for them. For me that makes the purpose of the Bill very clear.

The key point we need to understand is that leaving a positive legacy for our children, and children’s children is about us taking personal responsibility, and holding institutions to account for their responsibilities. The Well-being of Future Generations Bill puts some important tools in our hands, to help us do the job.

About the Author:

Michael-Palmer-WEBFollowing a career in local government and the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, Mike Palmer has worked for the Audit Commission and Wales Audit Office since 2000.

He has held various roles at the WAO managing performance audit – including being a Project Manager for the Auditor General report ‘Sustainable development and business decision making in the Welsh Assembly Government’.

Michael has recently been seconded to work across the Wales Audit Office to develop and manage the WAO’s response to the Future Generations Bill and the proposed duty to make sustainable development the central organising principle.

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