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UN set to take 'future generations' movement global

In a landmark move, the United Nations has announced it will follow The Big Issue’s lead in making sure decisions made today do not hurt future generations.

future generations

The UN is taking the fight for future generations global as The Big Issue aims to bring in ground-breaking legislation in the UK. Image: Ma Ti / Unsplash

The United Nations is set to introduce guidelines for countries across the world to ensure they consider the impact on future generations when making decisions in the present day.

The Big Issue founder Lord John Bird has been bringing his Future of Generations Bill through parliament inspired by legislation already in place in Wales that made Sophie Howe the UK’s first future generations commissioner.

But the UN has paved the way for more leaders across the globe to scrutinise the decisions made by public bodies in the present day to ensure they do not adversely affect future generations.

The UN will make a Declaration of Future Generations as well as appointing a special envoy and will hold a Futures Summit in 2023.

“Our vision for a UN Special Envoy for Future Generations is inspired by the progress being made in some countries around the world, including Wales, which demonstrates that it is possible to legislate and take action to put the interest of future generations at the heart of government,” said Jayathma Wickramanayake,  United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. 

The UN’s move is a landmark and significant announcement, representing an important leap forward in international recognition for the Future Generations movement.

It’s the perfect time for Westminster to demonstrate their commitment to sustainablity by being the first UN country to enshrine a duty to protect future generations into law

Lord John Bird

Wales introduced the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) in 2016 and appointed the UK’s first Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe to scrutinise decisions made by government and public bodies to ensure they meet future needs. 

Scotland is set to follow Wales’ lead – with Howe meeting Scottish minister Patrick Harvie to share expertise during COP26 – while Lord Bird is currently bringing legislation through Westminster to ensure the UK government follows suit. His Future Generations Bill passed through the committee stage in the House of Lords on Noveember 10. 

“With COP26 happening and as my bill enters committee stage, it’s the perfect time for Westminster to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by being the first UN country to enshrine a duty to protect future generations into law – following the lead of our progressive counterparts,” added Bird. 

Howe has been advising the UN on the need to establish future generations governance throughout the UN institution in recent months. 

The future generations commissioner for Wales has engaged with UN senior officials and departments including the UN Climate Change Envoy, UN Environment Programme, UN Women and the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy for Youth.  

Howe also met with Scottish minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights Patrick Harvie while attending COP26 to discuss how Scotland can bring in future generations legislation.

Scotland announced plans to follow Wales’ lead in establishing a future generations act and appointing a future generations commissioner in August. Following his meeting with Howe at COP26, Harvie tweeted: “Scotland has a lot to learn as we follow in your footsteps.”

“Action across the world is slow to protect the needs and interests of future generations,” said Howe.

“I am calling on governments to adopt future generations legislation to ensure decisions taken today meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.   

“The climate and nature crisis is here, it’s now – that’s why every country in the world needs a future generations act to limit the impact. We all have a duty to protect people not born yet, from the harm they’ll suffer without serious climate action.”

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