“Essential Ingredients for a Sustainable Future”

Anticipation is high that 2015 will be a landmark year for sustainable development. The 70th UN General Assembly in September will culminate in the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals with targets for all countries, up until 2030. It is in this favourable context that the conference ‘Essential ingredients for a sustainable future – Why do we need independent institutions, and how should they work for the long term?’ will take place in Cardiff in Wales, on the 28 and 29 April. The event is organised by the World Future Council, the Welsh Office of the Commissioner for Sustainable Futures, the Welsh Government, Sustain Wales and the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations. It will be the occasion to highlight the positive processes achieved or outstanding, at all levels; UN, EU, national, regional, etc.; where the needs of future generations are being actively considered and implemented.

The programme includes panels and workshops led by several eminent speakers from different horizons; including Edith Brown Weiss, Professor of International Law from Georgetown University Law Centre in Washington DC and Nikhil Seth, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, UNDESA (Department of Economic and Social Affairs). Themes will include ‘New institutions to drive the change – working with purpose and impact to protect our common future’, ‘Identifying the gaps for institutional innovation’, ‘Learning from the rich experience of existing examples elsewhere’ and ‘Looking to the future – perspectives in practice’.

As the conference coincides with the passage of the Well-being of Future Generations Bill in the Welsh Assembly, Cardiff offers the perfect backdrop to speak about a sustainable future. Indeed Wales is leading the way in taking on board the interests of present and future generations in the decision making process. The current Commissioner for Sustainable Futures has led a ‘National Conversation’ to build a picture of ‘the Wales We Want’ by listening to the people of Wales on their pressing concerns and the threats that they fear will face Wales in the future. More information on the Bill can be found here.

The conference will bring together a global community of institutions serving to safeguard the needs of future generations, all named by the UN Secretary-General in his Report of 2013, ‘Intergenerational Solidarity and the Needs of Future Generations’[1], including

–       the Committee for the Future in Finland, which deliberates parliamentary documents referred to it and, makes submissions to other committees on future-related matters.;

–       the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in Canada, Julie Gelfand, who is responsible for assessing whether federal government departments are meeting their sustainable development objectives, and overseeing the environmental petitions process;

–       Hungary’s Ombudsman for Future Generations, Dr. Marcel Szabó, whohas the task to ensure the protection of the fundamental right to a healthy environment. He examines individual measures and monitored policy developments and legislative proposals to ensure that they would not pose a severe or irreversible threat to the environment or harm the interests of future generations;

–   the Australian Capital Territory’s Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, Robert Neil who encourages sound environmental practices and procedures to be adopted by the Territory and Territory authorities as a basis for ecologically sustainable development.

–   Germany’s Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Developmentserves as the advocate of long-term responsibility in the political process, should structure policy for future generations and support the work of the bodies created by the Federal Government.”

All these institutions are the proof that future generations are being increasingly considered, and that dedicated mechanisms can support and facilitate the process.