Northern Ireland must not be left behind – Why I’m supporting a Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill

Claire Hanna is the MP for South Belfast

We are currently living through a series of emergencies; from the destruction of natural habitats and the tragic emergence of displaced peoples and refugees to most recently, the spread of the COVID19 pandemic. It should go without saying that we will do everything in our power to address and eradicate these immediate crises and to ensure that future generations are not forced to act in perpetual calamity. It is for that reason, in the landmark years of COP26 and the COVID19 pandemic, that I’m urging Northern Ireland to become a global trailblazer and to introduce our own Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill.

The truth is that we are not doing enough to protect future generations from our own excesses. We are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world more than 11% of our indigenous species are at risk of extinction and Belfast was named the UK’s third most polluted city in 2019, exceeding the WHO’s guidelines with some areas experiencing illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution. We are experiencing the impact of the decline and destruction of nature in the wellbeing of people here and around the world; and it is only going to get worse.

So, we need to be radical. We need to rethink our 5 year, election-cycle driven politics and consider our obligation to future generations which should transcend party politics. It is for this reason that I am supporting the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill which is being taken forward in Westminster by the co-founder of The Big Issue, Lord John Bird. As a Member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Future Generations, I am enthusiastically supportive of effort to radically rethink the way we do politics. We are currently spending billions of pounds every year dealing in emergencies, but we are not getting to the root of the problem. Why? Because up until now, there has been a stark lack of preventative action.

This bill, which has preventative spending at its heart, is modelled off the Welsh Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. This pioneering piece of legislation created the first Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, who’s remit is ensuring that policy and legislative decisions are compatible with Wales’ sustainable development goals. In a sign that the value of futures-thinking, it is gaining momentum across the devolved nations – only last month, the newly formed Scottish Government appointed a Minister whose responsibilities include assigning a Future Generations’ Commissioner.

This timely commitment chimed with the launch of the first UK wide Future Generations Commission in Westminster last week. This ‘proof of concept’ which is devolution-aware, brings together experts and citizens to ensure that experiences from the four nations are harnessed to promote better policy making. As Commissioners, youth spokesperson Matthew Devine and Aideen McGinley, the Deputy Chair of Carnegie UK, are seeking to represent and advocate for people in Northern Ireland.

Indeed, protecting current and future generations is one recommendation made by Carnegie UK in their recent report on wellbeing in NI. It has called for the Executive to legislate to protect the wellbeing of current and future generations by placing the wellbeing outcomes and indicators, currently contained in the Programme for Government, on a statutory footing. This would elevate the outcomes approach from being one of many initiatives to becoming a framework for all aspects of governance, and at the same time, safeguarding the wellbeing of current and future generations against further interruptions in governance and electoral cycles.

Clearly, this is a movement which is having an impact across the globe, and I am keen that we are not left behind. We must learn to embed longer-term policies like multi-year budgets into the policy process as well as the consequences of short-term decisions on challenges like the climate crisis. I would encourage my colleagues to take heed of this work across Scotland, Wales and Westminster and support Lord Bird’s bill, but to also create our own, Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill for NI.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *