Sophie Howe has a uniquely forward-looking job. The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales has been tasked with ensuring her country’s public institutions are taking into consideration how their decisions affect Welsh citizens who haven’t been born yet.
Since her appointment in 2016, Howe has intervened on transport planning (Wales has now stopped building new roads), education reform, gender and racial equality, and climate change. She has called for a trial of the four-day working week and has been a vocal advocate for a Universal Basic Income, which will soon be piloted by the Welsh Government.
Howe thinks Wales has adopted a model that the rest of the world should follow. It’s all about really addressing short-termism in governance and government. And that short termism is endemic in every government across the world. Politicians are interested in what they’re going to be able to do in the next five years in terms of how it’s going to get them elected or not. She believes all countries need stronger mechanisms to force governments to think long term.
Howe’s role is thought to be the first of its kind worldwide and, after early promising signs, other nations are following Wales’ lead. In September 2021, Scotland announced that it, too, was appointing a Future Generations Commissioner, and in November, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres endorsed a proposal for a Special Envoy for Future Generations, which could impact the 193 member states. Let's hope so!