Words: Elaine Quinn (December 2016)
Image Credits: Open Source
Reading Time: 2.5 minutes

New Law: The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015

Timing: In force since 1 April 2016

Positive impact: to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales.

In Wales, on 1 April 2016, a radically progressive piece of legislation The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (the Wellbeing Act) came into force with its aim to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales.

The Wellbeing Act makes Wales the first country to have legislated on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and it is one of the very few such laws in the world that legislates for sustainable development. When it first received royal assent in 2015, Nikhil Seth, Director of Division for Sustainable Development at the UN said: “The Wales future generations Act captures the spirit and essence of two decades of United Nations work in the area of sustainable development and serves as a model for other regions and countries. ‘One Wales, One Planet’ captures it all. We hope that what Wales is doing today the world will do tomorrow. Action, more than words, is the hope for our current and future generations.” 

The Wellbeing Act is centred upon a duty of sustainable development and wellbeing for public bodies in Wales. Public bodies subject to the legislation include: Welsh Ministers, Local Authorities, Local Health Boards, Public Health Wales NHS Trust, National Park Authorities, Fire and Rescue Authorities, Natural Resources Wales, The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, The Arts Council of Wales, Sports Council of Wales, National Library of Wales and the National Museum of Wales.

These public bodies are obliged under the Act to carry out sustainable development which is defined in the Act as the process of improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales by taking action aimed at achieving seven wellbeing goals described in the Wellbeing Act as:

  • A prosperous Wales: An innovative, productive and low carbon society which recognises the limits of the global environment and therefore uses resources efficiently and proportionately (including acting on climate change); and which develops a skilled and well-educated population in an economy which generates wealth and provides employment opportunities, allowing people to take advantage of the wealth generated through securing decent work.
  • A resilient Wales: A nation which maintains and enhances a biodiverse natural environment with healthy functioning ecosystems that support social, economic and ecological resilience and the capacity to adapt to change (for example climate change).
  • A healthier Wales: A society in which people’s physical and mental well-being is maximised and in which choices and behaviours that benefit future health are understood.
  • A more equal Wales: A society that enables people to fulfill their potential no matter what their background or circumstances (including their socio economic background and circumstances).
  • A Wales of cohesive communities: Attractive, viable, safe and well-connected communities.
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language: A society that promotes and protects culture, heritage and the Welsh language, and which encourages people to participate in the arts, and sports and recreation.
  • A globally responsible Wales: A globally responsible Wales. A nation which, when doing anything to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales, takes account of whether doing such a thing may make a positive contribution to global well-being and the capacity to adapt to change (for example climate change).

Read more about this innovative and exciting piece of legislation here.

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