Sophie Howe on how to fight for future generations in politics

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As the future generations commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe’s job is to help guide the government’s decisions for the benefit of people yet to be born. She explains how she uses evidence to bring long-term thinking into politics



Humans



5 July 2022

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Nabil Nezzar

SOMETIMES it seems like the furthest a politician can think into the future is tomorrow’s front pages. Sophie Howe’s job is to break that vicious cycle of short-termism. As the future generations commissioner for Wales, she advocates for the interests of people who will come of age in the future or have yet to be born.

Created in 2016, her position was a world first. But now, as she nears the end of her term in office, the idea of having a political advocate for people of the future is catching on, with several other nations and even the UN planning to follow suit.

Howe’s role is limited to advising the Welsh government, but she has had a considerable impact. New Scientist caught up with her to find out how you go about advocating for unborn people and how evidence can help.

Graham Lawton: How did your unique job come about?

Sophie Howe: In 2010, the administration in Wales had a national conversation with our citizens to ask: what is the Wales you want to leave to your children and grandchildren? The result was a piece of legislation called the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which was passed in 2015. It sets out seven long-term well-being goals. We want a healthy Wales, a resilient Wales, a prosperous Wales, a more equal Wales, a Wales with vibrant culture and cohesive communities, and a globally responsible Wales. The act also established an independent commissioner to oversee implementation.

That’s you! What does your job involve?

I give advice and guidance on the sorts of policies that would take us closer towards meeting those …

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