Headline: An early opportunity to respond to the UN Call for a ‘Decade of Action’

The “Future is Now” Event, Radisson Blu Hotel Berlin, 5th March 2020

On 5 March 2020, the Welsh Government and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) will be jointly hosting a shared learning event in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Berlin. The event, "The Future is Now", will be a tangible demonstration of Sustainable Development Goal 17, “Partnerships for the Goals”. Specifically, it will seek to show how collaboration between European countries, at a local and sub-national level, can strengthen our response to the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030.

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The United Nations report, “The Future is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development”, finds that the current development model is not sustainable. It highlights how progress made in the last two decades is in danger of being reversed, through irreversible declines in the natural environment that sustains us, and worsening social inequalities. The scientists concluded that a more optimistic future is still attainable, but only by drastically changing development policies, incentives and actions.

The UN Secretary-General has called on all sectors of society to mobilize for a decade of action on three levels: global action; local action; and people action. The “The Future is Now” event will provide an early opportunity for people to come together to respond to the Secretary-General’s call for a ‘Decade of Action’.

>> If you would like to attend this event, a link to the full programme and to register can be found at the end of this article (related links).<<

The event will also mark five years since the groundbreaking "Well-being of Future Generations Act" made Wales the first country in the world to pass a law to support the implementation of Agenda 2030. We are therefore delighted that the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, AM, will be giving the keynote address. This law seeks to fundamentally challenge business as usual, at all levels of government in Wales. It places a duty on public bodies in Wales, including Welsh Government Ministries, to consider the implications of their decisions for future generations.

“The Wales Future Generations Act captures the spirit and essence of two decades of United Nations work in the area of sustainable development… We hope, what Wales is doing today, the world will do tomorrow…”

The United Nations 2015

It is, therefore, encouraging to see that Lord John Bird recently introduced Future Generations legislation into the United Kingdom parliament. The Big Issue magazine is running a high-profile campaign in support of this draft legislation. It secured the support of a wide range of Members of Parliament during the recent General Election.

I have been delighted to work with colleagues at the IASS and the Welsh Government to co-create and co-curate an event that will seek to walk the talk of the Sustainable Development Goals both in terms of content and in the way the event is being organized. For those unable to reach Berlin using responsible travel options, we are live-streaming the event.

The event focuses on the importance of partnership and the need to establish where words are being turned into action at local and sub-national levels. It will try to identify ways of strengthening collaboration between European countries in support of Agenda 2030, and how that in turn can strengthen global collaboration.

We will encourage workshop participants to explore ways of probing and challenging to discover if there are lessons or principles that can be drawn out and applied more widely.

In addition to the climate emergency, the biodiversity crisis, and growing inequality, many researchers and commentators are identifying threats to long-standing democratic norms. Citizen engagement has always been a core feature of sustainable development. However, in response to our current challenges, I believe that we need a strong focus on innovative ways of meaningfully engaging citizens. For this reason, I am really pleased that we are able to feature approaches to citizen engagement in Germany, including an address by Prof. Patrizia Nanz and a workshop featuring the Berlin Mobility Law.

Other workshops will consider:

  • the development of marine energy in Wales and the energy transition in Germany;
  • responses to the post-coal transformation in the Lausitz and South Wales; and
  • the concept of a well-being economy.

This event provides a living demonstration of the mission of the IASS:

“We undertake transdisciplinary, transformative and co-creative research in cooperation with partners from science, society, and policymaking with the aim of developing solutions to critical sustainability challenges and supporting national and international decision-making processes.”

IASS

For me, the event also highlights the unique opportunities that an IASS Fellowship provides. Over the last ten months I have benefited greatly from being able to engage with researchers and other fellows to discuss and explore, in depth, the wide range of scientific research in which they are engaged. One of my ambitions for my time as a fellow has been to explore how to combine my practical experience with the academic expertise and scientific rigour of the IASS. I am pleased that this event will enable us to share that exploration more widely.

Finally, the ‘Future is Now’ event will take place only five weeks after the UK formally left the EU. At this stage no-one knows whether the departure will be a short, brutal rupture or a long, complicated recalibrating of the relationship. Personally, I think that whatever form the divorce takes, it is a matter of great sadness, disappointment and concern regarding the impact on future generations.

I really do hope that you can take part in this event! We are keen for as many people as possible to join us in Berlin on the 5th March. If you are unable to attend in person, please try and join in virtually. By supporting this event and contributing your ideas and your experience, you will be actively demonstrating your commitment to European-wide collaboration, and, in particular, strengthening the existing collaboration between Germany and Wales.

Interview with Senior Fellow Mike Palmer about "The Future is now"

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