WaterLex joined a global community of policymakers and institutions serving to safeguard the needs of future generations at the “Essential ingredients for a sustainable future” conference in Cardiff, Wales, 28-29 April 2015, to discuss how to implement a sustainability agenda. The conference came at a time when Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are being agreed upon for the first time, and as ground-breaking legislation to safeguard the interests of future generations became law in Wales.

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, made law with royal assent at the conference, is the first legislation of its kind, securing in law a set of well-being goals for Wales and strengthening public service governance arrangements, ensuring that present needs are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.

Discussions at the conference focused on how to reorient decision-making processes towards the long term, while showcasing some of the successes around the world where future generations are considered alongside the needs of the present.

WaterLex Presentation

WaterLex Legal Desk Director Jan van de Venis. Photo copyright Dan Green.

WaterLex Legal Desk Director Jan van de Venis. Photo copyright Dan Green, May 2015.

WaterLex’s contribution to the conference were delivered in the form of a presentation and a workshop by Legal Desk Director Jan van de Venis.

In his presentation on 28 April, he discussed how to ensure the legislative foundation to safeguard future needs. Touching on existing national instruments such as parliamentary or national commissions for environment, sustainable development and future generations’ rights, he underlined the need to use the legal principles of ethical behaviour and representation, rules to respect, tools to use and access to courts. Among existing tools, he cited WaterLex’s National Human Rights Institution Initiative for Good Water Governance and recent WaterLex publications aimed at providing solutions based on human rights to improve water governance worldwide.

“Having just returned from the 7th World Water Forum in South Korea, it’s very clear that without proper governance we will not ensure or realise the SDG on water for all by 2030,” he said, urging attendees to “get out of their comfort zone” and embrace interdisciplinary approaches that make sense in the context of the water-food-energy-nexus.

Further, van de Venis said, an expression in a constitution of the need for sustainable development and a right to a healthy environment and water for future generations will not suffice on its own; improved and ongoing water governance is needed.

WaterLex Workshop

Van de Venis also led a workshop on legal concepts of model institutions, with a focus on how the institutions operate and the tools at their disposal. In the list of minimum requirements below, the first six items were identified by World Future Council, the seventh by Worldconnectors, and numbers eight and nine in van de Venis’ workshop in Cardiff

  1. Independent. Thus entailing that a guardian and its staff should not hold any other public (governmental) posts, nor should they have any interests in commercial sectors. The office should also be legally independent, and its budget and stability fixed over longer time.
  2. Proficient and high quality, with staff equipped with a multidisciplinary background.
  3. Transparent, in order to create and maintain trust. It ought to act in accordance with its mandate. Also, regular, publicly available reports should appear about its work.
  4. Democratically legitimate, meaning that the office should enjoy public support. This can be guaranteed through the selection process and the ability for citizens to deliver inputs and receive information. Not only top down, but also bottom up advocacy.
  5. Access to information. The institution needs to have access to all relevant information from governmental authorities.
  6. External assessment, widely accessible to external (expert) assessments and citizens’ concerns so that well-informed and broad argumentation become possible.
  7. Mandate: Appropriately and evidently mandated by law, in terms of powers, duties and responsibilities.
  8. Participation: Allow for broad participation of all stakeholders. Youth (and future generations) and other public involvement. For example “heroes or champions of the future” on one topic (such as water, energy, etc.)
  9. Outreach and communication, educational role: Show successes, actions, outputs and outcomes.

The conference was co-organised by the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainable Futures, the World Future Council, Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales, the Welsh Government and the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations.

Photo copyright Dan Green, May 2015.

From left, UN Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Sustainable Development Director Nikhil Seth, Welsh Minister for Natural Resources Carl Sargeant, and Welsh Commissioner for Sustainable Futures Peter Davies, present the Act. Photo copyright Dan Green, May 2015.

For more information:

WaterLex International Secretariat
Tel: +41 22 907 36 46
Email: info (at) waterlex.org

About WaterLex:

WaterLex is an international public interest development organization based in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a UN-Water Partner with UN ECOSOC special consultative status. Its mission is to develop sustainable solutions based on human rights to improve water governance worldwide, particularly in regard to consistent water law and policy frameworks. It works with an alliance of interested parties to improve water-governance frameworks, bringing them in line with country obligations under international human rights law. The interested parties are individuals and groups working in government (diplomatic missions), academia (professors of law, researchers), bilateral cooperation (water management advisors), the judiciary (high/supreme courts judges), the UN system (UN-Water family members), and civil society (NGOs that work on water issues). WaterLex works in partnership with 85 universities to continuously enrich the content of the WaterLex Legal Database. The organisation is funded by grants and project financing from public agencies, foundations, private gifts, and in-kind contributions. Established in 2010, when the human right to water was recognised by the UN, the organisation has a secretariat in Geneva with 15 staff members, a supervisory board of directors, and a large pool of members and expert advisors. It is an official member of the Global Water Partnership, UNDP Cap-Net, UNDP Global Water Solidarity, UNEP Global Wastewater, and the Swiss Water Partnership.