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Blog by Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir, WEAll Ambassador and Professor of Sustainability Science at the University of Iceland

June 2, 2020

A few years ago a  guy called me up in Iceland and asked: “Why do the leftists own the environment?“  My answer was: “They do not but they have taken environmental issues to the forefront of their politics.  All parties should do that.“ He went on to found the Right Green Party which never took foothold in Icelandic politics.  But it was a step in the right direction.   Healthy environment and sustainability is tantamount for everyone’s wellbeing.

I was party to a similar discussion in an international WhatsApp group recently:  “Why is it that left-wing governments are promoting the wellbeing agenda?  In doing so it will be rejected by those to the right in politics.“

My response was: “In Iceland there is a broad political base behind the new wellbeing policy which has a focus on prosperity and quality of life and is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development goals.“

Our Prime Minister is from the Left Green Movement, but her coalition government encompasses the whole political spectrum – with the Independence Party (conservative right wing) led by Bjarni Benediktsson who is Minister of Finance and and Economic Affairs, and  the Progressive Party led by Sigurður Ingi Jóhannesson and is Minister of Transport and Local Government.

This broad based coalition government agreed the Wellbeing policy agenda in April 2020.  It has 39 wellbeing indicators that are to be collected and followed by Statistics Iceland.  This is very important when considering what may happen in the next election – when the Left Greens may no longer lead the government.  Then the wellbeing agenda is already engrained in policy with civil servants and public institutional support.

What about the other countries in the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership?

In Scotland, the wellbeing economy agenda is being supported and followed by the National Performance Framework (NPF) which was presented to the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon is from the Scottish National Party (SNP) – which is considered to be a centre-left party and wants Scotland to become independent and and have closer ties with Europe and the EU.

Importantly, the NPF was passed unanimously with support from all five political parties in the Scottish Parliament.  Again, with this broad base of support in parliament the wellbeing economy agenda has a chance to survive if the next elections do not return the SNP as the leading party.

In New Zealand, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set the first wellbeing budget world-wide in May 2019 with a central question – how well are our people? The focus is on five priority areas where evidence indicates greatest opportunities to improve the lives of New Zealanders.  The PM´s political party is Labour (left).  Labour is in a coalition government with the New Zealand First Party (right wing) and the Green Party (left wing).  This again, is a broad-based political coalition, giving strength to the wellbeing agenda.

Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand are all members of WEGo – the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership – which is an offspring of WEAll.  A new member has just joined WEGo – Wales.  The First Minister of Wales is Mark Drakeford and he leads the Labour (left wing) government in Wales.  Wales has had the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act since 2015 that has seven wellbeing goals.  Therefore the wellbeing agenda is firmly in Welsh policy – and has been set in law for five years.

The Wellbeing Economy agenda is therefore neither left wing nor right wing.  It is for us all, so that all people and our planet can prosper.  Now that governments across the globe are finding their feet to lead their nations out of the COVOD-19 health and economic crisis – let us remember that pandemics hit us all, wherever we stand in politics. We also know that we cannot go back to business as usual.

In the worlds of professor Frank Snowden, a historian:  “By creating the myth that we could grow our economy exponentially and infinitely, by almost 8 billion people living on earth, excessive travel, environmental pollution, by pushing back nature more and more, we created almost ideal conditions for the coronavirus to emerge, spread and hit us especially hard.“

Let us join hands across political spectrums and make the Wellbeing Economy the new economy for the 21st century.  Would you like to learn more? Then see the WEAll ten principles of Building Back Better.

By Lisa Hough-Stewart

The city of Amsterdam recently unveiled its new Amsterdam City Doughnut, which Doughnut Economics author and WEAll Ambassador Kate Raworth describes as “taking the global concept of the Doughnut and turns it into a tool for transformative action in the city of Amsterdam.”

Doughnut Economics is a book full of ideas for 21st century economies and since it was first launched in 2017 many people – from teachers, artists and community organisers to city officials, business leaders and politicians – have said they want to put the ideas into practice, indeed they are already doing it.

The iconic Doughnut framework sets a goal of operating within safe social and planetary boundaries. It is a playfully serious approach to framing that challenge, and it acts as a compass for human progress this century.

Kate and her team we are launching Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) to help make this happen. The start-up team is currently working on building a collaborative platform so that this emerging community of changemakers can connect, share, inspire and get inspired, with all the different ways that people are putting the ideas of Doughnut Economics into action.

As well as Amsterdam’s Doughnut, there are already other Doughnuts out there – and this period of great change, transformation and recovery is the perfect time to revisit them.

Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics work began during her time at Oxfam, and the NGO has developed Doughnut frameworks and tools for Wales, Scotland, the UK and South Africa.

Indeed, Oxfam Cymru has recently published a new Welsh Doughnut 2020  – great timing, as the Welsh Government has just joined the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership. 

The Welsh Doughnut 2020 offers many insights into the current situation in Wales and where the government and others could prioritise in order to work towards building a wellbeing economy.

Oxfam Cymru

 

If you’re interested in exploring a Doughnut framework where you are, you can let the Doughnut Economics Action Lab know by filling in this short form.

In the meantime, check out the rich resources that are the existing Doughnuts – and if you’re working on building a wellbeing economy of those locations, make sure that decision makers are aware of the Doughnut analysis that’s already been carried out.

Header image: Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

The Welsh Government has announced its official membership of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership.

In a statement by Jane Hutt, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, the government said:

“Covid-19 has dramatically changed our lives and will have a lasting and profound effect on all of us, on our economy, on our public services and on our communities. We cannot go back to business as normal, and need to plan for a Wales, shaped by the virus, that is more prosperous, more equal and greener, rooted in our commitment to social-economic and environmental justice. Last week, we joined the Well-being Economy Government (WEGo) Network and will be working with Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand – who all have a shared ambition to deliver and improve well-being through their economic approach.”

Alongside Finland, Wales has already participated in WEGo policy forums with the founding members Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand.

Jane Hutt went on to talk about the country’s pioneering Wellbeing of Future Generations Act:

“The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, with its seven well-being goals, provides a long term vision of Wales, agreed by the Senedd back in 2015, puts us on a strong footing to guide us in these unchartered water. Thinking about the long term, involving people, joining up policies and delivery of services, collaborating across all sectors, and focusing on prevention is crucial in working more effectively with people, communities and each other to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. In the First Minister’s statement on the Framework to Lead Wales out of the Coronavirus Pandemic  the Future Generations Act is part of the principles by which we will examine proposed measures to ease the current restrictions, grounded in both scientific evidence and wider impact.”

If you’re based in Wales and would like to get involved with helping promote and build a wellbeing economy there, we can connect you to the team setting up the brand new WEAll Cymru hub. Get in touch at info@wellbeingeconomy.org mentioning Wales in the subject line.

Read the full statement and find out more about the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act here.

Find out more about the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership here.

 

WEAll Wales founder Duncan Fisher has written a series of four visionary articles on the Institute of Wales Affairs website, designed to encourage and guide Wales towards becoming a wellbeing economy.

Last week we shared the first of the series here.

You can now read all four at the links below.

  1. Unhappiness threatens our democracies: the data proves it
  2. Beyond GDP – welcome to wellbeing
  3. Wellbeing worldbeaters: New Zealand, Scotland and Iceland
  4. Welsh wellbeing – where we need to go from here

If you’re interested in getting involved with WEAll work in Wales, contact Duncan here. He is in the process of establishing a new WEAll hub in Wales and is keen to connect with like-minded people and organisations to build momentum.

The newest WEAll place-based hub is developing quickly in Wales, with seasoned campaigner Duncan Fisher taking the lead on pushing for a wellbeing approach to economics.

Wales’ devolved Assembly is already world-leading in its approach to intergenerational justice, having appointed a Future Generations Commissioner and enacting a Future Generations Act in 2015.

Now, Duncan argues in the first of a series of policy-focused articles for the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA), it is time ” for wellbeing economics to be made the lynchpin of economic policy in Wales, replacing the central pursuit of growth.”

Duncan goes on:

“It is quite evident that fundamental system change is absolutely and urgently required and that there is a long way to go to achieve it but very little time. I believe that shifting to wellbeing economics is fundamental to such system change.

The purpose of these four posts is to float ideas and invite reaction and rapid discussion. The global organisation, Wellbeing Economy Alliance, provides an invaluable resource for discussions everywhere in the world. The Alliance has provided great help to me in composing these posts.

At the end of the series, after assessing the feedback to the first three pieces, I will float ideas for what more we could do in Wales to hasten the journey towards system change. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance stands by ready to help, connecting us with the best minds and activists across the world.”

Read Duncan’s full post on the IWA website here – we’ll be sharing his future posts when they’re published, too.

Image: VisitCardiff