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The Future With The Future Generations Commissioner; Derek Walker




1. How have you found the start of your role as commissioner? If there was one thing you hope to achieve with this role, what would that be?

The role of Future Generations Commissioner is unique in the world. Many other countries and even the UN have been impressed by our Well-being of Future Generations Act and the fact we have someone who looks out for the interests of our environment, people now and of those who’ll be born in the future.

Essentially the role is about thinking long-term and not just applying a sticking plaster to today’s problems – so we in Wales can live better lives and we leave behind a livable planet.

The start of the job has been busy. There’s a lot of support for the role and many people have asked to meet me to discuss how we might work together. The law has already created shifts to a greener transport strategy, a progressive curriculum and a new definition of prosperity and now what I want to achieve is better outcomes for the people of Wales, better public services, from healthcare to public transport, as a result of the law. My job is to help government, councils and health bodies to make that happen.

2. You have come into this role at a time where many are feeling perhaps a bit nervous about what the future has in store for them. Do your plans as commissioner aim to give hope to those who need it?

I’m positive about the future. We need radical and urgent change to address the climate and nature emergencies, to prepare for AI and to be ready for all the other changes we know are coming. But while the future will be different, it can be positive and better than today if we act now. By showing people what that positive future looks like, one where previously sidelined communities play a key role in shaping our collective future, we are more likely to bring people with us on the journey.

3. You have previously worked for Stonewall Cymru. How has that role helped in preparing you for this one? And then further, how has being a member of the LGBTQ+ community affected your work life in Wales?

Stonewall Cymru is one of the great campaigning organisations in the UK and has achieved a huge amount in helping change law and policy as well as hearts and minds. I Iearned a great deal from my time there about how to bring about change, which is a big part of my current role.

Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community has affected my working life in many ways, mostly positive. One attribute I hope it has helped me with is empathy. Being a member of a minority community or one that faces discrimination helps you in understanding what other groups might be going through. It has also given me a fire in my belly to bring about positive change.

4. Broadly speaking, how does your role affect the future of LGBTQ+ people in Wales?

Wales has a long-term vision for the country we want to become, via our seven well-being goals. One of the goals is ‘a more equal Wales’ - a society that enables people to fulfil their potential no matter what their background or circumstances. Our legislation gives permission to public bodies to do more in promoting, involving and protecting LGBTQ+ people – that means allowing people to influence the decisions that affect them. An example is Welsh Government working with a wide range of LGBTQ+ communities and organisations to help develop its LGBTQ+ Action Plan. All the other goals are relevant to LGBTQ+ people, too. My job is to advise public sector organisations, like councils and health boards, to achieve these goals and make life better for everyone in Wales.

5. In Wales we are witnessing a NHS that is severely underfunded and understaffed. This is having an effect on Gender Affirming health care in Wales, with waiting lists getting longer and longer. What will you seek to do as commissioner to help ease this problem?

I am new to the role so I am asking people want they think I should focus on in my term as Future Generations Commissioner. One of the areas that is being mentioned consistently is health, not just addressing the current problems of waiting times but preventing health problems in the future. We'll be publishing our plan for my next seven years, this autumn, and people can have their say now on what they think are some of the best ways to bring about change and what a better Wales looks like in 2050.

6. As commissioner would you seek to bring a ban on conversion therapy for Trans people to the attention of the Welsh government?

Conversion therapy is unethical and potentially harmful. There’s no room for conversion therapy in a Wales fit for the future. Absolutely, I would support a ban.

7. In 2021 the home office reported a rise in hate crimes directed towards LGBTQ+ people. We have other organisations reporting that those statistics have gone up more so since the home offices report. We are living in a time where hate crimes directed at LGBTQ+ people are on the rise in the UK. These are occurring in schools and especially towards trans people. What do you aim to achieve in tackling this problem during your time as commissioner?

I’m alarmed by this rising level of hate crime against LGBTQ+ people. The situation is getting worse, blighting the lives for many LGBTQ+ people and ending it for some. Eradicating hate crime against LGBTQ+ people as well as that directed towards Black, Asian and minority ethnic people and others needs to be prioritised if we are going to be successful in achieving a more equal Wales. As commissioner, my job is to influence government, councils and others to make sure it is high on their agenda.

8. How do you think we can build towards a more intersectional Wales? An inclusive and diverse Wales.

This is a huge question and would require much more space to answer fully than I have here. But one thing that is vital is that people who face discrimination and disadvantage have a greater say in how this country is run. They don’t just need a seat at the table, their voice needs to be heard and their voices need to influence decision-making.

9. I think that ultimately LGBTQ+ people want to live in a society that allows them to live normal lives in safety and comfort. What do you think is the most pressing issue of today that we need to tackle to help ensure this future in Wales?

The rising level of hate crime against LGBTQ+ people is probably the most pressing issue for me. It is heart breaking. But these hate crime levels are the symptom of a much wider issue that requires a robust and sustained response.

There are many other issues facing LGBTQ+ people too. For example, 70% of trans people report being impacted by transphobia when accessing general health services. Evidence shows that ethnic minority LGBTQ+ people are at a greater risk of discrimination. These are all issues that are pressing and need urgent action – LGBTQ+ people and rights are under attack and we should never be complacent in protecting them for now and the future.

10. And finally what is your favourite thing about Queer culture, specifically in Wales if you can?

It is impossible to name just one thing, so I am going to name two. I have always felt there is a strong sense of community and solidarity (most of the time). I love, too, our fascinating Welsh queer history that includes the Ladies of Llangollen and Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners, who raised thousands for striking miners in the 1980s, forming a life-long bond.


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