What if the future of Wales could be shaped by the future of Wales?

Mercy Shibemba

The future of what Wales could be is more exciting than ever. Most people, whether they’re pro-Independence, ‘Indy-curious’ or doubtful about Independence, have some ideas about the Wales they want to see. Collectively, we are re-imagining what Wales could be.

What could the future of Wales look like if children and young people were key stakeholders in shaping it? To be truly democratic, engagement in civic life should be open to all. Across the world, the participation of children and young people in civic leadership rests on the political will and structures there to enable them to do so. Wales has already made its commitment to children and young people clear in the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011.

Recent years have highlighted how Wales is governed by Westminster-based British unionism, which has little understanding or regard for Wales. This is shown by events such as the recent decision to override legislation set by the Senedd or the negative impact of HS2 on Wales.

A recent YouGov poll showed that opposition to independence is at its lowest, with those more likely to support Welsh independence being 16- 24. Engaging this group (which Wales is losing as part of the ‘brain-drain’) to imagine what Wales could and should be a priority. Most people want change, but how we get there and what it looks like is both a challenge and opportunity.

Research highlights the often binary perceptions we have about the participation of children and young people in civic life. Either they’re disengaged and disenfranchised or leading and creating change. The Welsh Youth Parliament is an example of the value young people can bring to politics. But it is also an example of the limitations of replicating systems that we should reimagine.

Reimagining the future of Wales with young people as key stakeholders requires us all to be aware of the influence and power our current frameworks keep away from them.

Additionally, being accountable to the future should ensure that we support children and young people to define what that is. The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (2015) shows that Wales is already leading the way in investing in the people of tomorrow.

By taking an intergenerational approach and supporting children and young people to create, challenge and inspire us all, Wales will be better off. They’re already building a better future for Wales by preserving our planet, tackling loneliness or bringing our cities to life. It is important that we don’t just value them for who they may become, but instead, who they are now, and what they dream for today.

What if we supported our children and young people of today to be key stakeholders in building the independent Wales of tomorrow?

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