Feasta and CEF webinar on June 5 – BEYOND GDP: Governance and Budgeting for Well-being

The Feasta/CEF webinar BEYOND GDP: Governance and Budgeting for Well-being explored ways to transition to Well-being Governance and Budgeting in Ireland and elsewhere.  There is increasing acceptance that our current GDP-focused measurements of progress are a significant contributory factor to emerging environmental and social crises. At the same time citizens and policy makers are increasingly aware of the urgent need to identify and prioritise measures to improve health, care and quality of life.

In Ireland, the 2020 government formation talks included discussions on how best to approach budgeting that will “focus on quality of life rather than economic growth”. The Irish political parties joined the growing chorus of those who believe that a new direction is needed – “Our overriding focus is to improve the wellbeing of the Irish people and society………To assess the performance of a new Government, we must look beyond economic indicators. We will create new, credible, quality-of-life measures of individual and societal wellbeing and progress.”

This event was intended to support that process and drew from experiences in Germany and Wales as well as updates on work in Ireland. Speakers included Dr Benjamin Held, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, FEST, Glyn Jones, Chief Statistician, Welsh Government and Sinead Bracken, Health Statistician, Central Statistics Office, Ireland. There was a panel discussion moderated by Emeritus Professor John Sweeney.

Event video:

Video timeline:
0:10 Run-through of webinar structure and context by Caroline Whyte (Feasta)
5:54: Introduction by Emeritus Professor John Sweeney; the speakers introduce themselves
17:34: Dr Benjamin Held’s presentation (FEST)
34:15 Sinéad Bracken’s presentation (Central Statistics Office, Ireland)
50:10: Glyn Jones’ presentation (Welsh Government)
1:12:16 Questions and answers
1:36:26 Summing up and closure by James O’Donovan (CEF)

The presentations can be downloaded below.

CEF and Feasta have put together some links to international resources relating to this important topic and we hope the list will be expanded considerably with the information gathered at the webinar.

The event was co-hosted by Cork Environmental Forum (www.cef.ie) and FEASTA. It aimed to stimulate discourse on this very pertinent topic as we attempted to explore the tension in the current economic model and to look for more promising directions of travel.

This event focussed on what Ireland can learn from other countries who have already put in place a framework of measures for individual and societal well-being and progress. We heard what had been done to date, in particular, as regards environmental measurements and drew lessons from Ireland’s Wellbeing of the Nation Report.


Benjamin Held, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, FEST

Feasta has been working with the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, FEST, on the development of a composite indicator based on the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare Approach. This index has been adopted and implemented by a number of German Federal States, but not yet in Ireland. Benjamin Held presented the outcomes of this work in Germany.

Download Dr Benjamin Held’s presentation

Glyn Jones, Prif Ystadegydd/Chief Statistician, Llywodraeth Cymru/Welsh Government

The Welsh Well-being of Future Generations Act aims to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. The act establishes seven well-being goals as a shared vision for the public bodies of Wales. The Welsh Government has established National Indicators and is planning to develop national milestones to measure progress. The Auditor General and the Future Generations Commissioner help to ensure that the public bodies are accountable for their performance of the Act’s requirements. The most recent report, published by Welsh Government statisticians, is the Wellbeing of Wales Report, 2018-2019.

Glyn Jones has been the Chief Statistician for Wales since 2013 and spoke about the progress in establishing and implementing Governance for Wellbeing in Wales.

Download Glyn Jones’ presentation  

Sinéad Bracken, Health Statistician CSO, Ireland

The Central Statistics Office, Ireland produced a Well Being State of the Nation Report in 2017. Sinéad Bracken presented on the process that led to the development of the Irish Wellbeing Report and that is used to select the Wellbeing Indicators and the broad range of indicators that the CSO maintains in the Environmental Indicators Ireland Annual Report.

Dowload Sinéad Bracken’s presentation

Emeritus Professor John Sweeney

Emeritus Professor John Sweeney has been a member of the Geography Department at Maynooth University since 1978. John has taught courses in climatology, biogeography, geomorphology and environmental resource management at Maynooth University and a number of universities in North America and Africa. He has published over 100 scientific papers and authored/ edited/co-authored 4 texts on various aspects of climatology and climate change in Ireland. Professor Sweeney contributed to the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He is also a regular contributor to print and broadcast media on matters related to climate change science and policy and received the inaugural award for achievements in journalism from the European Meteorological Society in 2014.

Prof. Sweeney moderated the Panel Discussion that included questions from participants. Aspects that were explored included:

· The factors that supported the establishment of Well Being Based Government
· The process used to select the Well Being Indicators
· How successfully the Well Being Indicators have been incorporated into Government Budget Decisions?
· What have been the most striking findings so far from the existing well-being measurement programmes, with regard to the relationship between well-being, consumption levels and resource use?

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