Environmental Ombudsman in Hungary
It was almost 2 years ago when dr. Sándor Fülöp, formerly CEO of EMLA (CT member for Europe) and co-founder of TAI was elected by a two-third majority vote of the Hungarian Parliament to be the country’s first ever environmental ombudsman. Let’s see what the homepage of the new institution (http://jno.hu/en/?&menu=home) says about those times: The adoption in November 2007 of the bill establishing the institution of the Commissioner has been preceded by a decade of preparatory work. An early draft of the bill leading to the 1995 General Act on the Environment already foresaw an environmental ombudsman in the early 1990s. However, it was the relentless advocacy and lobbying in the past years of an environmental non-governmental organisation – Védegylet – that has paved the way for forging a unique multi-party coalition in Parliament in favour of the 2007 bill. The project has also enjoyed the pivotal political support of the President of the Republic, Mr. László Sólyom, a former member of Védegylet and an active promoter of the rights of future generations. The amendment on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations came into force on 1 December 2007. Dr. Sándor Fülöp was elected as Commissioner on 26 May 2008 for a term of six years. Recruitment of the personnel of the Office of the Commissioner has been completed in December 2008. How does this new institution work? Above all, the Commissioner for Future Generations is an environmental ombudsman. As one of Hungary’s four parliamentary ombudsmen his principal responsibility is to safeguard citizens’ constitutional right to a healthy environment. In this capacity he investigates complaints relating to a broad range of environmental issues such as the degradation of urban green areas, noise pollution by aviation, licensing of individual industrial installations, etc. Secondly, as a guardian of future generations, he acts as a policy advocate for sustainability issues across all relevant fields of national or local legislation and public policy. This varies from the financing of environmental authorities, through the role of civil society in environmental decision-making to transport infrastructure development. Finally, the Commissioner aims to develop a strategic scientific research network through undertaking or promoting projects targeting the long term sustainability of human societies. The Commissioner for Future Generation is empowered to carry out investigations in relation to all issues that may affect citizens’ constitutional right to a healthy environment. These do not only concern typical issues pertaining to air, water, waste, etc. but also all cases with a likely impact on the long term sustainability of the environment in the broadest sense. Thus the field of competence of the Commissioner also extends to the protection of world heritage sites, historic monuments, environmental health issues, energy and transport policy, greening of the public budget, etc. The very broad competences of the Commissioner can be broken down into the following activities: investigation, policy advocacy, strategy-making and research. And why is all this important now? Because you can read an interesting article about the institution at the following blog: http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/comment/2258683/... and you can decide for yourself if your country can also learn something from this experience/experiment.