Delegation of the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rigts at the Geneva Forum of the Economic Commission for Europe (March 21-22, 2019)

On behalf of the Hungarian Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights as a National Human Rights Institution, Anna Martinez-Zemplén attended the Geneva-based regional forum of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, which was aimed at creating an opportunity for a direct, personal exchange of experience and best practices related to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, as well as the discussion of challenges.

The member states of the United Nations Organization adopted the program entitled Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, which was targeted at the eradication of poverty and the creation of a sustainable future by 2030. The goals focused upon by the UN High-level Political Forum aimed at assessing the progress of the program that encompasses 17 partial areas in 2019 are the quality of education, decent work and economic growth, the reduction of inequalities, taking action to combat climate change, as well as peace, justice and strong institutions. It is this framework in which the Geneva-based forum was created, in which the Hungarian, Albanian, Armenian, Danish and Georgian ombudsman’s institutions were involved at the request of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions, and where the importance of human rights in the implementation of the Goals was stressed.

At the forum, some case studies were presented. On behalf of the Hungarian Ombudsman’s Office, Anna Martinez-Zemplén explained how a national human rights institution may support the expression of the opinion of the public in those decision-making procedures that are not appropriately prepared and which ignore the participation of the public. The case study showed the highly publicized dispute concerning the regulation of drilling wells in Hungary and the fundamental rights arguments expressed therein, the outcome of the public and professional disputes, as well as the related decision of the Constitutional Court. Underlying this, there was the policy statement of the Deputy Commissioner for Future Generations Gyula Bándi, which drew attention to those threats to which the quantity and quality of water bases are exposed as a result of the statutory modification. He stressed that the majority of our drinking water reserves is provided by groundwater supplies, the preservation of which is the guarantee for the living conditions of not only the present but also of the future generations. Any regulation that allows that the renewal of water supplies be disregarded, or one that increases the risks of contamination is contrary to the obligation of the state and every person arising from Paragraph (1), Article P) of the Fundamental Law of Hungary. In addition to emphasizing the obligation to protect the water supplies, the Deputy Commissioner proved that there are correlations between the conscious protection of waters and water-dependent eco-systems, the reduction of the chemical contamination of soils, agricultural production, secure food supply and the lives of local farms and communities. Among others, the policy statement points it out that it is the enforcement of ecological sustainability that should be given priority to, and the limits of economic and social action should be defined by the constitutional requirement of preserving the resources for the future generations.

See the case study compiled by Anna Martinez-Zemplén on the Forum’s homepage, at http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/RCM_Website/RFSD_2019__SDG_16_RT2_Case_study_Hungary.pdf.

The complete material of the Forum is available at https://www.unece.org/rfsd2019.html.