Joint Statement of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations on the Occasion of Earth Day
In their joint statement published on the occasion of Earth Day, Dr. Ákos Kozma, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and Dr. Gyula Bándi, Deputy Commissioner, Ombudsman for Future Generations call attention to the protection of wildlife and our natural treasures, as well as to our collective duty to preserve them for future generations.
Earth Day was first held on 22 April 1970 in the United States, with the participation of more than twenty million people nationwide. The organisation of the event was triggered by the oil spill around Santa Barbara, which was one of the largest environmental disasters in the United States, and which practically served as a driving force towards environmental legislation and an ecologically more sensitive lifestyle. Twenty years later, Earth Day events went global with the aim of bringing environmental protection issues into the focus of attention and action all around the world. Last year, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day mobilised more than a billion people from nearly two hundred countries through the involvement of as many as 75,000 participating organisations. It is currently the only event in the world that is celebrated by people of different origins, religions and nationalities. The slogan of Earth Day, which revolves around a different theme each year, is the following: “Who says you can't change the world?”
This year, Earth Day events will focus on the restoration of the world’s ecosystems and global environmental processes. Many different reports have been published on the natural environment, both in Hungary and abroad, which all warn us that we are on a path leading to ecological collapse, hence, to the end of our current social structure and consumer society. In its monitoring report on the National Framework Strategy on Sustainable Development issued in December 2019, the National Council for Sustainable Development of Hungary calls attention to the fact that “we cannot be sufficiently innovative, competitive and cannot become a European society offering the best quality of life without taking care of the human, social and natural resources to the required extent”. Furthermore, as pointed out by the Council’s Action Plan Proposal of 30 May 2019 that examines the state of natural resources in Hungary, the key objectives of the current government term cannot be achieved without environmental sustainability. Pursuant to Article P) of the Fundamental Law of Hungary, it is our collective responsibility to protect our natural resources.
The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his Deputy remind that according to the ruling of the Constitutional Court of Hungary, the State – acting as a sort of trustee for future generations as beneficiaries, ensuring the protection of their hypothetical heritage – may allow the use and exploitation of natural and cultural treasures only to the extent that does not jeopardize the long-term sustainability of these assets. In line with the above, the State must take into account the interests of both present and future generations when managing these assets and creating the relevant regulations.
In the course of their activities, the Ombudsman and his Deputy monitor the state of our environmental values that form part of the common heritage of our nation, as well as the development of the respective legal regulations, and, if needed, they take the necessary steps with the instruments at their disposal.
Although it has been half a century now that the Earth Day initiative urges for active involvement, the state of our environment is continuously deteriorating. However, instead of pointing fingers, we must take meaningful actions in order to protect our planet, both individually and collectively, at all levels ranging from individual to global responses. Be well-informed and act, this is the responsibility that lies with us. There are numerous environmental civil society organisations, economic associations and scientific organisations in Hungary that strive to provide the necessary information and encourage active involvement, not only on this day of the year, but all year around.
On the occasion of Earth Day, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his Deputy spur each and every one of us to contribute to the protection of our environmental heritage and its preservation for future generations also at the individual level – by fulfilling our constitutional obligations and doing our best to seize our opportunities.