Joint Statement of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations on the Occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity

Dr. Ákos Kozma, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and Dr. Gyula Bándi, Deputy Commissioner for the Interests of Future Generations urge changes supporting sustainable living in order to protect biological diversity. The Fundamental Law of Hungary obliges each and every Hungarian to protect the diversity of nature.

Biodiversity is the very foundation human life rests upon. The protection of the unique diversity of life in all of its manifestations is more than a mere question of aesthetics or morals; it cannot be restricted to the preservation of certain endangered species. It is much rather an indispensable condition to the stability, operability and resilience of ecosystems, which provide the existential foundation of mankind. It is genetic diversity and the plethora of species that make it possible for nature to adapt to changing conditions if necessary. A healthy, well-functioning ecosystem is more resilient to environmental pollution, climate change and non-indigenous invasive species as well, and it creates healthier living conditions for generations present and future.

However, in the past couple of decades, biological diversity has been declining at an alarming rate. According to the comprehensive report published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in 2019, the current destruction of nature has been unprecedented in human history. Man has entirely transformed as many as 75 per cent of the continental areas of the world, fundamentally altering the living conditions of wildlife. The extension of urban areas has more than doubled since 1992; more than half of humanity is currently living in an urban environment. In Hungary, this figure is estimated to be at around 70 per cent and it is growing steadily; at the same time, we are continuously eliminating our green surfaces, transforming them into artificial surface covering, buildings, and farmlands. It must be kept in mind that there is virtually no economic decision that would have no effect on the condition of biodiversity, and hence on the processes underpinning the basic building blocks of human life.

Whereas human activities triggering the above processes have seemed to go on unstoppably for decades, the coronavirus pandemic of the past year drew our attention mercilessly to the unsustainability of this situation, as well as to the importance of the harmonious co-existence of man and environment. If mankind wants to live in a healthy environment that is resilient and sustainable in its diversity, we need to reform our current lifestyle fundamentally. We must make it clear for everyone that technological development cannot make up for those assets that only a healthy natural environment is able to ensure – such as healthy drinking water, clean air, nutritious food, the raw materials of medicine, and last but not least, the natural environment itself which essentially determines our mental state.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his Deputy are responsible, among others, for protecting the rights to a healthy environment and to physical and mental health under the Fundamental Law, which is inseparable from the preservation of biodiversity and the ecosystems created by it. Furthermore, it cannot be overemphasized that pursuant to Article P) of the Fundamental Law of Hungary, biodiversity, and indigenous plant and animal species in particular, form the common heritage of the nation, and it is the obligation of the State and everyone to protect and maintain them. Therefore, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his Deputy urge for actions to promote a sustainable way of living in all areas, on all levels ranging from citizens to decision-makers, and in all economic sectors, especially with respect to the shaping of agriculture, forestry, and the built environment.