The Role Of the Ombudsman

The need for an Ombudsman for Future Generations was recognised and accepted by the Hungarian Parliament in 2007. In 2011 the Parliament recognised the need to protect natural resources at constitutional level by stating in the Fundamental Law that: "agricultural land, forests and drinking water supplies, biodiversity – in particular native plant and animal species – and cultural assets are part of the nation's common heritage, and named the State and every person to be obliged to protect, sustain and preserve them for future generations". It established a direct link between the environment, the interest of future generations and basic constitutional rights such as the right to a healthy environment and the right to physical and mental health. This strong relationship was first established by the Constitutional Court when in 1994 it emphasised the link between the right to a healthy environment and the State duty for establishing an institutional system that provides substantive and procedural legal guarantees in this respect. Since 2007 the Ombudsman has relied heavily on this argument and has called upon the State on several occasions to fulfil its duty in order to respect individual fundamental rights.

While the institutional set up of the ombudsman system has gone through several changes over the years the main approach has not been changed. It was introduced by the first Ombudsman for Future Generations Mr. Sándor Fülöp who led an independent office much like the General Commissioner and the other two specific Parliamentary Commissioners. Due to the institutional changes that merged the offices into a single office, making the three independent Ombudsmen Deputies and changing the way in which the specific fundamental rights could be represented, Mr. Fülöp resigned in 2012.

Despite the institutional changes, the Ombudsman for Future Generations is still elected by the Parliament with a majority vote of two-thirds.  In October 2012 Mr. Marcel Szabó was elected by the Parliament as the second Ombudsman for Future Generations for a six year period. In 2016 Mr. Szabó was appointed as a judge on the Constitutional Court of Hungary. 

Under the new institutional structure the Ombudsman for Future Generations may initiate and/or participate in investigations upon complaints and ex officio conducted by the general Ombudsman;  propose to turn to the Constitutional Court or the Curia of Hungary in cases where there is a strong belief that a national or local piece of legislation is in violation of the Fundamental Law. Also, he Ombudsman for Future Generations may initiate intervention in public administrative court cases regarding environmental protection. In the course of these procedures he has access to all relevant documents. The mandate of the he Ombudsman for Future Generations includes the right to examine national and local legislative actions; to monitor policy developments and legislative proposals to ensure that they do not pose a severe or irreversible threat to the environment or harm the interests of future generations. He is involved in the elaboration of non-binding statements and proposals to any public authority including the Government, and ensures that the direct link between the nation's common heritage and the fundamental rights of all generations (including future generation) are respected and not forgotten.

In his report of 15 August 2013 on ‘Intergenerational solidarity and the needs of future generations' the UN Secretary-General noted, among eight other institutions, the Hungarian Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights regarding its special mandate in protecting the interest of future generations.