SW Hungary Report 2016
by Matyas Benyik
Hungary’s National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS)
Hungary has played a significant role in drafting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The key player was Mr. Csaba Kőrösi, Hungary`s UN Ambassador, co chair – together with Kenyan colleagues – who directed the process of developing the global goals. This fact has offered an excellent opportunity for Hungary to take a more active role in shaping the global development strategy.
It is worth remembering that in 2013 the Government of Hungary organised the Budapest Water Summit, whose final document, the Budapest Statement called for the development of a dedicated and comprehensive Sustainable Development Goal on Water. The message of a stand-alone water goal was supported by an overwhelming majority of the international community, and the targets of goal number 6 reflect almost the same structural composition as it was included in the Budapest Statement, namely improving sanitation and hygiene services, reducing pollution and increasing the re-use of untreated wastewater, integrated water resources management and the protection of our environment.
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations has recently invited Mr. János Áder, President of Hungary to serve as a member of the High-Level Panel on Water that the Secretary-General will convene in support of the Agenda 2030 for Development. Following the success of the first event in 2013, Hungary is going to organize the „Budapest Water Summit 2016” between 28 and 30 November, aiming to contribute to the implementation of the sustainable development goals connected to water as well as to identify technologies that combine traditional water management solutions with aspects of the fight against climate change, energy security, sustainable food production and sustainable development of cities, conservation of biodiversity, improvement of public health and eradication of extreme poverty.
Despite these positive developments the implementation of the SDGs is rather marginalized in the Hungarian foreign policy, because Hungary has still very limited experience in this field and provides only very low development aid, i. e. Hungary`s annual contribution to the international development aid represents 0.10 to 0.12% of gross national income (GNI).
The biggest challenges we are facing now are the questions of how to reduce the costs of humanitarian needs by taking preventive measures and how to finance this work with the help of the private sector and financial institutions. Poverty is one of the root causes of the recent migration wave. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without economic growth, equality, inclusion, justice and without the engagement of women and young people in education and business.
Furthermore, serious concerns can be formulated about the NSDS, too. First of all, without resolving the planned critical processes as well as without exploring and dealing with the causes of unfavorable situations, no effective and durable solutions can be expected. This is true both for the social problems (including to combat extreme poverty), or for the global environment problems.
According to the NSDS the Hungarian nation is currently very far from the state, which would satisfy the requirements of sustainability and thus a sustainable development path can only be realized gradually. The Framework Strategy is the first stage towards the transition to sustainability, and it focuses on areas of sustainability, which is likely to be the most effective way to eliminate, to mitigate the reasons for unsustainability. The Strategy uses the concept of sustainable development in a more general sense, than those who bound it to the ecological opportunities, although it does not deny its primary importance. During analyzing the concept the development and the sustainability are dealt separately and the meaning of the concept is being deducted from them.
According to the NSDS the development is understood as an inseparable harmonious growth of the conditions and opportunities of the good life for the individuals and the communities, as well as for the nation and the humanity. It also notes that the good life has not got just financial dimension, but also mental and spiritual side as well. The good life term commonly used synonym for well-being in the Strategy parlance.
Sustainability would mean that „at any given moment the generation creating its own wealth does not live up, it does not exhaust its resources, but retains sufficient quantity and quality for future generations by expanding them. To defend the interests of the unborn people, i. e. the interests of having no rights to vote constitutional or other institutional limitations are to be set. The limits beyond which certain steps are not taken, or cannot be done are clarified, and to resist the temptation obstacles are set in advance”.
The NSDS goes beyond the usual approach, namely that the technical solution is considered as the basic sustainable development tool „… The development of a sustainable society ….is wider; especially it is a cultural problem.” The basic question is how the given human community can continually and successfully adapt to the constantly changing (economic, social, human, natural, and built) environment, and how they are able to see the needs of its own limitations. So to say sustainability is a new system of relations between people, societies and the natural environment in which human actions are determined by following up of the values. Mankind’s response to this challenge is a cultural adaptation.
The NSDS is resource-oriented with four essential resources. In the classical approach the economy, the society and the environment are considered as the three feet of sustainable development. The fourth „outstanding priority for Hungary is the human dimension”.
In the field of the four main resources adverse developments can be identified, namely
Regarding human resources:
• The population of Hungary is decreasing at a dangerous pace;
• Hungary is lagging behind in enriching the knowledge;
• People’s health is worse than what you would expect from the level of economic development;
• Poverty and social exclusion are significant impediment to enrich knowledge and to preserve the health state of the people;
Concerning social resources:
Rejection of the risks, and excessive reliance on the state;
Low level of trust both in people and in institutions.
Regarding natural resources:
• The area of natural environment is becoming smaller and smaller;
• About 90% of natural ecosystem of Hungary’s territory has been lost;
• The elimination of natural areas, building sites continues at a rapid pace;
• Degradation threatens land fertility (soil structure degradation, salinization, erosion, decrease of organic content, etc.);
• Negative consequences of climate change.
Concerning economic resources:
• High international dependency of the Hungarian economy on foreign capital and raw materials and foreign investments, high foreign indebtedness;
• The community infrastructure is very rundown;
• Low R & D and innovation activities;
• Low level of employment;
• The unsustainable welfare system represents the largest item in public spending, substantial hidden debt’s for future generations.
The development and the sustainable development approaches resulted in only partial harmonization: the contradictions between the two previously separate collaborative processes this time appear in one program. As a typical example of a line from the first „classic” economic growth in the fore goal setting, on the other hand, the preservation of our natural environment and, accordingly, shift to sustainable consumption and production (patterns) signaling political will and purpose. „Decoupling” referred to in the program – that is, economic growth and environmental destruction unbundling – so far not led to the global environmental load reduction in the absolute sense, but this resulted in a maximum load of modest growth rate to slow.
Although the program has repeatedly emphasizes the relationship between the goals and the specific targets important, but it has serious shortcomings that does not refer to some of the targets and goals.
The fact that the program serves really well the sustainable development issue and help in this area of international cooperation, will only be seen in the implementation process: provided that it creates a precise and transparent monitoring system, and basically depending on their individual nations how effectively taken over the objectives of the international program drawn up and implemented in accordance with international program their own programs, and will have to cooperate together only achievable objectives and the performance of tasks able to be solved.
The success of the SDGs depends on the extent to which the objectives set out internationally become an integral part of the national discourse on development and manage to transpose to the national sustainable development policies.
The main concept of the Hungarian NSDS keeps in mind the main objectives set out in the Hungarian Foreign and Security Policy, namely: to promote sustainable development, to strengthen the global awareness of the Hungarian foreign policy, to wear moral responsibility for the fate of the world, global opening, to acquire positions in the developing countries, to strengthen international security, to contribute to the improvement of social conditions and fostering economy.
Key areas identified in the NSDS are as follows:
A) Institutional development (democratic, constitutional arrangements to consolidate, transfer of transformation and international integration experience, good governance, state, municipal and sectoral institutional development, capacity building, strengthening of civil society organizations);
B) Green culture, green economy, environment and climate protection (rural and urban development, food security, sustainable agriculture, developing productive capacities, sustainable water management, sanitation);
C) Human resource and capacity development (education, health, culture, equal opportunities, protection of minorities and vulnerable groups, social institutional development, scientific knowledge and connections).
However, it seems that Hungary will be unable to deal with all of the above areas at the same time, because of limited financial resources.