Maurice Mizzi għandu jirriżenja

Fid-dawl tal-qtil immotivat minn razziżmu li seħħ nhar is-6 t’April li għadda, l-kummenti ta’ Maurice Mizzi, Gwardjan għall-Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri, fit-Times tal-Ħadd, kienu, bħala minimu insensittivi. Kienu fil-fatt ħafna iktar minn hekk.

Huma kummenti li jużaw id-differenzi biex jitkattar id-disprezz u jkompli jkattar il-mibgħeda.

Maurice Mizzi jgħidilna li m’għandniex inħallu lil dawn in-nies jidħlu bla passaporti. Bħal dak li qallu li min hu maħrub minn pajjiżu, biex jevita r-ripressjoni u t-tortura ser iġorr miegħu l-passaport!

Ġie rappurtat li Maurice Mizzi kien imsejjaħ għal laqgħa l-Ministeru, kif ukoll li l-Ministru Herrera iddikjara pubblikament li l-Gvern jiddisassoċja ruħu mill-kummenti ta’ Maurice Mizzi.

Dan mhux biżżejjed.

Ir-razziżmu jeħtieġ li jinżamm il-bogħod mill-istituzzjonijiet.

Naqbel mal-NGOs. Maurice Mizzi għandu jirriżenja immedjatament.

Advertisements

The Guardian of Future Generations

The politics of sustainable development advocates a long-term view. The familiar Brundtland definition put forward in Our Common Future – the concluding report of the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 – is clear enough: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs. (Gro Harlem Brundtland is a former Norwegian Social Democrat Prime Minister.)

This definition has been quoted quite often, but when it comes to its implementation, matters generally develop on a different path. Short-term needs take over, making a mockery of all declarations in favour of sustainable development. Way back in 1987,
Brundtland sought to drawn our attention to this. In fact, her report emphasises the fact that:  “We act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions.”

This was the reason why, on behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika, way back in 2012 I  proposed the setting up of a Guardian of Future Generations – a proposal that had originally been presented by Malta at the preparatory meetings for the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and which was taken on board by Mario de Marco, then Environment Minister.

The position was set up as part of the provisions of the Sustainable Development Act of 2012 but unfortunately, since day one, not enough resources have been made available in order that the Guardian of Future Generations may act today on behalf of a better tomorrow.

Chev. Maurice Mizzi, who currently heads the Guardian of Future Generations, recently issued a statement which gave the thumbs down to the dB-ITS project at Pembroke. Chev. Mizzi emphasised that it was the lack of a masterplan for the area that justified applying the breaks to the project at this point in time. He further stated that there was a need for all authorities to place more value on the views of the common citizens, so that they are empowered to ensure that their rights, as well as their quality of life, are properly protected.

Without in any way diminishing the positive step taken by the Guardian of Future Generations in respect of the dB-ITS project, I would respectfully point out that we have not heard much more from that end. The list of responsibilities of the Guardian is long and if acted upon, would make the Guardian much more than a post of symbolic value, as described by the local press recently.

The list of responsibilities of the Guardian are grouped in the legislation under ten headings ranging from the promotion of sustainable development advocacy across national policy making, legislation and practices, to encouraging sustainable development within the private sector right and up to the need to direct the focus of the Office of the Prime Minister to safeguard future generations.

After six years of existence it is about time that the Guardian of Future Generations stands up on its feet and speaks out loud and clear on all matters that will have an impact on future generations. Unfortunately, so far it has rarely spoken up, apart from regarding the db-ITS project statement. This is certainly not enough. I have no doubt that the Guardian would like to do more, but it cannot because it has been deprived of resources – which has been the situation since it was created.

The Guardian of Future Generations has a lot of potential which is as yet undeveloped. The time for taking action is ripe.

 

published in The Independent on Sunday : 14 October 2018

The politics of Sustainable Development

four_pillar-sustainable  development

 

Sustainable Development is about how we satisfy our needs today in a responsible manner. We normally refer to the World Commission on Environment and Development headed by Gro Harlem Brundtland who, in her final report in 1987 entitled Our Common Future defined sustainable development as “the development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The politics of sustainable development is hence about politics with a responsible long-term view: it is about the future that we desire to bequeath to future generations. It is a future that we can mould today as a result of the careful consideration of the impacts of each and every one of our present actions.

Sustainable Development is about living in harmony with all that surrounds us, at all times. It is about being in harmony with Mother Earth, with nature and with our fellow human beings. It is treating our surroundings as part of our family: it is the Brother Sun Sister Moon philosophy espoused by Francis of Assisi. It is the path to dignity aiming simultaneously at the eradication of poverty and the protection of the planet. Sustainable development requires the synchronisation of cultural, social, environmental and economic policy. Shielding human dignity, appreciating our culture and environmental protection are as essential as economic development.

There is a visible gap between the political declarations made and the implementation of sustainable development policies. The international community is analysing the achievements made through the Millennium Development Goals agreed to during the Johannesburg 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. As a result, it is discussing the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations General Assembly next September. Yet in Malta we still lack an appropriate  sustainable development infrastructure.

So far, the Maltese political class has failed in integrating Sustainable Development policymaking and its implementation. Malta is not unique in this respect. In fact, even prior to the Rio+20 Summit in 2012, in his report entitled Objectives and Themes Of The United Nations Conference On Sustainable Development, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon discusses institution building at all levels ranging from the local to the international.

Ban Ki Moon had emphasised that on a national level the integration challenge has been responded to by the creation of new institutions (such as national councils), in many cases with disappointing results. Malta is one such case. The institutional framework for sustainable development in Malta has not been able to deliver so far.

The National Commission for Sustainable Development was disbanded years ago and the provisions of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development have been largely ignored. This strategy, which was the result of extensive consultations with civil society, laid down not only the objectives to be achieved but also the structures to be set up in each ministry in order to proceed with the strategy’s implementation.

All the deadlines laid down in the National Sustainable Development Strategy have been ignored by the government. This was primarily the responsibility of the previous government led by Lawrence Gonzi. The present government is apparently still in a trance about the whole matter.

The only positive development in the past years has been the adoption of a proposal of Alternattiva Demokratika -The Green Party in Malta, leading to the appointment of a Guardian for Future Generations. However, deprived of the substantial resources required to be effective, all the good intentions of the Guardian will not suffice to kick-start the implementation process. Even the minister responsible for sustainable development has some bark but no bite. He too has been deprived of the essential resources to carry out his mission. He has not inherited any functioning sustainable development infrastructure. In addition, he has been given political responsibility for the environment without in any way being directly involved in the environmental functions of MEPA. This is not an indictment of Minister Leo Brincat but rather an indictment of his boss, the Prime Minister, who is quite evidently not interested in beefing up the regulatory infrastructure. Waiting two years for some form of indication of goodwill is more than enough.

The National Sustainable Development Strategy has a whole section dealing with the implementation process. When approved by Cabinet on the eve of the 2008 general elections, it had laid down the need for “a permanent structure, appropriately staffed and funded (which) should be established to coordinate, monitor, revise and promote the National Strategy for Sustainable Development among all stakeholders. Such a structure should be placed under the direction of the National Commission for Sustainable Development” (section 4.1 of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development).

Seven years later this permanent structure is still inexistent. Is there need of any further proof of the lack of political will to act on sustainable development?

 

published on 8 March 2015 in The Malta Independent on Sunday

Tomorrow may be too late

today-tomorrow

The Guardian of Future Generations has spoken. The Guardian is under the leadership of Mr Michael Zammit Cutajar, former Climate Change Ambassador, as well as Mr. Michael C. Bonello, former Governor of the Central Bank of Malta, Dr. Roberta Lepre, Director Victim Support Malta and Ms. Simone Mizzi, Executive President, Din L-Art Ħelwa.

In a press statement issued on the 11 December 2013 the Guardian has added its voice to that of civil society. It has emphasised that prior to concluding and implementing piecemeal land use planning and environmental policies it was imperative that first and foremost a comprehensive holistic strategy is put in place. Until such time that a strategic vision is in place, stated the Guardian, it would be reasonable for current policy initiatives to be put on hold.

The Guardian is diplomatic in the language it uses. It certainly makes political statements none of which are however partisan. All environmental issues, including land use planning issues, are definitely political issues in respect of which all stakeholders have a duty to speak up.

The Guardian of Future Generations speaks up on behalf of the voiceless future. In Malta, giving a voice to the future was an initiative taken by Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green Party. It was acknowledged by the then Minister for the Environment Mario de Marco when piloting the Sustainable Development Act in 2012 which adopted the said proposal.

Our actions today can have a considerable impact on the future. It is imperative that the choices we make today ensure that future generations can also freely make their own decisions. We cannot ethically ignore the future. If we keep living for today, ignoring tomorrow, precious resources which must be protected today, will be lost forever. Michael Zammit Cutajar who chairs the Guardian Commission has in fact emphasised that: “un-built space and unspoilt views are among the scarcest resources of our densely populated country”.

We need to be extra careful. Too many mistakes have been made in the past. The legacy of the past is tough enough. We are in time to avoid adding to it.

The Guardian has announced in its press statement that, in accordance to its mandate, it has presented a submission with its views to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and other government officials. This refers to the provisions of article 8 of the Sustainable Development Act of 2012 which establishes that the Guardian shall direct the focus of the Prime Minister (who is the sustainable development competent authority) to safeguard future generations. The Guardian is also empowered to “propose goals and actions to government entities for them to take up in order to contribute towards the goal of sustainable development.”

The next step is undoubtedly the publication by Government of the views submitted by the Guardian. It would be preferable if government takes the initiative as the matter is of specific interest to the public. Obviously if the government fails to take this initiative there is always the possibility to demand its publication through applying the provisions of the Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment Regulations of 2005 (Legal Notice 116 of 2005). Government taking the initiative would always be preferable as this would demonstrate its willingness to engage with stakeholders.

The above is a good start to the Guardian of Future Generations making its presence felt. It is however just the tip of the iceberg.

The Guardian requires its own resources to pursue other areas of policy. Foremost amongst them is the sustainable management of water resources. Whilst acknowledging that Government is currently preparing a water consultation document it is to be emphasised that there are areas of action which cannot await the said consultation process. There is little water left to protect and further procrastination will only make matters worse. Tomorrow will be too late.

In February 2012 the Auditor General had through a performance audit pointed out the deficiencies in the public administration of water resources. In his report entitled “Safeguarding Malta’s Groundwater” the Auditor General whilst noting that we have an abundance of policy documents pointed out  implementation delays as a consequence of the non-adherence to the stipulated target dates.

Not much has been done since February 2012. Obviously the political responsibility has to be shouldered by the former government which talked a lot but did not do much except commission reports. It invariably failed to take the tough action required.

Safeguarding tomorrow is a difficult task. Tomorrow’s generations, the generations of the future, have no vote, hence they have not been considered as an important constituency by those whose time horizon rarely exceeds five years. The Guardian of Future Generations has the unenviable task to sound the wake up call.

Tomorrow, which as singing doctor Gianluca Bezzina tells us, is just one day away, may be too late. All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today.

published in The Times of Malta – Saturday 4 January 2014

On this same blog, on the issue of Future Generations you may read the following posts:

The Future started yesterday.

Exercise in practical democracy.

Gwardjan għal Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri.

Increasing environmental awareness.

Future Generations must be heard.

Just lip service and cold feet.

Żvilupp Sostenibbli fil-Parlament

Il-bieraħ fil-għaxija fil-Parlament ġiet fit-tmiem l-ewwel parti tad-diskussjoni dwar l-abbozz ta’ liġi fuq l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Ikkonkluda id-diskussjoni Mario de Marco li wieġeb il-kritika li saret matul id-diskussjoni.

F’dan l-istadju tajjeb li nfakkar li din hi liġi li ma kienitx meħtieġa għax il-parti l-kbira ta’ dak li fiha ġja qiegħed fl-istrateġija nazzjonali dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Li qed jagħmel il-Gvern hu li joħloq liġi issa flok parti mill-istrateġija biex jipprova jiġġustifika li f’dawn il-ħames snin ftit li xejn l-iżvilupp sostenibbli ittieħdet bis-serjeta’. U dan minkejja d-dikjarazzjoni li saret favur l-iżvilupp sostenibbli fid-diskors mit-tron tal-President tar-Repubblika f’Mejju 2008 fl-ewwel seduta tal-Parlament tas-sessjoni kurrenti.

Fost il-punti negattivi li hemm fil-liġi hemm li ser tispiċċa l-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali dwar l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli. Hu punt negattiv għax il-kummissjoni kien tiġbor lis-soċjeta’ ċivili fuq issues ambjentali flimkien ma rappresentanti tal-Ministeri u awtoritajiet pubbliċi għal diskussjoni utli. Kien forum ambjentali li l-Gvern qatlu matul dawn il-ħames snin.

Fost il-punti importanti posittivi tal-abbozz hemm l-introduzzjoni tal-Gwardjan għall-Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri. Jiena dejjem insistejt li Gvern li jagħmel proposti fuq livell internazzjonali b’ċerta pompa għandu jkollu l-konvinzjoni li dak li jippretendi mill-komunita’ internazzjonali jkun lest li jimplimentah f’Malta stess. Għalhekk ipproponejt il-ħolqien tal-kariga ta’ Gwardjan għall-Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri. Proposta li Mario de Marco għan-nom tal-Gvern aċċetta u inkludiha fil-liġi. Seta fassalha b’mod aħjar.

Issa l-abbozz jgħaddi biex ikun diskuss fid-dettall tiegħu u imbagħad forsi jkun implimentat.

…………. u bdew id-diskussjoni ……………

 

Nhar l-Erbgħa fil-għaxija bdew id-diskussjoni fil-Parlament dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

Smajt lil Mario de Marco jitkellem madwar siegħa u nofs. Leo Brincat tkellem siegħa u kien għadu ma spiċċax.

Mario mexa ma text ippreparat. Għal ħinijiet twal qara diskors miktub. Xi drabi tfixkel ftit huwa u jitkellem dwar materji li għadu m’huwiex familjari magħhom biżżejjed.  Leo ukoll ipprepara u kien iktar ċar f’dak li kellu xi jgħid.

Mario irrefera għal konsultazzjonjijiet wiesgħa li għamel. Ħaġa tajba. Avvanz fuq ta’ qablu li mhux biss kien selvaġġ talli fuq kollox kien inkompetenti. 

Jiena ukoll kelli laqgħa twila ma Mario dwar l-abbozz ta’ liġi. L-ewwel reazzjoni tiegħi kienet li m’hemmx bżonn li jressaq liġi. Dak li ried jagħmel : li jibni fuq pedamenti sodi l-infrastruttra amministrattiva għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli seta jsir b’mod faċli u inqas ikkumplikat mingħajr il-ħtieġa ta’ liġi.

Imma din, Mario u dawk ta’ madwaru ma jistgħux jifhmuha.  Huwa u jitkellem Mario ftaħar li ftit hemm pajjiżi bħalna li għandhom liġi dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Ma nafx jekk irrealizzax li l-fatt li ftit li xejn hemm pajjiżi b’din it-tip ta’ liġi ifissirx li ħadd ma ħass il-ħtieġa tagħha!

Il-parti l-kbira tal-proposti fil-liġi diġa jeżistu fl-istrateġija nazzjonali dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Li qed jagħmel il-Gvern hu li qiegħed jittrasferihom mill-istrateġija għall-liġi. Dan m’hu xejn ħlief logħob. Imma l-anqas dan il-logħob ma jiġġustifika l-fatt li l-Gvern żamm il-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali dwar l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli milli tiffunzjona għal snin twal.

U dan hu l-Gvern li fid-diskors programmatiku tal-President tar-Repubblika f’Mejju 2008 qalilna illi li ser jagħti importanza kbira lill-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

Għall paroli veru jieħu l-ewwel. Imma bejn il-kliem u l-fatti ………. hemm il-baħar jikkumbatti!

Mario de Marco irrefera għad-diskussjoni li kellna jiena u hu dwar l-abbozz. Jiena dejjem insistejt li Gvern li jagħmel proposti fuq livell internazzjonali b’ċerta pompa għandu jkollu l-konvinzjoni li dak li jippretendi mill-komunita’ internazzjonali jkun lest li jimplimentah f’Malta stess. Għalhekk ipproponejt il-ħolqien tal-kariga ta’ Gwardjan għall-Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri. Proposta li Mario de Marco għan-nom tal-Gvern aċċetta u inkludiha bil-mod kif ħaseb hu fil-liġi.

Leo Brincat fil-kritika tiegħu, li ser ikompli nhar it-Tnejn, tefa’ botta dwar jekk il-Gvern huwiex qiegħed jagħti l-impressjoni li qed jagħti każ dak li tgħid Alternattiva Demokratika biex forsi jnaqqas mill-kritika indirizzata lejh minn AD!  Leo m’għandix dubju li kien qed jiġbed is-saqajn. Għax jaf li l-kritika ta’ AD m’hiex ser tieqaf. La lejn il-Gvern u l-anqas lejn l-Opposizzjoni li flimkien huma responsabbli għall-istat li jinsab fih il-pajjiz.

Dwar dan kollu ktibt u tkelllimt fit-tul matul dawn l-aħħar snin. Li l-Gvern ta’ Lawrence Gonzi m’huwiex kapaċi.  Ma jridx jimxi fit-triq li twassal lejn is-sostenibilita’.  Kieku kien jinteressah kien jimxi mod ieħor fl-oqsma kollha.

Il-prietki waħedhom mhux biżżejjed.

Wara kollox mhux Gonzi innifsu talabna biex ma niġġudikawħx fuq dak li jgħid iżda fuq dak li jagħmel?  U hekk qed nagħmlu. Niġġudikawħ fuq il-ħerba ambjentali li ser iħalli warajh.

 Il-futur tagħna u ta’ uliedna jixraqlu xi ħaġa aħjar.  Li la Gonzi u l-anqas Muscat ma jistgħu joffru.

Għalhekk qegħdin fil-politika aħna ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika.

Il-lejla fil-Parlament

Il-Parlament il-lejla ser jibda jiddiskuti l-abbozz ta’ liġi dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

Dan ser isir 4 snin wara li fid-diskors li bih ġie msejjaħ biex jiltaqa’ l-Parlament kurrenti l-President tar-Repubblika f’Mejju 2008 kien qal li l-Gvern kien ser jibbaża ruħu fuq il-prinċipji ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli. Kienu 4 snin li matulhom ma iltaqatx il-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali dwar l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli.

Preżentement għaddejjin il-preparazzjonijiet ghall-konferenza internazzjonali tal-Ġnus Magħquda dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli imsejħa Rio +20. Ban Ki Moon, Segretarju Ġenerali tal-Ġnus Magħquda, fir-rapport tiegħu intitolat Objectives And Themes Of The United Nations Conference On Sustainable Development ifisser kemm hu importanti li jinbnew l-istituzzjonijiet kemm fuq livell internazzjonali kif ukoll fuq livell lokali biex permezz tagħhom tkun faċilitata l-integrazzjoni tal-politika fid-diversi oqsma kif ukoll l-implementazzjoni tagħha.

Din hi l-isfida li dan l-abbozz jindirizza. Qegħdin tard ħafna. Hu abbozz li għad jista’ jiġi imtejjeb.

Sfortunatment ġie fl-aħħar tal-leġialatura liema fatt juri li l-materja m’hiex waħda ta’ importanza għall-Gvern tal-lum.

Ikun floku imma li nfakkar li Alternattiva Demokratika tat kontribut fid-diskussjonijiet ta’ konsultazzjoni li saru mill-Gvern permezz tal-Ministru Mario Demarco. Ipproponejna l-ħolqien ta’ Gwardjan li jħares il-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri. Proposta li ġiet inkluża fl-abbozz finali.

Għax l-iskop aħħari tal-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu li b’dak li nagħmlu illum, aħna u nindirizzaw id-diffikultajiet tal-lum, nagħmlu dan b’impenn u rispett lejn dawk li ġejjin warajna. Il-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ għada ukoll għandhom id-dritt li jieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet tagħhom. B’dak li nagħmlu aħna illum għandna nassiguraw li huma ukoll ikunu jistgħu jagħmlu l-għażliet tagħhom.   

Ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog :

The Future started yesterday.

Exercise in practical democracy.

Gwardjan għal Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri.

Increasing environmental awareness.

Future Generations must be heard.

Just lip service and cold feet.

The Future started yesterday

 

The term “sustainable development”  forms part of the contemporary poltical lexicon.

It is unfortunately generally a greenwash engaged upon by politicians whose gaze cannot consider more than a three to four year timeframe.  To make any sense the politics of sustainable development must be and in fact is measured in terms of generations and is commonly referred to as a “long term view”.

The Brundtland report which  is credited with setting the sustainable development ball rolling in contemporary politics was presented to the United Nations General Secretary in 1987. Entitled “Our Common Future” it was the result of the deliberations of the World Commission on Environment and Development chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland former Norwegian Prime Minister.

The Brundtland report is very clear in its first pages.  In the introductory chapter  we are told that “We act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote ; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions.”

This one sentence encapsulates the significance and objectives of the politics of sustainable development:  the future has to be factored in today’s decisons. We cannot plan the present without considering its impacts on the future. Future generations have a right to take their own decisions.They need to be in a position to take their decisions without being obstructed by limitations imposed by their ancestors.

During the preparatory meetings for the Rio 1992 Earth Summit, delegations  discussed the impacts of development on various vulnerable groups. Sustainable development requires new forms of participation in decision making as a result of which those sectors of society which are normally on the fringes are reintegrated into the process.  Women, children, youth, indigenous groups, NGOs and local authorities were identified by Agenda 21 at Rio in 1992 as vulnerable groups. Other sectors such as trade unions and business/industry require a strengthened role such that there voice is heard and forms an integral part of the decision taking process.

In the process leading to the Rio 1992 Earth Summit Malta presented the UN with submissions focusing with another vulnerable group, future generations. This was done in a document dated 21 February 1992 submitted to Working GroupIII of the Preparatory Committee of the UN Rio Conference which met in New York  in early March 1992.

In paragraph 17 of its document Malta proposed to go beyond rhetoric through the inclusion in the 1992 Rio Declaration on the Environment of the following:

“ We declare that each generation has, in particular, the responsibility to ensure that in any national or international forum, where it is likely that a decision is taken affecting the interests of future generations, access be given to an authorised person appointed as “Guardian” of future generations to appear and make submissions on their behalf, so that account be taken of the responsibilities stated in this Declaration and the obligations created thereby.”

Malta’s proposal was developed by the International Environment Institute of the University of Malta within the framework of its “Future Generations Programme”.  In 1992 Malta’s proposal was not taken up in the Rio Declaration on the Environment however it has resurfaced in the current Rio+20 process.

In what is known as the zero draft, that is the draft final document of the Rio+20 sustainable development conference due to be held next June,  the international community is proposing to consider the setting up of an “Ombudsperson or High Commissioner for Future Generations to promote Sustainable Development” (paragraph 57 of the document The Future We Want).  This proposal, if implemented, would eventually lead to consider impacts on Future Generations of international initiatives.

In parallel with the developments on a international level which may eventualy lead to the United Nations focusing on the rights of future generations to promote Sustainable Development the Government in Malta has published draft legislation which introduces a Guardian of Future Generations. This was proposed by the Greens in Malta during consultations carried out by the Minsitry for the Environment and was taken up by government when the final draft of the legislation was drawn up.

The Bill, entitled “Sustainable Development Act”  recognizes for the first time that Future Generations (in Malta) have rights which can be impaired by today’s decisions. It provides for the creation of a Commission to be known as the Guardian for Future Generations which is to be made up of a President appointed by the Prime Minister and three other members hailing from environmental NGOs, business fora and social and community NGOs.

The Guardian for Future Generations will be assigned duties related to sustainable development ranging from sustainable development advocacy across national policymaking to encouraging NGOs and the private sector to participate in sustainable development initiatives. Given the functions and role of the Guardian I think that it would be more appropriate and effective if instead of a Commission it is just one person  appointed by the Head of State rather than by the Prime Minister.

It is unfortunate that the Bill confirms the abolition of the National Commission for Sustainable Development and in its stead proposes the creation of a Network made up of 8 persons, these being a mix of public officers and representatives of civil society. The National Commission was much larger and had the advantage of being composed of a wider cross section of civil society together with representatives of all the Ministries. Whilst it is clear that government’s objective in creating the Network is to create a lean, efficient  and effective structure, I submit that this is not incompatible with retaining the National Commission which through its extensive reach was and can still be an effective sounding board where the politics of sustainable development is moulded.  The involvement of a wide range of stakeholders is imperative in creating or reinforcing structures for sustainable development.

These developments signify that present generations are slowly coming to their senses and recognising the fact that the impacts of today’s decisions will be felt far into the future. Giving a role to future generations today would ensure that their right to take their own decisions tomorrow is not restricted by the decisions we take today. Then we can proceed to mitigate the impacts of decisions taken in the past.  As the future began yesterday!

published in The Independent on Sunday – Environment Supplement, January 29, 2012

Exercise in Practical Democracy

 

 

One of the two themes that the Rio+20 summit, to be held next June, will be focusing on will be the institutional framework for sustainable development.

 

In his report entitled Objectives And Themes Of The United Nations Conference On Sustainable Development, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon discusses institution building at all levels ranging from the local to the international. The objective, he emphasises, is to integrate policymaking and implementation.

He goes on to state that on a national level the integration challenge has been responded to by the creation of new institutions (such as national councils), in many cases with disappointing results. Malta is one such case. The institutional framework for sustainable development in Malta has so far not been able to deliver.

The government will soon be in its final year in office in this legislature and, so far, all it has achieved is the demolition of sustainable development institutions.

 

The National Commission for Sustainable Development was disbanded at the same time that the President of the Republic was delivering the Speech from the Throne during this Parliament’s first sitting held on May 10, 2008. The President, on behalf of the government, had then declared that the government’s plans and actions will be underpinned by sustainable development. When taking decisions today, we were told, the government will give serious consideration to tomorrow’s generations.

 

In addition to disbanding the National Commission for Sustainable Development, the government ignored the provisions of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, which Cabinet had approved on the eve of the 2008 general election. This strategy, which was the result of extensive consultations with civil society, laid down not only the targets to be achieved but also the structures to be set up in each ministry in order to proceed with its implementation.

 

All the deadlines laid down in the National Sustainable Development strategy were ignored by the government.

 

On the eve of another general election, the government has now presented proposals for a Sustainable Development Bill. This is intended to mainstream sustainable development across the workings of government.

 

The Bill seeks to create structures within the Office of the Prime Minister and the various ministries to take ownership of the National Sustainable Development Strategy.

 

The Bill confirms the abolition of the national commission and in its stead proposes the creation of a network made up of eight persons, these being a mix of public officers and representatives of civil society.

 

The national commission was much larger and had the advantage of being composed of a wider cross section of civil society together with representatives of all the ministries.

 

While I understand that the government’s objective in creating the network is to facilitate efficiency I submit that this is not incompatible with retaining the national commission, which, through its extensive reach, was and can still be an effective sounding board where the politics of sustainable development is moulded.

 

It has to be borne in mind that sustainable development is also an exercise in practical democracy whereby policy is formed through capillarity, rising from the roots of society, and not through filtration by dripping from the top downwards.

 

For sustainable development to take root, the strategy leading to sustainability must be owned by civil society, which must be in the driving seat of the process. The Bill goes on to draw on the National Sustainable Development Strategy by reproducing the implementation structures that the strategy had determined.

 

During the month of August, on behalf of the Greens in Malta, I had the opportunity to discuss the Bill with Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco who was carrying out a consultation exercise. During our meeting, I suggested the creation of a Guardian for Future Generations as part of the institution building for sustainable development.

 

I am pleased to note that the proposal of the Greens was taken on board by the government even if in a different format from that intended.

 

The Bill provides for the creation of a commission to be known as the Guardian for Future Generations, which is to be made up of a president appointed by the Prime Minister and three other members hailing from environmental NGOs, business fora and social and community NGOs.

 

The Guardian for Future Generations will be assigned extensive duties related to sustainable development, ranging from sustainable development advocacy across national policymaking to encouraging NGOs and the private sector to participate in sustainable development initiatives.

 

Given the functions and role of the Guardian I think that it would be more appropriate and effective if instead of a commission it is just one person appointed by the Head of State rather than by the Prime Minister.

 

My participation in the consultation process was another opportunity through which the Greens in Malta have contributed positively to the formation of policy and initiatives.

 

The Greens are always available for cooperation in initiatives of this nature. We sincerely hope that the publication of the Bill indicates that government intends to act soon because we have been waiting for far too long.

published in The Times- December 10, 2011