Il-PN u Anġelik f’Borġ in-Nadur

Angelik-Caruana

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista għaddej minn proċess diffiċli. Irid jipprova jikkonvinċi lilu innifsu u lill-oħrajn li nidem mill-ħsara kbira li għamel lill-ambjent tul il-25 sena (jew kważi) li għamel fil-Gvern.

Sal-lum, id-difiża tal-PN dejjem kienet li ħaddieħor għamel (u għadu jagħmel) ħafna agħar minn hekk. Imma dak l-argument (anke jekk għandu mill-verita) ma kkonvinċa lil ħadd.

Issa ser jorganizzaw Konvenzjoni “Idea Ambjent” biex jisimgħu ftit.

Li tisma’ hu dejjem tajjeb. Hu dejjem pass il-quddiem. Għax dejjem hemm iċ-ċans li titgħallem ftit.

Imma inti u tipprova tifhem u titgħallem ikollok bżonn tiftakar ukoll dak li għamilt diġa b’mod partikolari kif dan jikkuntrasta ma dak li qed tgħid illum.

Jiena nieħu pjaċir li l-PN qed jgħid li għandu jagħti iktar kaz tal-ambjent għax ifisser li l-ħidma ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika qed tagħti ħafna iktar frott milli jidher mad-daqqa t’għajn. Imma sfortunatament mhux l-ewwel darba li ntqal dan il-kliem. Intqal ħafna drabi oħra biex jimpressjona. Għax mir-retorika l-PN qatt ma kien nieqes.

Tiftakru id-diskors mit-Tron li kien qara l-President Eddie Fenech Adami f’Mejju 2008 fejn kien qal li l-Gvern (immexxi mill-PN) ser ipoġġi l-iżvilupp sostenibbli bħala l-pedament tal-ħidma kollha tiegħu? Kien qal hekk :

“ ……………. il-Gvern qiegħed jipproponi li jimplimenta programm politiku li jkollu l-iżvilupp sostenibbli bħala l-fus ċentrali li madwaru jdur kollox.

Għall-Gvern, it-tħaddim tal-proġett ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli hu proposta ta’ għażla fondamentali mill-poplu Malti u Għawdxi.  Hija għażla konxja li f’kull deċiżjoni ma nqisux biss l-interessi immedjati tagħna, iżda wkoll dawk tal-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri.”

L-anqas laħqet nixfet il-linka fuq il-karta tad-diskors mit-tron li l-PN beda proċess biex il-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli tispiċċa. Il-Kummissjoni kienet il-fus li fuqu u permezz tiegħu kienet qed tkun implimentata l-iktar parti importanti tal-proċess tal-żvilupp sostenibbli: id-demokratizzazzjoni tiegħu. Il-PN wara li ma ħallihiex tiltaqa’ għal ħames snin sħaħ xolja din il-Kummissjoni.

Komplejna pass pass bil-ħsara ambjentali ma tispiċċa qatt, li dwarha ktibt diversi drabi fuq dan il-blogg.

Il-PN, jgħidulna, irid jibda paġna ġdida. Għandu kull dritt li jagħmel dan, imma l-paġni l-oħra, irid u ma jridx ser jibqgħu hemm. Kull waħda minnhom tfakkarna u tikkuntrasta mal-fantasiji li qed jipprietka l-PN illum.

Għax jekk ninsew il-bieraħ, il-prietki tal-PN tal-lum ikunu qieshom il-prietki ta’ Anġelik f’Borġ in-Nadur: il-ħrejjef ta’ min irid ibella r-ross bil-labra.

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Sustainable development goals : beyond rhetoric

SDGs

 

In the past few months, considerable work has been carried out by the United Nations to produce a document on sustainable development goals and earlier this week it was announced that a consensus has been achieved over this document that lists 17 goals and 169 specific targets.

The final document, which is now ready for adoption, is brief but wide-ranging. It is entitled Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Taking into account the different national realities, the 17 identified goals cover  a wide range of issues (vide box) that form the global sustainable development agenda for the next 15 years. They aim to eradicate poverty, promote prosperity and increase environmental protection – constant objectives of the international community, that are continuously aimed for but so far not achieved.

The renewed commitment to achieve these goals is welcome. However, both the goals and the specific objectives will have to take account of different national realities and capacities, while respecting national policies and priorities.

Although the document has been described as a historic achievement, in practice it is nothing of the sort. We have been there before. For the past 40 years, commitments have been made at one global meeting after another, only for the world community to come back years later with a slightly different document.

In Malta, the politics of sustainable development is generally cosmetic in nature: full of rhetoric but relatively void when it comes to substance.

Sustainable development should be primarily concerned with having a long-term view which spans generations. It seeks an inter-generational commitment, with the present generation committing  itself to ensure that future generations have sufficient elbow room to take their own decisions. Even if we limit ourselves to this basic objective of sustainable development, it is clear that such a commitment is nowhere in sight in Maltese politics.

Sifting through the rhetoric, a clear gap is very visible. Rather than being developed over the years, the rudimentary sustainable development infrastructure has been dismantled. The National Commission for Sustainable Development, through which civil society actively participated in the formulation of a National Strategy for Sustainable Development, was dismantled by the previous administration.

If the politics of sustainable development is to be of any significance, it has to be evident at the roots of society and the sustainable development strategy itelf has to be owned by civil society. In Malta, a completely different path is followed. The sustainable development strategy is owned by the state and not by civil society. Hence it is largely irrelevant and practically insignificant.

The net result of the developments in recent years has transformed sustainable development politics in Malta into another bureaucratic process, with government appointees pushing pen against paper, producing reports and no visible improvement.

There is no political will to implement a sustainable development strategy, as this runs diametrically opposite to the political decisions of the current administration, which seeks to intensify the complete domination of Malta’s natural heritage by economic forces, plundered for short term gain.

The fragmentation of environmental governance is the latest building block of this strategy which is clearly evident behind the rhetorical facade.

This is not the future we want nor the future we deserve and it is not the transformation that Malta requires.

Next September, Malta will join the community of nations at New York in approving a document which it has no intention of implementing. Behind that rhetorical facade, the farce continues.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 9 August 2015

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

Green talk but no more

four_pillar-sustainable  development

 

When push comes to shove it is always the rights of future generations which are ignored and thrown overboard. This is done repeatedly as governments tend to give greater value to the rights of present generations, in the process discounting the rights of the future.

It is a recurring theme in all areas of environmental concern. Whether land use planning, water management, resource management, waste management, climate change, biodiversity or air quality,  procrastination is the name of the game. With 101 excuses governments postpone to tomorrow decisions which should have been implemented yesterday.

Future generations have a right to take their own decisions. It is pretty obvious that they will not be able to take adequate decisions as their options will be severely curtailed as a result of the implementation of present and past decisions.

The politics of sustainable development aims to address this deficiency.

On a global level it all started in Stockholm in 1972 as a result of the sensitivities of the Nordic countries which set in motion the UN Human Environment Conference. After the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987, the Rio Summits (1992 and 2012), as well as the Johannesburg Summit (2002), we can speak of charters, international conventions, declarations and strategies all of which plot out in detail as to what is to be done. However as pointed out by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the UN Rio+20 Summit (2012) in his report entitled “Objectives and Themes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development” institution building has lagged behind. This signifies that the integration of policymaking and its implementation is nowhere on target, Malta not being an exception.

The Sustainable Development Annual Report 2013 presented in Parliament by Minister Leo Brincat on the 27 May 2014 indicates that not much progress has been made to date on the matter, notwithstanding the number of meetings as well as the appointment of coordinating officers and focal points in each of the Ministries.

Way back in 2008 Malta had a National Sustainable Development Commission which through the inputs of civil society, in coordination with government involvement, had produced a National Sustainable Development Strategy. This was approved by Cabinet at that time but never implemented. So much that to try and justify its inertia the then government tried to divert attention in 2012 by proposing a Sustainable Development Act. This essentially transferred (with changes) some of the proposed structures and institutions identified in the National Sustainable Development Strategy to the legislation and used the process as a justification for not doing anything except talk and talk. The changes piloted through Parliament by then Environment Minister Mario de Marco included the effective dissolution of the National Commission for Sustainable Development (which had been dormant for 5 years). The justification which  the responsible Permanent Secretary uttered as an excuse was that the Commission was too large and hence of no practical use.

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.

Readers may remember that the President’s address to Parliament  way back on 10 May 2008 had emphasised that : “The government’s plans and actions are to be underpinned by the notion of sustainable development of the economy, of society and of the environment. When making decisions today, serious consideration will be given to the generations of tomorrow.”

This was not manifested in the government’s actions throughout its 5 year term. Not just in its approach to sustainable development but also in its dealing with the individual issues of environmental concern: be it land use planning, water management, resource management, waste management, climate change, biodiversity or air quality.The politics of sustainable development is an uphill struggle. It signifies a long term view in decision making, that is, considering carefully the impacts of today’s decisions on tomorrow. It requires much more than chatter.

As the report tabled by Minister Leo Brincat states in its conclusion, we are in for more chatter as the emphasis in the coming year seems to be the revision of a strategy which has never been implemented. The strategy is worded in such general terms that it is difficult to understand what this means, except that there is no practical interest in getting things done. It would have been much better if some effort was invested in the Action Plans which the different Ministries have to draw up in order to implement the strategy in the various departments/authorities under their political responsibility.

This, it seems, is unfortunately the Maltese long term view.

Published in The Times of Malta, Monday June 30, 2014

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.

The future we want

During the current Parliamentary debate on the Sustainable Development Bill various government spokesmen have emphasised that they consider it essential to ensure that there is a balance between protecting the environment  and economic policy. In so doing they are stating that measures that may be required to protect the environment  are to be embraced only if there is little or no economic impact.

Sustainable development is no longer a matter of choice. It is rather an issue of survival. Balancing acts do not form part of the equation!

A former Minister of the Environment during the Parliamentary debate stated that a defininiton of sustainable development is required as an integral part of the Bill. If this Hononourable gentleman is not capable of embracing Bruntland’s definiton in the report she penned as Chairperson of the World Commission on Environment and Development then it is about time that someone explains what his tenure as Minister for the Environment has achieved except the widespread environmental destruction which has been amply documented throughout the years.

Gro Harlem Brundtland had stated that “Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable – to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Brundland’s definition is the mildest possible and has been drafted in that form specifically to ensure the widest adoption possible. Taking decisions in such a manner as not to prejudice future generations is the least we can say about the politics of sustainable development.

It signifies first and foremost that policy decisions  are not postponed in order to avoid or minimise loss of votes. It also means calling a spade by its proper name and getting on with the business of proper management of  resources without delay.

The adoption of sustainable development as a basic building block of government policy should lead to the logical conclusion that the economy should not be viewed as an objective but rather as a tool: the economy should be the servant rather than the master! The point of departure should be the alignment of policies with the ecosystem of which we form part.

Policy needs to be approached in a holistic manner, focusing simultaneously on social, environmental and economic considerations. It is not a question of an artificial balance between the three but of acting correctly each and every time. A policy, which is economically sound but socially and/or environmentally wobbly, is of no use. The reverse side is already common practice as socially and environmentally sound policies are rarely applied if they do not pass the test of economic viability.

The politics of sustainable development is concerned with redirecting economic activity such that this is compatible with ecological and social requirements. The environment, the economy and social needs are thus all factored in when decisions are taken. Throughout the years economic decisions have generally taken into consideration their social impacts. As a result, various measures have been introduced to mitigate and/or prevent negative social effects. The politics of social solidarity as developed has assisted in the transition from a free market economy to a social market economy.

The politics of sustainable development is the means leading to the next transition: to an economy which respects the ecology. The environmental impacts of social and economic policy require attention at the drawing board rather than mitigation after they have occurred. In order for this to occur, it is required that instead of facing the effects we direct our energies to tackle the causes.

It was for this purpose that the Environment Protection Act of 2001 provided in Section 8 for the setting up of a National Commission for Sustainable Development entrusted with the drafting of a National Strategy for Sustainable Development for the Maltese Islands. The Commission laboured between 2002 and 2006 to produce a draft, which was concluded and presented to Cabinet for approval in December 2006. Cabinet approved it late in 2007.

The National Commission for Sustainable Development was representative of society in that it was made up of representatives of Ministries and civil society. The Sustainable Development Bill is proposing the dismantling of the Commission and replacing it with a network, a smaller team in the interests of efficiency! The two frameworks are not incompatible. In fact when the Commission was functioning (even though its Chairman Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi never found time to participate in its workings) it had in fact selected a small group to coordinate its work.

While I understand that the government’s objective in creating the network is to facilitate implementation I submit that the existence of this newly proposed network is not incompatible with retaining the National Commission, which, through its wide-ranging composition was and can still be an effective sounding board for formulating the nuts and bolts of the politics of sustainable development.

It has to be borne in mind that sustainable development is also an exercise through which wide-ranging policy is formed through capillarity, rising from the roots of society, and not through filtration by dripping from the top downwards. It is hence essential to embrace structures which are representative of society. This is not sufficient but it is an essential element to be complemented by reaching out to those sectors of society which are vulnerable yet are still unorganised.

The UN Secretariat of the  Rio + 20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development due to be held next June has produced a draft document for discussion aptly referred to as the zero draft. It is entitled “The Future We Want”.

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. This is “the Future we Want”. It has primarily to be a future which we can shape. A future which all of us can influence as it will impact not just those at the top of the pyramid but more so those at the very bottom.

Sustainable Development is not just an issue of environment but also one of justice, of dealing with issues of poverty and the distribution of wealth.

The future we want cannot exist without fulfilling the need of a fundamental change in  relationships. A change in the relationship between man and the earth. A change in the relationship between man and his/her fellow human beings.

This need for change can be fulfilled if we focus on the need to respect nature and fellow human beings. This is the balance to be achieved. This is the basis of sustainable development.

This article was published in The Independent on Sunday – Environment Supplement 25 March 2012

…………. 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