As elsewhere in Central Europe, Hungary confronts critical environmental protection prerogatives in the context of climate change, energy security, public health, economic development, and democratic integrity. As part of a broad-based country portfolio to support citizen participation in decision-making and in connection with its global commitment to improving environmental governance and resilience, NDI designed a pilot environmental initiative gathering several dozen leaders of Hungarian youth organizations, civic groups and professional bodies to analyze key issues and to set and advocate for responsive policies.
Leading environmental groups like the Center for Sustainable Communities and Green Policy Centre are part of the initiative, as are grassroots youth groups representing the country’s sizable Roma communities. Habitat for Humanity joined in the initiative bringing a global perspective. Many participants are directly affected by environmental challenges.
Participants prioritized climate issues in the context of economic insecurity, public health, and youth education in connection with Hungary’s commitments as part of an EU framework to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century.
NDI supported participants in their organizational and advocacy strategies and skills development, which they in turn applied in creating policy reform priorities. Those priorities were discussed with the local municipality and national policymakers, including youth politicians, and include: channeling state energy subsidies to families below the poverty line; retrofitting housing for energy efficiency; offering teacher training on environmental sustainability; and enabling environments for climate-based advocacy and litigation.
The initiative is already showing results. The town of Szombathely, for example, is engaging the Sustainable Communities Foundation to pilot environmental education in local schools. The Lightbringers Association is working with a range of stakeholders to install solar panels in homes in Roma communities that do not have access to the electrical grid. Ms. Aranka Rostás from the Lightbringers Association said: “Energy poverty is one of the biggest problems facing poor people in the world today. This project gave space for grassroots community activists to meet decision makers as equal partners and think together about solutions to our problems. Thanks to this initiative ... (we got help with) fundraising for a project to install solar panels on the houses of families who do not have access to electricity and thereby bring light to those families.”
Members of parliament participated in this initiative and are using these grassroots efforts to inform their environmental legislative agenda at the national level. The Hungarian chapter of the European Democracy Youth Network (EDYN) is also getting involved in supporting broad-based environmental education.
NDI will continue to support these initiatives in Hungary and share their experience elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe.
Dr. Lilla Bartuszek (Sustainable Communities Foundation), Krisztián Kelemen (local councillor, right), and Aron Gallfy (EDYN, left) discuss environmental education in Szombathely as part of NDI’s environmental policy initiative.
Author: Violeta Vajda is Resident Director of NDI/Hungary and serves as the focal point for NDI environmental governance/resilience programming in Central and Eastern Europe.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms, and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.