The four European Conferences on Sustainable Cities and Towns gave birth to documents that are important from the point of view of local sustainability. These are, in chronological order, the Aalborg Charter – 1994 Aalborg, the Lisbon Action Plan – 1996 Lisbon, the Hannover Call – 2000 Hannover, and the Aalborg Commitments – 2004 Aalbor...g. Throughout the process, the emphasis gradually moved from planning to the implementation of plans.
Today, there are more than 2000 signatories of the Aalborg
1A tanulmány az OTKA T-046704 sz. pályázatának támogatásával készült.
Charter. The cutting edge of the process are Italy and Spain, the municipalities of these two countries add up to 80 per cent of all signatories. In both countries, the national commitment is given, but there is not a body that could coordinate the activities related to sustainability, so local governments play the major role in it. The constitutions of these two countries also pass on some duties that are relevant from the point of view of sustainability within the competence of local governments, and allow resources to implement them. In the case of the United Kingdom, the commitment of the national government, and especially the Prime Minister, is the major factor in the movement towards local sustainability.
The former socialist countries in Europe, as well as Hungary are relatively underdeveloped economically, so the social and environmental pillars of sustainable development are pushed into the background behind the economical pillar. As a result of the lack of national commitment, there is no guidance and there are no case studies available, so only a small part of local governments are informed of this important international movement, and so are committed to it. The lack of resources is also a problem. The consequence of all this is that there are 35 municipalities from the Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004, and only four from Hungary – to mention by name Aba, Kecskemét, Monor and Nagykanizsa – that signed the Aalborg Charter.
The system of local sustainability strategies is shaped by the intentions of the central government and local initiatives together. From the aspect of the hierarchy of government organization in Hungary it means that there are institutions on the central government’s side – different ministries or other governmental institutions – the rol...e of which is mainly coordination; and local governments (regional and local as well) also form their institutions at the municipality.
It is important to examine the institutional background, as in Hungary the formation of sustainability policy is still in its infancy, so it is well worth taking the institutional background of countries the circumstances of which are similar to ours and have successful sustainability policies as a basis. In this presentation I will examine whether the top-down or the bottom-up approach is chosen, which institution is in charge of the process, what the legal background is like, and what sources are available for use in these countries.
The concept of sustainable development is one of the most fashionable concepts in the world nowadays, but Hungary – 15 years after the Rio conference – is still far behind the times: it is the only country in the EU 25 that has not prepared a national sustainable development strategy.
The situation is not encouraging in the field of loca
One of the most important messages of sustainability is that the consultative process between the local government and the community can have far reaching consequences, which can influence the municipality’s life for a long time. In my paper, I explore the inhibitive factors bearing this duality in mind, as the lack of top-down initiatives together with the low number and the low support of bottom-up approaches have led to this image which is not too flattering for Hungary. I also aim to show, through the example of other countries, how these inhibitive factors can be reduced.