Hungary

When Hungarian government officials talk about implementing the SDGs they mean less public expenditure in social sectors. Between 2010 and 2015 the Orbán government on the one hand increased state expenditures, doubled spending on the economy, and significantly increased spending by allocating about US$ 340 million annually on sports, mainly for building football stadiums. On the other hand, it decreased expenditures on public health, education and pensions.

The government did not save only on pensioners, but also on unemployment benefits, by decreasing their size and duration even when they were taking place on an insurance basis. These measures decreased annual family support expenditures as well, which can be explained by a decrease in the number of children and the decades-long freeze in services. Social benefits were decreased, while extreme poverty increased over the past eight years.

The contradictions between economic growth and a sustainable development approaches appear in National Framework Strategy on Sustainable Development (NFSSD) 2012-2024. The first approach identifies classic economic growth as a priority goal; while the second emphasizes environmental preservation and, accordingly, a shift to sustainable consumption and production patterns. The ”decoupling” of economic growth and environmental destruction is envisaged, but it has so far not led to a reduction of the global environmental load in absolute terms, although it has contributed to a modest reduction in its rate of growth.

Whether the 2030 Agenda can live up to its promise to advance the sustainable development process and further international cooperation in this regard will only be seen in the implementation process: provided that it creates a precise and transparent monitoring system, argues the Hungarian civil society report.

Hungary has played a significant role in drafting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Before co-chairing, with Kenya, the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (2013-2015), in 2013 Hungary organized the Budapest Water Summit, the final document of which called for the development of a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal on Water and contained almost the same elements as those in SDG 6 on water and sanitation: namely improving sanitation and hygiene services, reducing pollution and increasing the re-use of untreated wastewater (e.g., for irrigation or industrial use), integrated water resources management and the protection of the environment. As a result, Hungary will convene the Budapest Water Summit in November 2016, designed to facilitate the implementation of the goals and targets connected to water as well as to identify technologies that combine traditional water management solutions with efforts to adapt to climate change, ensure energy security, sustainable food production, protect biodiversity, and improve public health. Despite this, Hungary faces a number of challenges with regard to the SDGs, primarily how to address the European migration crisis by taking measures to reduce one of its root causes—poverty-- and how to finance this work with the help of the private sector and financial institutions. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without economic growth, equality, inclusion, justice and without the engagement of women and young people in education and business.
Roma in Hungary. (Photo: OHCHR).

In Hungary a system has developed that is disrespectful to both the rule of law and constitutionalism. Hungary has turned against the democratic ideals of the world, civil liberties are restricted and today it is on a declining economic path. Political life is characterized by a murderous policy divergence, confrontation and a dangerous ideology-based polarization. The majority of the society is struggling with unjust and unequal relationships without even the hope offered by mutual solidarity. Hungary's international prestige, integrity and credibility are now at its lowest point.

In Hungary a system has developed that is disrespectful to both the rule of law and constitutionalism. Hungary has turned against the democratic ideals of the world, civil liberties are restricted and today it is on a declining economic path. Political life is characterized by a murderous policy divergence, confrontation and a dangerous ideology-based polarization. The majority of the society is struggling with unjust and unequal relationships without even the hope offered by mutual solidarity. Hungary's international prestige, integrity and credibility are now at its lowest point.

In terms of gender equity Hungary matches the European average, but is slightly below some of its neighbours.

Over the past 20 years the country has seen significant changes in the areas of education, employment and social inequality. Poverty and social exclusion have caused the greatest tensions, but demographic trends, health issues and food security have also created challenges. The structure of poverty remains unchanged. Child poverty is severe; families with several children and, most notably, single parents tend to live in poverty. Among the Roma, who are particularly subject to discrimination and social exclusion, the risk of poverty has significantly increased as it has among the unemployed, the unskilled, and those living in rural areas.
Despite the fact that it was the first country in Eastern Europe to adopt International Monetary Fund prescriptions in 1982 and that it was more highly developed than its neighbours when it embraced a market economy, Hungary is now the weakest economy in the region. The reasons for this are manifold and have led the country to waver between potential social upheaval – if a change of direction is not made – and the total collapse of a very vulnerable economy. The phantom of right-wing extremism lurks in the background, fed by popular discontent.
The global crisis has pushed Hungary into the worst economic decline in almost two decades. It was partially responsible for the resignation of Premier Ferenc Gyucsany earlier this year. The export-dependent economy has suffered from the slowdown of its main commercial partners. The social system is crippled by corruption, the national currency has plunged and public finances are heavily burdened by pension obligations. The new Premier plans to cut pensions, public sector bonuses and maternity support; to mortgage energy and transport subsidies; and to raise the age for retirement.
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