Blog Post

“Et Framtidsombud i Norge”

Ombudsman is an indigenous Swedish, Danish and Norwegian term, etymologically rooted in the Old Norse word umboðsmaðr, essentially meaning “representative” (with the word umbud/ombud meaning proxy, attorney, that is someone who is authorized to act for someone else). It’s quite fitting therefore that we should turn to inspiring activities in Norway, where a national campaign is underway to introduce a national Ombudsman or Ombudsmann for Future Generations.

Spire is a Norwegian youth organization, officially linked to the Norwegian Government’s Development Fund, tackling injustice and working for a just and sustainable distribution of the world’s resources. It influences politicians in Norway and internationally to create change, working with youth based in the Global South and running information campaigns to inspire Norwegian youth to action. Spire was working closely with the World Future Council in Rio to promote a High Commissioner for Future Generations and is now running a national campaign for a “Future-Ombudsman” in Norway.

NorwayOFG (2)The Future Ombudsman is about solidarity between generations, to understand how decisions today affect the quality of life for those who come after us. It will be an independent political institution, on an equal footing with the other ombudsmen in Norway. This “Future-Ombudsman” will be a person that speaks on behalf of future generations, who works for a long-term perspective in political decisions-making.

Spire already has the support of the Norwegian Green party and their youth arm and is working with the Socialist Left Party, the Labour Party and the Centre Party, as well as relevant ministries. They are also working to garner support from some major organisations and institutions, including the Norwegian church. The campaign has received coverage on national radio and TV, and press.

Spire has written and published an extensive report on the proposal (unfortunately only available in Norwegian). The report examines the current political and decision-making situation in Norway and the need for a Future Ombudsman, including practical, legal and economic aspects of the proposed institution. Spire emphasizes that they will not prescribe a concrete mandate for this role, leaving that important task to decision makers. They do however suggest that the Future Ombudsman staff should be put together on the basis of breadth and interdisciplinarity. The staff must have the ability to associate different disciplines and bring sectors together, helping to create new venues and platforms for dialogue between civil society, politicians and businesses. The Future Ombudsman will have to be politically independent, and anchored by a separate legal provision that guarantees this independence. The Future Ombudsman should also be entitled access to all information pertaining to the cases it deals with. It should be able to initiate investigations and publicly pursue particularly serious cases and be able to bring cases to court. Norway has already variety of strategies, action plans and legal obligations around sustainable development onto which the mandate of a Future Ombudsman can be tied.

The timeframe for this campaign is ‘as soon as possible’ but will to a large extent depend on how much support the campaign can win from MPs and ministries. General elections are scheduled for September. So far the political calendar is not proving to be helpful: politicians are reluctant to take on new commitments with an election looming. Since the right-leaning parties are expected to win the elections, Spire is trying to garner as much support on the left who are more inclined to get behind this proposal and can fight for a strong opposition case. They are also lobbying some of the smaller centre/right parties that might play an important role after the election.

Spire is attempting to get some ministries interested so they argue for this in the annual budget deliberations that have just started. This is unlikely however since deliberations on the budget have already began and even if support is established, the political leadership and thus ministry staffing will (most likely) change after the next election. Awareness-raising during the election and a petition calling for this new institution are also in the campaign-pipeline.

These inspiring national activities are a great complementary parallel to activities on the international level – showing that this proposal really does have traction at all governance levels. Activities are also simmering in Mexico, the Netherlands, Germany and Australia and we will keep you posted in other feature blogs like this one. You can also consult our database of constitutional and institutional mentions of future generations around the world.

Posted by Future Justice on 26 March 2013