Guest Contribution

Norway’s Ombudsperson Campaign

By Siv Maren Sandnæs, Political Vice-President, Spire 

The campaign to establish a national Ombudsperson for Future Generations in Norway has been going for some time now. Looking back on the last year, we are quite happy with what we have achieved, yet we are still far from reaching our goal. When we started working on the campaign in August 2012 the concept of an Ombudsperson for Future Generations was just an abstract idea and the exciting part was that we got to define what the concept should become in practice. We spent months researching Norway’s strategy for sustainable development and discussing what the mandate of the Ombudsperson should be. Additionally, we produced a report titled “How and why it will pay off to establish an Ombudsperson for Future Generations in Norway”. The report explores the economic, legal and political aspects of establishing such an institution. The report (which will eventually also be available in English) has given us legitimacy when talking to politicians and the public.

We launched our campaign with a broad target group; we wanted to convince everyone. Young and old, politicians and civil society. No one had heard of the concept before we started the campaign, but most people immediately liked the idea and understood the need for it. We gained a lot of support from civil society and even managed to get on the national morning news (forward to 1:51:40) to talk about the need for an Ombudsperson for Future Generations. The concept of sustainable development is so much easier to sell when the focus is on people’s children or grandchildren instead of business and politics.

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However, convincing politicians has not been quite so easy. We pitched the concept to the major political parties and their youth parties. Not surprisingly, the left-wing parties were more positively inclined to the idea, while the right-wing parties opposed it. The opposing arguments evolve around whether this will be an institution with soft or hard power, that it is the politicians job to think about the future generations so there is no need for such an institution and of course the right-wing aversion to expanding state institutions.

We have managed to get the Green Party to officially support the concept in addition to three youth parties, so far. We are still working on convincing the other parties but the fact that national elections are coming up this September makes things a bit more difficult. The parties are focusing on key issues that they believe will get them votes, and the concern for future generations seems to be less pertinent than tax relief and health reforms. Right now, three months before the election it looks like there might be a change in government, from left wing to right wing, which will be challenging for our lobby work.

Change in government or not, we love working on this campaign because it focuses on a solution rather than a problem. We are proud to be able to present such a constructive solution on how to make Norwegian politics more sustainable. The fact that 30 civil society organizations are supporting our campaign gives us confidence that we will reach our goal.Whether in one year or ten years, we are positive that there will one day be a national Ombudsperson for Future Generations in Norway.

Read the Future Justice team’s blog post on the Norwegian campaign here

Spire is a youth organization working for a just and sustainable distribution of the world’s resources, aiming to examine the big connections that create injustice. Spire focuses on the environment, food safety and international trade. Spire works to influence politicians in Norway and internationally to create change, working   with youth in the South and running information campaigns to inspire Norwegian youth to action. Spire is the Norwegian Development Fund’s youth organization.

Siv Maren Sandnæs leads the campaign for a national Ombudsperson for Future Generations and has recently taken over as the Deputy Leader of Spire. She is also studying development studies at the University in Oslo.

Posted by Future Justice on 17 June 2013