Inclusive Sustainability – a Constitutional duty to ensure social and economic justice

In a constitutional system such as that of Timor-Leste, as the the Head of State, the President of the Republic plays the role of guardian of the Constitution and supervises the regular function of the various democratic institutions.

The President of the Republic provides political guidance but does not implement policy. That is the province of the Government. The President has specific powers of intervention, participation and influence to guide or shape the political decisions of the State.

Recognising what is known as the “magistrature of influence” the President has formulated a broad policy program for his current term as Head of State. This program is encapsulated in the phrase Inclusive Sustainability.

“In his speech to Parliament on 15 September 2022 the President outlined the concept of inclusive sustainability:

“The objectives of the State set out in the Constitution include such things as the building of a society based on social justice, establishing the material and spiritual welfare of the citizens, protecting the environment and preserving our natural resources. These objectives include promoting the harmonious and integrated development of the sectors and regions, and importantly, ensuring the fair distribution of the national product…

“Integral to the protection of environment and preservation of natural resources, enshrined in the Constitution, we find the concept of sustainable development, in which the protection of the environment is seen from the perspective of economic development. More than a mere guiding principle, the Constitution assumes the State’s legal duty to safeguard the sustainable development of the economy, and to ensure that the nation’s natural resources are used in a fair and equitable manner…

“Inclusive Sustainability means that our economic system, the use of our national product and the use of our natural resources must be done in a manner that is sustainable both now, and in the future, for the generations that come. ..

“It means we must look beyond our personal and party political interest to ensure the material welfare of all of the citizens of the nation, whilst at the same time protecting our abundant natural resources and our environment.

“It gives substance to the overriding and fundamental right to equality before the law in the context of the allocation of the nation’s financial and natural resources and its sustainable economic development, in the fair distribution of the national product and the fair and equitable use of natural resources. It entails the duty and obligation to ensure and safeguard the sustainable development of the economy, the environment, and the nation. It entails the duty and obligation to ensure and safeguard the inclusive and sustainable development of our greatest asset, our people.”

The President recognises to prepare the nation and people, especially the young, for generational change, requires ending unemployment, creating national food security and addressing environmental degradation. These are the greatest challenges facing the nation.

“The principle of Inclusive Sustainability forms the bedrock” of how we can positively deal with the various challenges risks and threats facing the nation and the planet.

“Decentralisation, building the country and its physical and social infrastructure from the ground up, provides us with a base from which to create economic stimulation and employment. The development of our nation must be inclusive, and it must be sustainable.”

In advocating for the principle of Inclusive Sustainable Development the President has highlighted the need to:

– plan and build an inclusive social and economic policy,

– revitalise and build the agricultural sector to ensure food nutrition and security,

– build local food production, packaging, distribution systems and networks as a basis for local manufacturing industries;

– create an accessible and efficient business environment;

– improve the quality of that education and vocational training so that the young can tackle the future;

– develop strong Constitutional values a strong and inclusive democracy and improve access to government, services, and the law.