Councils for Sustainable Development
information as of March 2001 -
Developing National Strategies for Sustainable Development: National Councils
for Sustainable Development (NCSD) / Earth Council and Regional NCSDs
Planning/implementing sustainable development strategies
NCSD’s are seeking to strengthen civic society participation in local and
multi-stakeholder decision-making mechanisms and activities related to the
implementation of the UNCED agreements. The Earth Council (an independent,
international body) has, since 1992, been instrumental in promoting the creation
and strengthening of NCSDs through greater civil participation. It has also
facilitated the organisation of regional networks of NCSDs (and similar
entities) through a series of regional meetings held in Latin America, Europe,
Africa and Asia.
governments, private enterprise, NGOs, civil society.
Frame: Idea introduced at
Earth Summit 1992 – on going
Contact Details; URL etc: www.ncsdnetwork.org
National, regional and ultimately global
Most countries have some form of focal point or mechanism
at the national level to oversee the implementation of the Earth Summit
agreements. Many of these are structured as multi-stakeholder and participatory
mechanisms, usually referred to as National Councils for Sustainable Development
(NCSD). The composition of each NCSD and the way it operates varies widely,
reflecting the circumstances of each individual country. But key common features
are their multi-stakeholder character and integrative approach.
Processes are designed through regional coordination. For example, in Latin
America, there was national consultation after Rio+5 and some sub-regional
Specific Multi-Stakeholder processes are underway in two specific arenas:
a) “Based on resolutions agreed at the International Forum for NCSDs
(April 2000), the global network is preparing to undertake a multi-stakeholder
assessment of the Earth Summit commitments” to feed into Rio+10 process.
b) With funding from GEF-UNDP, a pilot project is underway to “ develop
methodologies to integrate global environmental priorities into sustainable
development plans”. It will involve developing capacity-building strategies,
as appropriate to address weaknesses and barriers to change. The project is
founded on the concept of Multi-Stakeholder Integrative Sustainability Planning
(MISP) – based on principles of broad participation, flexibility, dynamic and
promoting vertical and horizontal integration and empowerment. Countries
involved include Mexico and the Phillipines. Draft guidelines and information
promoting good practice are available on the NCSD Knowledge Network Internet
issues to be addressed in an MSP
stakeholders identify the issues for the NCSD.
contact occurs at global and regional meetings, through existing contacts with
The Regional Coordinator makes unilateral visits to different groups within a
country, then sets up a first group meeting.
goals of an MSP
The NCSD sets the goals and identifies priorities under the heading of
sustainability, Agenda 21 and Earth Charter. Goals develop over time, within a
broad framework and it usually takes over a year to develop strong foundations.
As part of this process, participants need to check back with their
constituencies. Continuity is hardest with governments.
It is an on-going process. Setting clear time-bound strategies for
implementation of priority areas is one of the most difficult aspects of
Rio+10 Assessment: Preliminary results to be presented to CSD April 2001.
International NCSD Forum December 2001.
The dialogue process is defined by the group, in consultation with, and via
feedback from their constituencies, municipalities etc. There is on-going
(internal) monitoring and reports of workshops (limited only by funds). The
Regional Coordinator follows up issues and progress periodically.
Rio+10 Assessments: NCSDs will decide the most appropriate ways to conduct these
via workshops, working groups, issue identification techniques and national
Communication by the Regional Co-ordinator (RC) is initially through face to
face meetings, then phone contacts and mailing, with visits at critical points,
e.g. the RC always re-visit when there is a change of government.
need for additional support to engage and enable participation of Indigenous
communities and other marginalised groups is addressed from the outset of a
NCSD. The RC raises questions about NCSD and sub-national groups resources
(including financial) to enable their inclusion.
Internet resource – NCSD Knowledge Network – has been developed to
facilitate information exchange between NCSDs.
and lessons learnt are shared between countries within the region. Some
countries have been in the process longer than others. Mexico is frequently
cited as a good example for a region, with strong sub-national groups and NCSD.
The NCSD in Mexico is 50% sub-national representatives and 50% national-level
MSP. (Previously Bolivia was seen as the region’s “best practice” example).
Philippines is perceived by many as the best global example. The Philippine
Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD)
was set up in 1992. It is a multi-stakeholder body involving government, civil
society, business and labour sectors, practicing consensus building processes in
decision-making. It already had a national plan for sustainable development
before the development of the Philippine Agenda 21 (PA21). Through the PCSD,
PA21 has been adopted as the nation’s blueprint for sustainable development.
This was published in 1996 after an extensive
multi-level, multi-stakeholder consultation process. It covers a broad
span of issues, including urban poverty, agriculture and labour, as well as a
range of topics related to economics and technology. Specific reference was made
to global governance and the need for financial assistance to developing
countries to implement Agenda 21 commitments.
1995, a regional NCSD meeting facilitated by the Earth Council and hosted by the
PCSD, led to the formation of a network of NCSDs in Asia and the Pacific, called
the Asia-Pacific National Councils for Sustainable Development (APNCSD). Outputs
from this inclusive network include feedback into the Rio+5 Forum. It is
currently investigating how it could strengthen existing mechanisms for
communicating its message.
process: procedures of agreement
government driven but this is now evolving in many Latin American countries to
be a more representative MSP. It is, by its very nature, a gradual process as it
requires a change in the decision-making culture for many countries in the
political, historical, traditional, and cultural make up of a country is crucial
to how the NCSD MSP structure is initiated and progresses. The move towards
truly multi-stakeholder process in decision making for a region is a gradual one
and requires considerable determination and belief in the underlying principles
for the NCSD.
most NCSDs report back to a high-level position in government, often the head of
state, they are in an ideal position to conduct participatory assessments of
progress since Rio.
climate change as one example, the NCSD works together, often in sub-groups to
build a strategy to implement key the principles in the Convention, and also to
undertake research, implement and monitor progress.
Closing the MSP
NCSD is an on-going structure, although priority issues may “close”.
of the MSP & Facilitation
NCSD has its own secretariat. The Secretariat and a steering committee or board
meet regularly (3-4 months). They receive input from the sub-national grouping
(where they exist).
secretariat and board are involved in facilitation.
Earth Council is tasked “to design, strengthen and facilitate funding to
establish national secretariats” to support civil society participation within
NCSDs and similar entities. It also facilitates regional networks of NCSDs.
The secretariat reports on the meetings. It produces National A21 (equivalent to
National Strategies for Sustainable Development Reports).
issue is taken seriously. For example, in Mexico there are larger meetings and
sub-national meetings to incorporate views additional to NCSD.
to the general public
produces occasional leaflets on key issues e.g. climate change as a strategy to
help change public behaviour/attitudes. There is little money for massive
outreach campaigns and wider public engagement. Work is dependent on government
and stakeholder budgets.
into official decision-making process
is a national link to Agenda 21; UN CSD and national reporting. There are also
links to UNEP and UNDP links; C21 (DESA).
highlights that in the initial stages, stakeholders are usually very sceptical/critical
of large institutions and require clear reasons for getting involved, and need a
deeper understanding of process and their role in it.
Developing an NCSD is by nature transparent. Stakeholders can impact the
process considerably and challenge it throughout.
Governments e.g. Netherlands, Canada, Scandinavian countries, C21 (indirectly),
and inadequate funding is an on-going problem, especially for engaging more
local level input. e.g. to get sub-national representatives to a meeting in
Brazil, participants must fly to one location, and on top of this resourcing,
there is all the necessary reporting, administration and monitoring required.
Local participants do so on a voluntary basis. One suggestion is to ensure that
funding from external sources gets distributed evenly through each stakeholder
groups and not channelled through government first (as is current practice).
This would also encourage each grouping to ensure that the other is managing
their finances according to agreed strategies and programmes.
conflict exists with “alternative processes” e.g. Bolivia, where the Poverty
Reduction Strategy Paper PRSP (set up separately by the World Bank is directly
linked to Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) funds. This financial incentive
detracts attention from NCSD process when actually it should be seen as one of
the key elements for sustainable development.