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National Strategies for Sustainable Development (NSSD)

Donor - Developing Country Dialogues on National Strategies for Sustainable Development


To be amended – information as of  27 March, 2001


ISSUES: National strategic planning for sustainable development, participatory dialogues


GOALS: Improving international understanding of the key challenges involved in developing and implementing nssds, and examining, through good practice examples, how donors can best assist developing countries in such processes.


PARTICIPATING STAKEHOLDERS: OECD / Development Assistance Committee (DAC), UK Department for International Development (DFID), EC, IIED, pilot countries & communities


TIME FRAME: Phase 1 October 1999 – Phase 4 February 2001






Level of MSP: international/national multi donor initiative


Procedural Aspects:

Designing the MSP

Building on previous discussions and agreements made by OECD/DAC to review good practice to inform donors assisting developing countries, IIED was approached in 1998 to coordinate and manage the overall project and provide technical support. The project is a collective effort of all the participants (developing countries and donors). IIED’s role has been to coordinate, provide guidance and support, and assist with analysis and synthesis. A scoping workshop was held in the UK in 1998 to help shape the project and a Task Force, led by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Commission was established.

Participating countries: Bolivia; Burkina Faso; Nepal; Tanzania; Thailand.

Three other ‘parallel learning countries' are participating through targeted reviews: Ghana, Pakistan, Namibia.


Identifying the issues to be addressed in an MSP

In May 1999, DAC endorsed the definition of an NSSD as “a strategic and participatory process of analysis, debate, capacity strengthening, planning and action towards sustainable development.” 

NSSDs are therefore processes or mechanisms which enable better communication and informed debate amongst stakeholders; seek to build consensus where possible; facilitate better ways of working, leading to more effective action in planning for sustainability. An NSSD needn’t be something new.


Identifying relevant stakeholders

Stakeholders: Government, private sector, civil society


Identifying MSP participants


Setting the goals of an MSP


Setting the agenda


Setting the time-table

International timetable arising from the Programme of Action for the further implementation of Agenda 21 at the Special Session of the General Assembly (Earth Summit 11) in New York in 1997. This document states that “by the year 2002 national strategies for sustainable development that reflect contributions and responsibilities of all interested parties should be completed in all countries" and that "Local Agenda 21 and other sustainable development programmes should be actively encouraged.” The OECD DAC set a further target of 2005 for NSSDs to be in the process of being implemented.

The timetable for the project was agreed by the participants (i.e. developing countries and donors). They took the view that it was important to get the policy guidance before aid ministers at the DAC high level meeting in April 2001 for endorsement – so that the DAC could use the guidance to lever a renewed focus on strategies and seek convergence around the pricniples in the guidance. Otherwise another year would have been lost (the High Level only meets once a year).


Preparatory process

Five dialogues held at the country level. One regional dialogue, in the Sahel, was planned but was not undertaken as it was found to be too complex in the available timeframe. Instead, there was more in-depth focus in the five dialogue countries. Each dialogue implemented by  country or regional institution. In addition to the status review of all significant strategic planning processes that are current or recent, there are the dialogues involving stakeholder consultations, roundtables and workshops.


Communication process

There was constant communication via an e-mail list and via the website, and IIED was in constant contact with all country teams and the donor Task Force. The was also considerable effort to establish in-country networks (even country websites).

Process uses focus groups, roundtables, national workshops (varies according to local circumstances).

Three review workshops during timespan of dialogue process – an initial planning meeting, mid-term and final workshop.


Decision-making process: procedures of agreement


Implementation process


Closing the MSP

The final workshop focused mainly on the main thrust and content of the policy guidance. The sourcebook was discussed in outline and it is to be developed during the balance of 2001 (April-December).


Structural Aspects:

Structures / institutions of the MSP



IIED to facilitate and coordinate at the international level. Facilitation of the participatory dialogues in undertaken by local teams, guided by local steering committees.



Material prepared by both IIED and Project participants.

NSSD web site & CD ROM as tools for project management and information sharing during lifetime of project and beyond; detailed source book on NSSD processes and case examples; policy guidance for DAC members on good practice and support for developing countries. Various background and issues papers have also been produced during project’s lifetime. These inform the process of developing NSSDs and comment on the processes used.

IIED developed the NSSD Knowledge Management System – an Internet and CD ROM tool. The web site www.nssd.net provides a forum for dialogue as well as background and reference material. The project maintains an email discussion list to facilitate dialogue and information exchange.

Each country / region involved will prepare a status report and a dialogue report. IIED will prepare a rolling Issues paper, updated through process and a final report. A sourcebook – pulling together all the main issues and lessons from these reports, and guidelines for donors will also be published at end of project (OECD).


Relating to not-participating stakeholders


Relating to the general public


Linkage into official decision-making process

The results from the NSSD will be one of the main outputs from OECD/DAC to Rio+10. Likely to have other impacts in future national/international decision-making processes. Results will also go to High Level OECD/DAC meeting in 2001.



Multi-donor funded initiative


Contact Minu Hemmati and Felix Dodds for further information.