Analysis and Assessments

Sound analysis and ongoing assessments that utilize existing tools and data, including environmental assessments, cost-benefit analyses, and accounting frameworks play crucial roles in providing information on changing economic, environmental, and social conditions, pressures and responses, and their correlations with strategy objectives and indicators. In the evaluation process, those underlying trade-offs among economic, environmental, and social objectives are identified that can assist in priority setting and policy making for sustainable development. However, with the exception of a few countries, most national strategies lack provisions for systematically assessing the costs and benefits of alternative actions and informing trade-offs across the full range of sustainable development issues.

The most commonly used assessment tools come from the environmental policy field. Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) attempt to gauge the potential ecological effects of policies before they are implemented. In Canada, the cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy Plan and Program Proposals requires that government agencies incorporate environmental considerations in their reviews of various proposals, including positive and negative effects, and report these to the public. Other countries—including Denmark, Greece, Italy, and Spain—use strategic environmental assessment (SEA) to discern potential outcomes. Ireland and Portugal employ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis for sustainable assessments and priority setting.

Budget mechanisms that show links between spending decisions and sustainable development impacts are also useful assessment tools. In the Netherlands, each ministry is requested to give an overview of its contribution to sustainable development in its annual budget that is discussed in Parliament. Sweden, Norway and a few other countries have similar green budgeting approaches that outline the potential sustainable development impacts related to public spending on proposed policies and programs.

More sophisticated analytical tools are now being tried in some countries. For example, the United Kingdom's Sustainable Development Strategy adopted Integrated Policy Appraisal (IPA) to assess the potential impact of policy proposals in the following categories: public expenditure and economic impacts, regulatory impacts, rural proofing, health impact assessment, environmental appraisal, policy appraisal for equal treatment, and climate change. The assessments are used to better understand linkages among economic, social, and environmental systems and to assist government departments in assessing the total sustainability impacts of policy proposals [47]. Switzerland uses a newer tool, Strategic Sustainability Assessments (SSA), in its planning processes to review sustainable development linkages and the overall effects of potential policies and actions. For example, SSA is used to evaluate the impact of draft legislation and development projects on economic, environmental, and social dimensions of sustainable development and to identify potential deficiencies early enough in the process to influence the direction taken [48]. Similarly, the European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development established that all major legislative proposals should undergo Sustainability Assessments, meaning "an assessment of the potential economic, environmental and social benefits and costs of action or lack of action, both inside and outside the EU" [49]. Proposals should include, where relevant, the effects of gender equality and equal opportunities and should identify the groups who bear the burden of change so that policy makers can judge the need for measures to help these groups adapt.

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

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