Intergenerational Timeframe

In addition to balancing economic, environmental, and social objectives, a basic tenet of sustainable development mandates "meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" [1]. The ever depleting stocks of assets (e.g., man-made, natural, human, and social capital) that underpin sustainable development must be preserved over time. This calls for national strategies that support intergenerational equity by setting long term timeframes in their sustainable development plans.

The national strategies of most countries have specific short-term timeframes (e.g., 2000-2005). Others have medium-term timeframes of ten years, such as the Czech Republic Strategy for Sustainable Development that covers the years 2004-2014. While short and medium-term timeframes facilitate monitoring progress on specific goals and dealing with change within those time periods, they leave national strategies vulnerable to political whims. Although some strategies include an inherent renewal expectation or periodic renewals required by law, they may still be subject to the ideological or political agendas of successive governments. Strategic planning frameworks are more likely to be successful when they are based on long-term vision backed by strong and lasting political commitment.

To this end, Germany and Sweden have adopted timeframes of 18-30 years in their national strategies for sustainable development. Sweden's strategy has a 25 year planning perspective, while allowing that measures taken in accordance with the strategy may need to be reassessed more frequently. The German strategy developed in 2002 contains quantified and time-bound indicators extending to 2020 [46].

While a longer timeframe allows for better incorporation of intergenerational considerations, these are difficult to define and quantify. Finland, Sweden, and Germany have included indicators addressing intergenerational concerns in their strategies. In economic terms, these might relate to relieving public debt; in environmental terms, concern for the preservation of resources; and in social terms, the provision of adequate retirement incomes. Related to the environmental dimension, for example, the Swedish strategy emphasizes that "the overall objective of environmental policy is to hand over a society to the next generation in which the major environmental problems have been solved" [45]. Finland includes intergenerational indicators, such as government financial liabilities and preservation of biodiversity in monitoring its sustainable development. Germany supports intergenerational equity by avoiding high public debt and short-term economic decisions that could increase burdens on future generations.

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

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