Local and Regional Governance

Sustainable development strategies should involve local authorities and be a two-way interactive process between national and local governmental entities. The main strategic principles and directions should be set at the central level, but the more detailed planning, implementation and monitoring can also be undertaken at a decentralized level, with appropriate transfer of resources and authority. Under the best of conditions, orchestrating sustainable development initiatives is not easy, but when different geographical jurisdictions have competing agendas, the task can be onerous. Only a few OECD governments have attempted to fully coordinate with the sustainable development efforts at sub-national government levels.

Coordination among different levels of government is inherently more difficult in federal states (e.g., Australia, Belgium, Canada, and Switzerland) where powers over sustainable development policies are divided among various levels of government. The decentralized institutional structure in federal countries often requires special procedures to leverage change and implement sustainable development strategies. Canada's lack of a national strategy is in part attributed to the enormous time-consuming joint effort it would take to coordinate its federal and provincial governments.

Some countries have developed separate but equal approaches for devolved regions. The United Kingdom developed a U.K. strategic framework for sustainable development, but with emphasis on delivery at the regional level in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. France devotes attention to the "territories" in its sustainable development strategy that encompasses both regional and sub-regional levels of government [47].

Countries such as France and Portugal have fully included local and regional authorities in the preparation of their national sustainable development strategies. The U.K. also has a strong local component in its strategy, including Local Strategic Partnerships and Sustainable Community Plans. Some countries (e.g., Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Korea) are coordinating national and local implementation of sustainable development strategies through local Agenda 21 processes. Chapter 28 of Agenda 21 contains guidance for local initiatives in support of their overall goals where local authorities are asked to develop their own sub-strategies to suit their economies and specific circumstances.

The overall most comprehensive Good Practices in Local and Regional governance are found in Korea, Netherlands, and the U.K. In Korea, in accordance with its National Environmental Vision for the New Millennium, regional governments have adopted a Local Agenda 21 which is coordinated by the Korean Council for Local Agenda 21. In the Netherlands, the National Strategy for Sustainable Development gives general guidance for sustainability processes at sub-national levels that are to be tailored to the local situation. The U.K.'s shared framework for sustainable development, One Future—Different Paths, establishes common goals for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without compromising the strengths offered by regional delivery and a diversity of approaches.

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