Monitoring and Evaluation

National strategies for sustainable development are not meant to be static plans, but rather dynamic processes that evolve as more information becomes available about priorities, technological options, policy cost-effectiveness, and viable problem-solving techniques of implementation. Learning, adaptation, and continual improvement should be characteristics of national strategies. This ideally requires an external, independent agency or process to monitor the implementation of national sustainable development strategies, as well as feed back for necessary adjustments and improvements.

Both Canada and the U.K. have opted for an independent auditing process as learning tools for sustainable development. In Canada, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD) in the Office of the Auditor General is responsible for reporting to the parliament on the extent to which departments are implementing and achieving the goals and objectives laid out in their sustainable development strategies. These strategies must be reviewed, revised, and retabled every three years, in order to provide a regular opportunity for learning and adaptation. In the U.K., the role of the Sustainable Development Commission, established in 2000, was strengthened in 2005 so that it moved from "critical friend" to "watchdog"; it utilized both the National Audit Office and the Audit Commission to oversee implementation of the national strategy. New Zealand has appointed a similar but more limited Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, who primarily audits the Environment Ministry.

France developed a methodology for a unique peer review process to promote experience sharing with other countries in support of the continual improvement of its national strategy. In February 2005, France subjected its own national strategy to a peer review by a group of four peer partner countries—Belgium, Ghana, Mauritius and the U.K. The peers made 13 general and 42 specific recommendations, including how to promote sustainable development partnerships with developing countries, establish more participatory processes, and ensure effective monitoring of the national sustainable development strategy. The French hope "that this approach will be found to have generic value that can be used (and developed further) by other countries through similar exercise" [50].

Other countries are also developing oversight bodies. Belgium assigned this task to the Federal Planning Bureau in which a task force periodically reports on the quality of the federal government's sustainable development policies and programs. In 2004, Germany established a Parliamentary Committee for Sustainable Development that calls for plenary debates and gives recommendations to the federal government regarding strategy implementation.

Overall, the most comprehensive Good Practices in Monitoring and Evaluation are found in Canada, France, and the U.K. In 1995, Canada established a Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD) to audit the sustainable development strategies of different government departments and report each year to Parliament on progress and challenges in implementation. France initiated peer reviews of national strategies for sustainable development involving civil society, international organizations, and other countries that make recommendations on the process, content, indicators and implementation. In the U.K., the Commissioner on Sustainable Development (CSD) has been assigned a reinforced "watchdog" role beginning in 2006, whereby it will monitor implementation of the U.K. strategy and report regularly to the Prime Minister on strengths and weaknesses [47].

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