National Strategies and Good Practices in OECD Countries

Most OECD countries have developed and implemented national strategies for sustainable development (NSSD) in accordance with the 1992 mandate of Agenda 21. The sustainable development strategy process offers an opportunity to build on complementary programs in the economic, environmental, and social spheres to improve the long-term effectiveness of government policy agendas. In 2001, the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) developed a set of guidelines to assist developing countries in formulating their national strategies for sustainable development [42]. These guidelines were based on a number of key principles, such as broad consultation, country ownership, and realistic targets. In 2002, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs also developed guidelines for preparing a national sustainable strategy [43]. These guidelines focused on five precepts: (1) integrating economic, social, and environmental objectives, and ensuring balance across sectors, territories and generations; (2) ensuring broad participation and effective partnership; (3) promoting country ownership and commitment; (4) developing capacity and an enabling environment; and (5) focusing on outcome and means of implementation. Comparisons show that the UN and OECD guidelines are very similar with regard to a number of criteria (Table 2.1).

The main principles of good practices recognized by the UN and OECD include:

Policy integration—national strategies should give consideration to economic, social and environmental concerns in integrated approaches and plans.

Intergenerational timeframe—national strategies should adopt a long-term timeframe that enables inclusion of intergenerational principles and indicators.

Analysis and assessments—integrated assessment tools should be used to identify the environmental, economic, and social costs and benefits of policy and strategy options.

Indicators and targets—strategies should be based on structured indicator systems to assist in monitoring progress and to serve as quantitative targets.

Table 2.1 Comparison of UN and OECD Principles for National Strategies for Sustainable Development (UN DESA 2002 OECD 2001)

Main Principles


United Nations

Policy Integration

Intergenerational timeframe

Analysis and assessments

Indicators and targets Coordination and institutions

Local and regional governance Stakeholder participation

Monitoring and evaluation

Integrate economic, social and environmental objectives comprehensive and integrated strategy Consensus on long-term vision

Base on comprehensive and reliable analysis build on existing processes and strategies Targeted with clear budgetary priorities High-level government commitment and influential lead insitutions Link national and local levels Effective participation people centered

Incorporate monitoring, learning, and improvement

Integrate economic, social and environmental objectives link different sectors

Shared strategic and pragmatic vision link short-term to medium/long term

Anchor in sound technical and economic analysis build on existing mechanisms and strategies

Realistic, flexible targets

Strong institution or group of institutions spearheading the process

Link national, regional, and global levels

Access to information for all stakeholders transparency and accountability partnership among government, civil, society, private sector, and external institution integrated mechanisms for assessment, follow up, evaluation and feedback

Coordination and institutions—a wide range of government departments and agencies should be involved in the formulation and implementation of national strategies, with overall responsibility in the office of the Prime Minister or equivalent.

Local and regional governance—local and regional authorities should be fully involved in the development of national strategies, with certain delivery aspects assigned to sub-national levels.

Stakeholder participation—stakeholders (e.g., businesses, unions, nongovernmental organizations) should participate with government representatives in commissions responsible for developing and implementing national strategies.

Monitoring and evaluation—independent bodies or processes should be established to act as watchdogs monitoring implementation of national strategies and providing recommendations for their improvement.

Table 2.2 Good Practices by Selected OECD Countries (EEAC 2005 UN DESA 2004)

Good Practices

OECD Countries

Policy integration

New Zealand, Norway, Sweden

Integenerational timeframe

Finland, Germany, Sweden

Analysis and assessments

European Union, Switzerland, United


Indicators and targets

Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland

Coordination and institutions

Finland, France, Germany

Local and regional governance

Korea, Netherlands, United Kingdom

Stakeholder participation

Czech Republic, Portugal, Slovak


Monitoring and evaluation

Canada, France, United Kingdom

A review of the OECD countries' national strategies shows that many lack the basic design and implementation elements recommended by both the OECD and the UN [44]. There is no single method, specific entry point, or ideal coordinating mechanism for these strategies that will reflect the economic, environmental, social, and cultural specificities of countries. However, the practices in the strategies of the OECD countries that are more likely to yield positive results can be identified, and these, in turn, can inform further analysis and refinement of existing guidelines. The extent to which the OECD countries have followed the guidelines for good practices is reviewed in the remainder of this chapter (Table 2.2).

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