Stakeholder Participation

Active stakeholder participation (e.g., businesses, trade unions, non-governmental organizations, indigenous peoples) should be an inherent feature in the development and implementation of national strategies for sustainable development. Sustainable development involves trade-offs among economic, social, and ecological objectives that should not be determined by governments alone. Decisions and value judgments, which involve and affect the public, require participatory approaches that should engage this same public through effective communication. Ultimately, the extent of stakeholders' involvement in policy processes depends upon national institutional settings and preferences. Structures vary widely across OECD countries in terms of the status, timing, and breadth of involvement of stakeholders.

Several countries have implemented ad hoc participation processes, in which stakeholders are consulted in the development of national strategies, but less so in implementation and subsequent development phases. Public surveys of varying magnitudes have been used to solicit comments on draft strategies.

For example, in Belgium, the Preliminary Draft Plan for sustainable development was placed on a public website and subsidies were given to public interest associations to support information projects related to the consultation. In Finland, stakeholder groups were asked to prepare their own sustainable development strategies in tandem to the government strategy, as part of the National Sustainable Development Partnership Process; this led to a number of partnerships, for example, on sustainable transport solutions, protection of the Baltic Sea, and others.

Some countries include stakeholders on special commissions and councils that provide advice to but are separate from the government bodies that implement the strategies. These include the Federal Sustainable Development council in Belgium, the National Council for Sustainable Development in France, the Council on Sustainable Development in Germany, the National Sustainable Development Council in Ireland, and the Sustainable Development Commission in the U.K.

Other countries include stakeholders alongside government bodies as part of their overall coordination structure for sustainable development. These include the Committee for a Sustainable Austria, the Government Council for Sustainable Development in the Czech Republic, the National Commission on Sustainable Development in Finland, the National Sustainable Development Council in Ireland, the Board of Sustainable Development in Poland, the Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development in Portugal, and the Commission for Sustainable Development in the Slovak Republic.

Ideally, national strategies for sustainable development should be implemented by bodies with wide representation from social partners and other stakeholders in order to promote consultation, dialogue, and more innovative approaches. The overall Good Practices in Stakeholder Participation are found in the Czech Republic, Portugal, and the Slovak Republic. In the Czech Republic, the Government Council for Sustainable Development includes the government, businesses, academics, NGOs and other stakeholders and serves as the umbrella group for developing, implementing, and revising the national sustainable development strategy. In Portugal, one of the four principles of the national strategy is to progress towards a society of solidarity and knowledge. This principle includes interventions to strengthen the citizen components of education and greater access to information and participation in decisionmaking, which is exemplified in the Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development. The Slovak Republic has broad consultations with stakeholders in the development of its national strategy and includes the main business and non-governmental groups on the Slovakian Commission for Sustainable Development to oversee implementation.

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