National Implementation of the Rio Outcomes: Building a Network of National Councils for Sustainable Development to Take Rio Home

28 April 2012, New York, United States

Workshop Report

Organised by the Government of Finland and Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future and partners, the workshop allowed participants to share experiences – both good and bad - about the role and function of existing national sustainable development councils in countries around the world. A new proposal for establishing a Global Network of National Councils for Sustainable Development (NCSDs) was launched, including a website which maps exiting NCSDs and will function as a knowledge sharing platform for the Network. Principles of key elements or success criteria for these councils were identified; these included:

  • High-level membership and leadership of Councils from prominent sectors of society, including central government.
  • The greater the number of government ministries actively involved, the greater the council’s legitimacy and influence. Councils profit from being apolitical, so should avoid being dominated by a particular (usually environment) ministry or individual actors.
  • Councils benefit from ready access, influence and respect at top levels of government, parliament and other influential decision making sectors such as business.
  • Formal legal mechanisms which necessitate the active participation of all government departments in council activities significantly augment its effectiveness, due to the increased coordination and collaboration on sustainable development policies this facilitates.
  • Sufficient independence from government to be able to raise issues and challenges, but sufficient closeness to government to be regarded as helpful advisers. Formal accountability mechanisms embedded in the body’s structure engender transparency and longevity.
  • Sufficient resources and capacity to be able to commission authoritative studies of key sustainability policy issues, and offer evidence-based recommendations.
  • Sufficient capacity to institutionalise indicators and monitor a range of data sources to track both advancements and shortcomings on sustainable development, including progress on national and international Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • In this regard, clear articulation of the economic benefits of more sustainable practices is also central to seeing council recommendations turned into actual government policies, something which cannot be achieved using GDP alone.
  • Mandate and ability to engage all sectors of civil society - at both regional and local levels as appropriate - to build effective partnerships for dialogue and action on sustainable development issues. Raising awareness and creating incentives for sustainable development can be an important role for NCSDs.
  • The ability to coordinate capacity building efforts. Which, to be effective, must be tailored to suit needs at both national and sub-national levels. These principles, in turn, can also formulate the foundations and modalities of any new international partnerships between NCSDs. By working together, a NCSDs Network will have increased importance in helping build capacity and share best practice.

To read the full report click here.