The Citizens Network for Sustainable Development has been urging our federal government to fulfill it’s commitment to develop and implement a National Strategy for Sustainability for more than ten years now. I posted an idea and proposal on this idea yesterday (May 27) under the category of New Strategies and Techniques of Participation. It has already gotten quite a few votes and will probably receive substantially more than this posting. See: http://opengov.ideascale.com/akira/dtd/3299-4049. A National Strategy will not focus on just one or two components or criteria for better and more open government, but instead on most aspects of this challenge. I am thus including a description below of how a National Strategy for Sustainability could be used to address most of the categories that are listed in the Open Government Dialogue.
The Citizens Network for Sustainable Development is urging the Obama Administration and Congress to lead our country and people in Developing and Implementing a National Strategy for Sustainability, as agreed to by all of the UN Member States during both the Rio Earth Summit Conference in 1992 and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. Indeed all countries agreed to “begin to implement their National Strategy Plans by 2005”, so we are already several years behind in fulfilling this important commitment.
President Obama has repeatedly stated that his Administration will be both a good global citizen and will contribute substantially to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Developing and implementing a National Strategy for Sustainability is needed to fulfill Millennium Development Goal #7 which calls for “ensuring environmental sustainability” and “integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reversing the loss of environmental resources.”
One of the primary objectives, goals, and components of a National Strategy for Sustainability should be to provide more transparency within government at all levels. Mechanisms should be developed as a part of the implementation process to make data more accessible, make government operations more visible, and to provide open access to key information such as is applicable to the primary indicators that are used to measure and assess progress that is being made to implement the sustainability plan.
The work of existing and new Federal Advisory Committees should be integrated into both the development and implementation of the National Strategy for Sustainability. In fact some type of an independent National Council on Sustainable Development should be created, with a mandate and structure similar to that of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Public Administration, which will act as a Federal Advisory Committee for most purposes.
Many of the recommendations that come from the National Strategy Process could be instituted either as Executive Orders or as federal, state, and local rules, regulations, or legislation. In fact one of the primary goals of the process would be to evaluate existing rules, regulations, and legislation to determine whether they are sufficient for achieving set and agreed upon goals and then to take sufficient action to ensure that they are sufficient for achieving the goals.
Collaboration within, between and among various levels of government should be one of the primary focuses of the National Strategy. Indeed regional coordinating bodies and councils are needed at various levels of government to ensure that adequate processes are in place for efficient coordination, collaboration, and implementation. The President’s Council on Sustainable Development included many recommendations for such coordinating bodies and councils which ought to be acted upon, including a Joint Center on Sustainable Communities. I am including a summary of many of the primary recommendations from the President’s Council below. See: http://clinton5.nara.gov/PCSD
In addition, one of the key contributions that the development of a National Strategy could make would be to encourage and support the development of citizen initiatives and public-private partnerships. Indeed the focus on Sustainable Development, both in the US and around the world, has seen a growing interest and dedication to public-private partnerships which are particularly apparent in the recent development of UN Partnership Initiatives – of which both the Bush and Obama Administrations have championed and paid a great deal of interest. Indeed the National Strategy could serve as a primary means for raising awareness in the US, among stakeholders, government entities, and the public, about the work and efforts of these UN Partnerships and how the US can participate and take advantage more so in and of their development.
CAPACITY BUILDING: TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT
Another primary emphasis of the National Strategy should be to encourage and support Capacity Building and Development. At both the local level and within industries, municipalities and businesses have provided and undergone a great deal of training and staff development as they have developed their own sustainability plans. However, this is still far from universal and similar activities could now be more fruitfully developed as well at the state and federal levels. Development and implementation of a National Strategy could thus serve to foster and support the further development of such training and development programs.
In addition, there is a growing interest within the academic community in integrating Education for Sustainable Development throughout the curriculum – as mandated in the Outcome Document of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development. The extent to which the U.S. Department of Education; federal, state, and local governments; and our educational institutions support and promote efforts to educate and train professors, teachers, and students about the basic principles, attributes, and components of sustainable development is also the extent to which our country will be prepared for the social, economic, and environmental challenges and requirements that are likely to confront us, and that we must deal with, in the 21st century.
Going beyond this, one of the key lessons that was learned from the President’s Council on Sustainable Development is the imperative need to publicize and promote the efforts to develop and implement the National Strategy for Sustainability in as broad and energetic a way as possible. One reason that more of the recommendations from the President’s Council were not implemented was that the process was not sufficiently promoted, especially in the earlier years.
Indeed all Americans must be made aware of the planning and implementation efforts and encouraged and welcomed to participate fully in the process. Indeed one of the primary components of the National Strategy should be to focus on communication strategies and an open and participatory process should be developed to enroll and involve as many people, stakeholders, and professionals in the communication process as possible. Just imagine the great suggestions and contributions that might come from the business community, students, and educators to enhance and promote the communication processes.
Indeed some great work is already being done by students, alternative and mass media, in local communities, and by professional organizations in order to promote the need and raise awareness about sustainable development – of which I could provide many excellent examples – including the Earth Team (http://www.earthteam.net); Guerrilla in the Greenhouse (http://www.greengorilla.com); Captain Planet Foundation (http://captainplanetfdn.org); NBC’s Green Is Universal; Free Range Studios; GoodWorks Public Relations (http://www.goodworkspr.com); and Sustainable Today (http://SustainableToday.org); etc.
Finally, one of the primary components of the National Strategy should focus on Strategic Planning and Budgeting. In fact the development and implementation of the Strategy Plan could provide an excellent means of engaging the concerned public in planning and budgetary processes and indeed has often resulted in such interest at the local and state levels to date. In addition, sustainability indicators, Genuine Progress Indicators, and other assessment tools have often done a much better job of analyzing real world impacts than have more strictly defined economic indicators and also of including crucially important externalities in decision-making processes.
As you can see the development and implementation of a National Strategy for Sustainability could serve as a key vehicle and strategy for improving the operations, transparency, participation, and collaboration in government and at all levels.
Suggested Components and Activities for a
National Strategy for Sustainability
Prepared by Rob Wheeler
Citizens Network for Sustainable Development
The proposed components included below were drawn primarily from the work of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development which met and solicited input from the American public in the 1990s. The Council’s proposals and recommendations should be reconsidered and augmented through a national effort to: develop a National Strategy for Sustainability and fulfill the commitments made by the US government during the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2002.
The reports and recommendations from the President’s Council on Sustainable Development are archived and can be downloaded at: http://clinton5.nara.gov/PCSD.
Some type of a National Council on Sustainable Development should again be established to lead the effort to develop and implement a National Strategy for Sustainability in the US. The role of the Council should be to:
A) Forge Consensus on Policy
B) Demonstrate Implementation of Policy
C) Get The Word Out
D) Evaluate and Report on Progress Made
The National Strategy should:
Establish a White House Office which would have the authority to coordinate and integrate economic, social, and environmental policy throughout the Executive Branch and oversee implementation efforts for the National Strategy Plan.
Establish a new Interagency Working Group on Sustainable Development, again co-chaired by the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Chair of the National Economic Council. The Interagency Working Group should review and conduct a new survey of existing and needed federal programs and activities that could support and implement the recommendations coming from the past and present PCSD. The Interagency Working Group should recommend the means to include these programs and activities in the National Strategy Plan, following appropriate consultations.
The role of the Federal Government should be to:
Sponsor and promote a national dialogue to consider and develop recommendations as to how our country can make a rapid transition to full sustainability.
Develop and promote a national plan for shifting to full sustainability, including the specific steps which will need to be taken and the programs implemented in each sector or issue area.
Publish a catalogue of tools for initiating, leading, and implementing sustainable development efforts. Maintain an information clearinghouse to disseminate examples of best practices and community initiatives of value to county, city, state, federal, private sector, non-profit, and academic organizations.
Conduct policy analysis through a series of public forums on both governmental and private sector policies that contribute to building healthy communities.
Establish and support the work and activities of the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities
Promote and support the development of Eco-Industrial Parks
Develop a national plan and program for Sustainable Production and Consumption; and establish a federal focal point for the promotion and coordination of Extended Product Responsibility.
Provide sustainable community grants to cities and counties for local efforts to develop community-based strategies. Develop sustainable community awards programs to recognize outstanding efforts within communities, community programs, and their elected officials. Develop a peer exchange program to match experienced elected officials and professional staff who have proven solutions with jurisdictions that need to solve specific problems.
Develop a program to support initiatives and activities in rural areas and communities.
Develop and adopt federal metropolitan-scale policy through an Interagency Metropolitan Sustainable Development Working Group. Coordinate its activities with other interagency groups such as the Community Empowerment Board (CEB) and the Interagency Brownfields Initiative. Establish a pilot demonstration program to encourage metropolitan cooperation and problem solving.
Help to facilitate the creation of regional councils modeled after the PCSD's multi-stakeholder process. Establish federal interagency groups to work with the regional councils. Connect the critical issues of metropolitan and rural areas within each region to determine joint needs and collaborative solutions. Help the various regional councils to coordinate their efforts and work together to promote and implement sustainable development policies and practices.
Sponsor a national dialogue on the need for Education for Sustainable Development and take leadership in implementing a national effort to include it as a core part of the curriculum in schools throughout the United States. Support and implement the recommendations from the Education for Sustainability: Agenda for Action process.
Support the work and activities of the Sustainable Communities Network (SCN), connecting citizens nationwide with the resources they need to implement innovative processes and programs to restore the economic, environmental, and social health and vitality of their communities.
Develop a national advertising and educational campaign designed to help local elected officials and private citizens understand the importance of locally-based community action and to promote the National Strategy Plan for implementing sustainable development.
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