ESDNewsletter October 2012

This ESDNewsletter informs about the following topics and activities on sustainable development in Europe:

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New ESDN Quarterly Report on "Resilience and Sustainable Development: Theory of resilience, systems thinking and adaptive governance"

This ESDN Quarterly Report (QR) provides a condensed overview of the concept of resilience. Despite the complexity of the theory behind resilience, this QR tries to communicate the main notions behind this concept in a way that is understandable and not overly technical. The intention of this QR is to serve as a guide through the concept of resilience. The report does not aim at being exhaustive but intends to provide an overview on the links which are particularly relevant for sustainable development (SD) in general and SD governance in particular. As a first chapter, an executive summary is provided with a short overview of the report with the essential notions that are depicted throughout the QR. The second chapter then introduces the concept of resilience and gives an extensive background on the notions behind it. It intends to provide guidance, especially to understand the linkages between the concept of resilience and sustainable development, and the importance of resilience and systems thinking for policy-makers and for those who work on SD governance. The third chapter summarizes the relationships among resilience, society, governance and policy. Therefore, the concept of ‘adaptive governance’ is advanced as a more appropriate way to deal with complex issues that arise in social-ecological systems. The fourth chapter presents three practical examples of resilience. The first one is more general and reviews the case of climate change adaptation responses in relation to resilience. The second and the third examples analyse experiences with translating resilience into practice in Sweden and Australia respectively. Finally, some conclusions are drawn at the end of the report, where we propose reflections to better understand resilience.

>> Read the current ESDN Quarterly Report online

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8th ESDN Workshop, "Financial Markets, Institutions and Policies in the Context of Sustainable Development - Dimensions, Issues and Actors of an Emerging Arena", 22-23 November 2012, Brussels

The 8th ESDN Workshop will take place in Brussels on 22-23 November 2012. The ESDN will cooperate with the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the SD Observatory of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and the Vita Foundation Germany.

The workshop intends to scope the mechanisms and operational design of financial markets, explore the functional and dysfunctional aspects from an SD perspective and, on this basis, develop concrete fields of action for SD policy related to financing, financial markets and finance governance. The outcomes of the workshop should provide an orientation for SD policy-makers in the debate around the financial markets and future policy options in their administrations. In addition, it should bring together actors from different fields to discuss and learn from their respective experiences to develop suggestions how the financial markets could better serve SD objectives.

For more information and registration, please contact the ESDN Office at or go the ESDN homepage.

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ESDN Conference 2012: "Rio+20 and its implications for Sustainable Development Policy at the EU and national level" - full documentation now online

The ESDN Conference 2012 took place in Copenhagen, Denmark on 28-29 June 2012 and was organized by the ESDN in cooperation with the Danish EU Presidency. Taking place shortly after the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), it provided an excellent platform to reflect on the results of Rio+20 and to discuss their implications for SD policy and governance for the different political levels and the different actors. During the 1.5 conference days, the conferencing participants, stemming from 21 European countries, did not only hear cutting edge presentations, but also worked collectively on recommendations for the different political levels and actors and developed a Communique from the ESDN Conference 2012

A full documentation of the conference, including the PPT-slides of all presentations, the conference proceedings, the conference discussion paper, the conference program, the participant list, and a photo documentation can now be found at the ESDN homepage.

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News on the governance of sustainable development from various European countries and the EU

Belgium: English brochure of the Flemish Sustainable Development Strategy

In 2011, the Government of Flanders adopted the second Flemish Strategy for Sustainable Development (2010-2014), built around a central vision for 2050. A new English language brochure tries to capture the content and spirit of the strategy, focusing on the vision for 2050 and some good practices at home and abroad. You can download the brochure here.

Switzerland: 'Good Examples' of SD - tourism and economic promotion in the context of SD

In order to promote SD, the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE) developed a list of ‘Good Examples’ that serve as good practice examples to facilitate the dissemination and uptake of sustainable projects. The publication of ‘Good Examples’ has the aim to specify the concept of SD and to provide incentives for actors in the cantons and municipalities to develop sustainable projects on the basis of good practice examples. Associations and individual citizens who want to put forward ideas in their municipalities are also addressed. Two new ‘Good Examples’, one on tourism and SD and the other on economic promotion and SD, can now be downloaded at ARE’s website in German and French.

UK: Vision for Sustainable Development and new developments around the SD topic

The UK sustainable development (SD) strategy has changed a lot since 2009. The Coalition Government that took office after the UK General Election in May 2010, wanted to move SD beyond being a ‘green’ issue which was a priority for a few departments. It would instead mainstream-SD and in February 2011, published its Vision which involves: ministerial leadership and oversight, leading by example, embedding SD into policy, and transparent and independent scrutiny. SD-responsibility transferred back into Government after withdrawing funding for the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) in July 2010, and its closure in March 2011 with Devolved Governments’ agreement. Northern Ireland published a revised strategy in 2010 and implementation plan in 2011. Scotland’s approach mainstreams SD through its Greener Strategic Objective and supporting National Outcomes, and published its Government Economic Strategy in September 2011, reaffirming its commitment to increased sustainable economic growth. Wales plans to legislate in Autumn 2013 to make SD the central organising principle of its Government and public bodies and create a statutory SD Body. All four Governments are committed to SD indicators. The UK is informally consulting on new indicators to be finalised in 2013, Northern Ireland is developing indicators, Scotland Performs webpage provides up to date information on its indicators, and Wales plans to consult on its current set in late 2012. 

Participation and consultation on SD are promoted in the UK. The Prime Minister’s website publishes UK departments’ Business Plans, enabling anyone to check their SD-performance (the 2012 business plans and annexes for common areas of spend can also be downloaded here) and the departments’ Annual Reports to Parliament report on embedding of SD. The UK’s main stakeholder engagement tool is SD Scene its SD-news website and e-newsletter. Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has undertaken two SD-mainstreaming inquiries. The Northern Ireland SD Strategy incorporates commitments to action by departments, and public, private and voluntary sector organisations, and is designed to build the cross-sectoral collaboration needed to achieve positive change. Scotland supports the Sustainable Scotland Network of local authority sustainability practitioners, and has recently taken to steps to broaden support across the public sector as a whole. Wales encourages sustainable behaviours by individuals and organisations through a programme to help meet SD Scheme and Climate Change Strategy targets. Wales’s 2010 SD Charter in 2010 is its principle tool to promote SD with its partners.

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RESPONDER project: 2nd EU Dialogue on "Linking Policy and Science for Greening the Economy" will be held on 29-30 October 2012 in Brussels

RESPONDER is a European project funded within the 7th EU Framework Programme aiming to link research and policy making in the area of sustainable consumption with the debates about economic growth. It is closely linked to the ESDN: RIMAS, that manages the ESDN Office, is coordinating the project; and two ESDN Steering Group countries are consortium partners (German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety; Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development). The project brings together policy-makers and researchers for an extensive exchange of knowledge.

Following a first round of RESPONDER multinational knowledge brokerage events held across Europe, the 2nd EU Dialogue on Sustainable Consumption and Economic Growth, entitled "Linking Policy and Science for Greening the Economy", will be held on 29-30 October 2012 in Brussels.

The Green Economy is suggested as framework to improve human wellbeing while at the same time reducing environmental risks and scarcities. It is argued that this new development path centered on new forms of qualitative growth is needed because risks are increasing as growth continues to erode the environment and social capital (see UNEP 2011). The efforts around the Rio+20 conference have framed and considered the need for a holistic approach and structural adjustments of economies. A comprehensive policy mix and links between key policy fields is suggested in order to face multiple interrelated crises. State interventions are perceived as necessary to jump-start and guide the greening of the economy.

However, there are major barriers and systemic gaps in the implementation of a green economy, especially as Europe currently faces difficult times: low growth projections for the coming years, high unemployment rates across Europe, financial instability and rising budget deficits, and scarce empirical evidence of absolute decoupling between economic growth and resource use. Not least due to these circumstances, the growth-skeptical debate currently experiences a revival, including an increasing number of degrowth advocates who argue for a multi-dimensional reduction of overall consumption and production as the only path towards social justice, ecological sustainability and well-being.

Against this background, the 2nd European Dialogue will bring together a selected group of policy makers and scientists to explore and discuss

The 2nd EU Dialogue aims to offer an arena for debate about the Green Economy from a systemic perspective. It is the 7th event in a series of RESPONDER events that deal with contradictions between sustainable consumption and economic growth.

For further information about the RESPONDER project and its knowledge brokerage activities please visit


The documentation of the previous RESPONDER events, including presentations, pictures, videos from keynote presentations and takes from the plenary debates, can be accessed under Get comprehensive insights and watch the presentations as if you would have been there:

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CORPUS project: "Policy Meets Research" workshops completed and research agendas online

CORPUS, a research project funded by FP7 of the European Commission, brokers knowledge between science and policy in the area of sustainable consumption policies. Food, mobility and housing are the focal points, each of which have been covered by a series of three workshops on sustainability issues, policy strategies and future scenarios. In total, more than 80 policy-makers and 130 researchers from over Europe attended the 9 events. All the outcomes, including presentations and workshop documentation, are available on the CORPUS homepage. Very important outcomes of the CORPUS project are the research agendas on the three policy domains which were jointly developed by policy-makers, researchers and CSO representatives from all over Europe. Two research agendas are available to download, the Research Agenda on Sustainable Food Consumption and the Research Agenda on Sustainable Mobility. Both include important topics for further research and missing evidence in their respective themes. The Research Agenda on Sustainable Housing is currently being finalised and will be available soon.

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Other news:

ESDN country profiles update

An extensive update of the country profiles of Germany and the UK has recently been made at the ESDN country profiles section. In general, the ESDN country profiles section provides a comprehensive overview of national sustainable development strategy (NSDS) processes in 33 European countries (including all EU Member States). It is the most prominent section on the ESDN homepage (regarding visitors and page views) and the best repository of information on NSDS processes in Europe. Expect a major update of all country profiles at the beginning of 2013 – we will keep you informed.

International Conference Growth in Transition, “How should be grow?”, 8–10 October 2012, Vienna

Within the framework of the “Growth in Transition” Conference, committed people from political, administrative, scientific, economic, civil and other backgrounds will discuss the key issues of the future and jointly work on solutions. The conference is hosted by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management together with major stakeholders. Questions that will be tackled in the conference: How can we achieve a good life for all – today and tomorrow – in the light of the numerous crises? How can we help to build a sustainable economic and financial system? How can we reach qualitative growth? How should we grow and what should grow? Where are the limits? For more information and registration please go to the Growth in Transition homepage.

EEAC / Rli conference, “Keep moving, towards sustainable mobility”, 11 October 2012, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

The European Environmental and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils (EEAC) and the Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) organize the EEAC/Rli conference 2012, “Keep moving, towards sustainable mobility”, on Thursday, 11 October 2012 in the Port of Rotterdam. This conference will offer a selection of state-of-the art knowledge on sustainable mobility from a wide range of fields, particularly social and environmental sciences, economics, engineering, and planning. The conference will look at proposals for actions that enable governments to facilitate societal initiatives and influence consumer behaviour. Participants will be able to sample this knowledge on the plenary conference day, at the knowledge fair of the conference, and in the book afterwards. This special publication, which will be presented at the conference day, includes chapters by the conference speakers and other distinguished experts. You will find more information and the registration form on the following websites and

UN Office for SD: International Workshop on “Strengthening Planning and Implementation Capacities for Sustainable Development in Post Rio+20 Context”, 14‐16 November, 2012 in Incheon, Republic of Korea

Following the format of a multi-stakeholder dialogue, this workshop will bring together representatives of governments, UN system entities, multilateral and regional development banks, policy think tanks and network, private sector and civil society. The objectives are to: (i) share experiences and lessons learned in implementing sustainable development at national and local levels; (ii) gauge the efficacy and suitability of existing knowledge and capacity building efforts; and (iii) create opportunities for building partnerships in knowledge sharing in the area of planning and implementation of sustainable development. More information, a draft agenda, and a concetp note can be found on the UNOSD website.

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We wish you a colourful autumn!

The ESDN Office Team at the Research Institute for Managing Sustainability

André Martinuzzi
Gerald Berger
Andreas Endl
Markus Hametner
Umberto Pisano
Michal Sedlacko

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