ESDNewsletter April 2016

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

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New ESDN Quarterly Report on “Exploring Peer Learning to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Peer Learning as tool for SD policy-making”

In the context of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this Quarterly Report focuses on the topic of peer learning applied in policy-making , and how is related to practices of governance for sustainable development. In this context, the report aims to support national policy-makers in their challenging job of implementing the 2030 Agenda. In addition, the ESDN is aiming to establish a peer learning mechanism for national policy-makers who are responsible for the 2030 Agenda/SDG implementation and the stakeholders involved in this process. One important cornerstone of this mechanism will be the yearly ESDN Peer Learning Platform (the first one in autumn 2016) that will offer policy-makers from all European countries and selected stakeholders the chance to exchange experiences and learn from implementation practice.

We see ‘peer learning’ as an umbrella concept that encompasses a number of different mechanisms or instruments that support ‘learning’ from and with peers with regard to policies, in our cased  related to sustainable development. But, what exactly is a ‘peer’? Who are the peers in this context? Why is ‘peer learning’ key to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for SD? And is peer learning connected to policy learning?

We explore these and many other questions throughout this report, which has the following structure: Chapter 1 defines peer learning in the context of policies for sustainable development and, more specifically, in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Chapter 2 provides an overview of practical approaches of peer learning and peer review. Firstly, the international level is explored through an overview of UN and OECD practices that relate to reviews potentially leading to peer learning. Secondly, we present the experiences made in Europe, especially in relation to peer reviews of National Sustainable Development Strategies that several European countries have voluntarily undertaken. We particularly focus on the German experience as the only country in Europe that has launched a Peer Review of its SD Strategy twice, in 2009 and 2013. Chapter 3 concludes and provides several reflections on the topic.

This QR provides input for the forthcoming ESDN workshop on Peer Learning that will take place in June 2016 (see below for more information).

>> Read the current ESDN Quarterly Report online

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14th ESDN Workshop, “Developing the ESDN peer learning approach to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for SD and the SDGs: Experiences and needs for peer learning and peer review processes”, Berlin, 14 June 2016

Originally scheduled for 19 April 2016, the 14th ESDN Workshop, “Developing the ESDN peer learning approach to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for SD and the SDGs: Experiences and needs for peer learning and peer review processes”, now takes place on 14 June 2016 in Berlin. The workshop is organized by the ESDN in cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

The main goal of this workshop is to develop, together with national policy-makers and experts, the ESDN peer learning approach in order to offer a useful and practical mechanism for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda (the first ESDN Peer Learning Platform will be held in early autumn 2016; please also see the ESDN Proposition). This will be based on experiences with international and national peer review and peer learning processes in the context of sustainable development as well as on practical needs in the various countries.

Against this background, the workshop will have the following objectives:

This workshop mainly addresses national policymakers that coordinate and work on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for SD, and those experts and stakeholders who have experience with peer reviews and peer learning mechanisms.

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ESDN Conference 2016 on the vertical integration aspects in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda (addressing the role of sub-national and local levels) in Bern, Switzerland on 10-11 November 2016

The ESDN Conference 2016 will take place in Bern, Switzerland on 10-11 November 2016, organized in cooperation with the Sustainable Development Section of the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE) in the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications. The conference will be a 1.5 days event (10 November full day, 11 November until lunch time) and will bring together policy-makers and experts from different stakeholder groups from all over Europe.

The conference will focus on the vertical integration aspects in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, addressing the role of sub-national and local levels. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs will require action and efforts at all political levels and also cooperation between the different levels. The conference will thus provide an excellent chance to reflect on first 2030 Agenda/SDGs implementation experiences in the different European countries, especially on the role of and activities on the sub-national and local levels.

More information about the conference topic, the Draft Conference Program, and the registration process will be distributed soon.

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ESDN Proposition: Supporting national policy-making for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Peer learning and exchange of experiences

Inspired by the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and based on recommendations developed during the ESDN Conference 2015, the ESDN has put together an ESDN Proposition on “Supporting national policy-making for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Peer learning and exchange of experiences”. The ESDN aims to establish a European SD Platform for Peer Learning between national ministries responsible for the 2030 Agenda implementation process. This platform will facilitate the exchange of experiences and good practices between national policy-makers. The ESDN will strive to foster European policy-making on sustainable development, through targeted ESDN workshops with national policy-makers on 2030 Agenda for SD implementation, and annual ESDN conferences with a broader stakeholder audience, including a strong collaboration with EU institutions (Council, Commission, and Parliament). Please read more about the ESDN Proposition on the 2030 Agenda for SD here.

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ESDN now on Twitter

The ESDN recently went on Twitter (@ESDN_network) to be able to post important information and activities about our network more rapidly and to also report more directly from our events. Please follow us!

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European Sustainable Development Week (ESDW) 2016 from 30 May-5 June 2016 & final event of the Green Week in cooperation with the ESDW

After the great success of the first European Sustainable Development Week (ESDW) with 4,116 activities in 29 European countries, the ESDW will also take place in 2016, again from 30 May-5 June. More information will follow soon! In the meantime, please visit the ESDW website ( and get inspired by the wide range of this year’s activities!

The final event of the European Green Week 2016 will take place in Vienna on 3 June 2016, organized and hosted by the Austrian Ministry of the Environment and the European Commission in partnership with the European Sustainable Development Week initiative and UNEP Europe. The event, entitled “Sustainable Development Goals for a Green Future: Investing for Future Generations”, aims to foster a dialogue between high ranking policymakers and European Youth representatives about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More information, a draft program and a link to the registration page can be found at the ESDW homepage.

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

Belgium: Federal report with a set of complementary indicators to the GDP measuring human well-being and the development of the society in Belgium; public consultation on second Walloon SD Strategy; and study on how to measure societal progress

The Federal Planning Bureau has published in February 2016 for the first time a set of 64 complementary indicators to the GDP, thus implementing the Federal Act of March 2014 on the subject. The set measures in a more comprehensive way human well-being and the development of the society in Belgium, using the three dimensions of sustainable development endorsed by the “Conference of European Statisticians Recommendations on Measuring Sustainable Development “of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in 2014. These dimensions are ‘here and now’, ‘later’ and ‘elsewhere’. Based on the available data for the period 1990-2014, the report describes for each indicator its evolution and, where appropriate, the evolution for some sub-populations. Each indicator is linked to its relevant policy objectives, such as those of the federal long-term strategic vision for sustainable development for 2050 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. In this way it is determined whether the described evolutions go into the direction of the agreed objectives. The report can be downloaded here (in French and Dutch).

Public consultation on the second Walloon SD Strategy is open until 1 May 2016. This  strategy is available in French and German and aims at contributing to the implementation of the 2030 SD Agenda, including the SDGs. It encompasses a long term vision towards 2050, a diagnosis of the current state of play, short- and mid-term objectives using the SDGs as a framework- and an action plan of about 100 actions. The action plan concentrates on 3 strategic priorities, namely self-sufficiency in food, in energy and in natural resources, and on a set of transversal actions. Taking into account the outcome of the consultation, the final strategy is expected to be adopted by July 2016. Also worth mentioning is that the public is invited during the consultation to post on the website commitments or projects aiming at contributing to the priorities of the action plan.

The review, “How to measure societal progress?”, the subject of the last number of the Belgian French-speaking review, “Reflets et perspectives de la vie économique”, includes 5 papers written in the follow-up of a Conference on indi­cators of societal progress that was organized by the Walloon Institute for Evaluation Prospective and Statistics and the Federal Planning Bureau in December 2014. The papers addresses pioneering political decisions made in the field of indica­tors complementary to GDP and of sustainable development indicators by the Walloon and Federal governments, and how there are implemented. The review also shows the diversity and richness of the regional, national and international dynamics feeding the debate on the best ways to measure societal progress as well as the convergence ef­forts under way.

Hungary: National Council for SD published resolution on TTIP and approved the first Progress Report on the National SD Strategy

In December 2015, the Hungarian National Council for Sustainable Development (NFFT) published a resolution on TTIP which is now also available in English and can be downloaded here.

In the last plenary session, the NFFT approved the first Progress Report to the renewed National SD Strategy of 2013. The Report, made in 2015, covers the years of 2013-2014.

Italy: Governance of Sustainable Development in Italy

The adoption of Law 221/2015 (‘Provisions to promote measures on green economy and to limit the extensive use of natural resources’) commits the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, to take proper actions and measures in different fields related to green economy and sustainable development. In particular, the most important provisions of this Law are the following:

These measures, together with a number of other initiatives, ongoing or to be planned in the next months, can potentially contribute to implementing SDGs and targets nationally. Given the amplitude of the 2030 Agenda, it will be essential to ensure a coherent, balanced and integrated approach to the implementation processes.

Netherlands: New PBL study on ’Sustainable Development Goals in the Netherlands – building blocks for environmental policy for 2030’

In a recent study, PBL (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency) has analysed the implications of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for environmental policy in the Netherlands. In the study, PBL assessed to what extent environment-related SDG targets are covered by existing Dutch policy targets and whether current and planned policy efforts are sufficient for achieving these existing targets. The assessment includes policy targets agreed upon at national, European and UN level. The study can be downloaded here (in English).

Of the 169 SDG targets, 41 either directly address the quality of the physical environment (e.g. water, air, biodiversity) or indirectly affect its quality (e.g. via agriculture, industry, cities and sustainable consumption and production). For most of these SDG targets, the Netherlands already has policy targets in place, most of which have been agreed at EU or UN level. However, most existing policy targets are set for 2020, while the SDGs aim for 2030. Furthermore, current policy efforts are falling short of achieving the existing targets.

The study concludes that implementation of the SDGs in the Netherlands can build on existing policy targets, policy programmes and monitoring reports, but certain adjustments will be required. These adjustments ask for policy choices with respect to:

  1. Ambition: The global SDGs have to be translated into a national ambition level, consisting of a clear, long-term vision supported by new and updated national policy targets for 2030
  2. Coherence: National implementation requires close coordination of policy efforts and responsibilities between various ministries and provincial and local authorities, while a shifting of the environmental burden to other countries should be avoided.
  3. Monitoring: A periodic national monitoring report is needed to track progress and – depending on the political ambition – to promote accountability by explaining underlying developments or even to evaluate policy performance.

Switzerland: New Swiss Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-19 approved

The new Swiss Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-19, approved by the Swiss Federal Council (government) in January 2016, sets out the Federal Council's policy priorities for sustainable development in the medium to long term. It also lists the action that the Confederation will take to implement this Strategy during the legislative period. In addition, the Strategy indicates the contribution that Switzerland will make to achieving the United Nations' global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ('2030 Agenda') during this period. The aim in the future is to align the Strategy as comprehensively as possible with the 2030 Agenda to ensure that Switzerland plays a full part in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030. The new strategy can be downloaded here (in English).

Updates in ESDN country profiles

The ESDN country profiles provide the most up-to-date information on national SD strategy and policy processes in European countries. We regularly update them to make sure the information we provide there catches up with the developments in all of these countries. Recently, the country profiles of Belgium and Switzerland have been updated with latest pieces information on NSDS processes (e.g. current NSDS document and link, horizontal and vertical integration, stakeholder participation, evaluation, etc.). Please check the country profiles regularly for updates.


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Other news:

United Nations: UN Statistical Commission Agrees on SDG Indicator Framework as “Practical Starting Point”

The UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) on 11 March 2016 agreed, "as a practical starting point," with the global indicator framework proposed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), noting that the indicators are "subject to further technical refinement." The Commission also took decisions on capacity building for national statistical systems, and climate change and governance statistics. More information and the report of the IAEG-SDGs can be found here.

Stakeholder Forum: New report “Seeing the Whole - Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in an Integrated and Coherent Way”

This new report by Stakeholder Forum, Bioregional and Newcastle University and funded by the Government of Finland sheds light for policymakers and stakeholders on how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be implemented in a universal and integrated way. Following from Stakeholder Forum’s earlier Universality report, this research piece narrows its focus on SDG 12, Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP), and its related policies within the EU context.

The study first explores the interlinkages between the SCP targets and other SDG targets using a novel methodology, which reveals the level of integration of SCP with the rest of the SDGs, and demonstrates how a more integrated and coherent SDG agenda can be achieved. The report then analyses the extent to which EU legislation and policy currently deals with the SCP Goal, and identifies opportunities for policymakers to extend this coverage. The policy recommendations made throughout the piece are vital for facilitating the application of an integrated and universal sustainable development agenda. Further, the pioneering methodology can be applied to any other SDG, including the entire framework, by anyone seeking to develop a more sophisticated policy design.

The full report can be downloaded here

3rd International Growth in Transition Conference, “How Constraints Make Us Grow – Society in Transition, Vienna, 22-24 February, 2016 – documentation online

The Austrian Federal Ministry of Environment, together with more than 20 partner organisations, organized the conference “How Constraints Make Us Grow – Society in Transition” from the 22-24 February 2016 in Vienna, Austria. The conference elaborated what form of prosperity we envisage, how to conduct alternative economic activities and how to shape possible social and economic models with the aim of leading over to a sustainable economy. More than 600 participants took part in the event. A conference documentation with slides of presentations, videos, graphical recordings, and photos is now available at


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We wish you a blossoming spring!

The ESDN Office Team at the WU Institute for Managing Sustainability

André Martinuzzi
Gerald Berger
Andreas Endl
Markus Hametner
Lisa Lange
Umberto Pisano

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