Updated 4 March, 2004

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About NSSD

The Project
OECD/DAC Donor Developing Country Dialogues on National Strategies for Sustainable Development

Project Organisation

Further Project Details

Overall objective

The goal of the project is to encourage the implementation of nssds in all countries by 2005, so as to ensure that current trends in the loss of environmental resources are effectively reversed at both global and national levels by 2015.



Agenda 21 (UNCED, 1992) called for the preparation of national strategies for sustainable development - nssds. The OECD DAC in its “Shaping the 21st Century” document (1996), set a target of 2005 for nssds to be in the process of implementation. In 1997, the UN General Assembly Special Session set a target date of 2002 for all countries to have introduced such strategies. Shaping the 21st Century commits DAC members to support developing countries in the formulation and implementation of nssds through a partnership approach.

In the past, many strategic planning initiatives have had limited practical impact because they have focused on the production of a document as an end-product, and such documents have often been left without implementation. Instead, the focus of an nssd should be on improving the integration of social and environmental objectives into key economic development processes.

This project uses the following definition of an nssd: ‘a strategic and participatory process of analysis, debate, capacity strengthening, planning and action towards sustainable development’ - in line with the clarification note endorsed by the DAC High Level Meeting in May 1999 (DCD/DAC (99)11).

However, this project is not promoting an nssd as a completely new planning process to be conducted from the beginning. Rather, it is recognised that in an individual country there will be a range of initiatives that may have been taken in response to commitments entered into at the Rio Earth Summit (UNCED) or as part of commitments to international treaties and conventions and that these may be regarded in that country, individually or collectively, as the nssd. But the challenge is: to gain clarification on what initiative(s) make up the nssd; and then to identify what improvements need to be made to these initiatives – or developed between them such as umbrella frameworks, systems for participation and national sustainable development forums – so that they meet the definition of an nssd.


Project Objectives

The DAC Working Party on Development Cooperation and the Environment (WP/ENV) has mandated a Task Force, co-led by the United Kingdom and the European Commission, to produce guidance on best practice for assisting developing countries with the formulation and implementation of nssd processes. A scoping workshop in November 1998 brought together Task Force and developing country representatives to discuss the broad directions for this work. The workshop recommended a systematic in-country consultation with developing country partners in order to elaborate good practice for donors.

The February 1999 meeting of the DAC WP/ENV endorsed the recommendation for informal consultations, or ‘dialogues’, in a number of developing countries and regions, involving donors and a range of stakeholders. The dialogues will review experience with nssds and examine how donors can best assist developing countries in such processes. As well as contributing to the production of generic guidance for donors, the country/regional dialogues aim to make a concrete contribution to nssd processes and donor coordination in the participating countries.

The project objectives are:

  • To improve international understanding of the key challenges and modalities for developing and implementing effective nssds.

  • To elaborate good practices for donors in assisting developing countries with the formulation and implementation of nssds.

  • To inform the current bilateral donor response to developing country requests for support of nssd processes.


Project Activities

  • In-country dialogues:  Five at a country level (in Bolivia, Tanzania, Nepal, Burkina Faso, and Thailand) and one at regional level. Each of the dialogues will be implemented by a local country or regional team. The dialogues will involve a status review of strategic planning processes for sustainable development followed by the dialogues themselves involving stakeholder consultations, workshops and roundtables.

  • Support to parallel strategy learning processes:  The project will also collaborate with and provide limited additional funding to learn from and build on existing reflective and analytical work on strategic planning supported by DAC members/observers in Ghana, Namibia Bangladesh and Pakistan.

  • Planning workshops: There will be 3 workshops: an initial planning workshop, a mid-term review workshop, and a final workshop. These will be attended by representatives of the selected countries/region, donors, lead organisations and resource persons on nssds.

  • Publications and dissemination of outputs: An issues paper on nssds, a status report and dialogue report for each country/region involved, and an overall synthesis report will be published through IIED. A sourcebook (bringing together the main issues and lessons from these reports) and guidelines for donors will be published by the OECD DAC Secretariat.

  • International coordination and technical support for the six dialogues: The Task Force has engaged IIED to facilitate and coordinate at the international level the implementation of the six dialogues and drawing lessons from two parallel strategy learning processes. This will involve assistance for planning the approach, tracking progress, reviewing and editing mid-term and final reports, drawing out generic and country specific lessons, developing an initial draft of DAC policy guidance and a draft sourcebook, and the provision of networking, liaison and administrative support. IIED will also be responsible for convening 3 workshops.



Phase 1 (October 1999 - February 2000). Preparation: identification of lead teams (5 in-country and 1 regional); securing commitment of government and key stakeholders in country/region for dialogues; establishing Steering Committees in countries/regions; preparation of an issues paper (by IIED) highlighting key nssd challenges; establishment of a document collection on strategic planning; convening an initial planning workshop, developing ToRs for the lead institutions and identifying in-country/regional steering committees.

Phase 2 (March - April 2000). Status reviews: will be conducted by the lead teams using a topic guide (to prompt discussion) developed by the DAC WP/ENV Task Force. IIED will provide support for planning the approach for the status reviews; reviewing and editing status reports; and information sharing on emerging nature of dialogues.

Phase 3 (May - October 2000). Dialogues: This phase will commence with a mid-term review workshop to consider the status reports and to plan and agree the nature of the dialogues.  On the basis of the lessons arising from Phase 2, the final outputs of the initiative and mechanisms for their production and dissemination will be further defined at this stage. A progress report will be prepared and fed into the June 2000 meeting of the DAC WP/ENV.

Each dialogue will be organised by the lead teams, and will based mainly on stakeholder consultations, and a 2/3-day round table attended by a wide range of stakeholders and donors, possibly with feeder events.

Phase 4 (November 2000 - February 2001). Drafting of Guidance: involving synthesis by IIED, in consultation with lead teams, of individual dialogue final reports to prepare an overview report drawing out common themes and lessons. A final workshop will review the results and develop an initial draft of policy guidance and consider the possible contents and format of a sourcebook.


Project Outputs

Through IIED, the project will develop and publish:

  • An issues paper on nssds challenges,
  • 6 status reports on strategic planning processes,
  • 6 dialogue reports,
  • A synthesis report drawing out common lessons.

Through the DAC, it will develop and publish policy guidance and a sourcebook.

Additional outputs will include:

  • Guidance on round-tabling procedures,
  • Reports of the initial planning, mid-term and final workshops,
  • A reference collection of nssd literature,
  • Strengthening of existing nssd processes,
  • The establishment (where possible) of partnerships between donors and developing countries for developing and implementing nssds.


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