IIED Publication Executive Summary  

Title: Sustainable Development Strategies: A Resource Book
Author(s): Barry Dalal-Clayton and Stephen Bass
Details: 2002, 388pp, ISBN 1853839477
Price: US$35.00
Order Number: 9165IIED (hardcover), 9166 (paperback)

Agenda 21 called on all countries to develop and implement sustainable development strategies – a need focused on again by the preparatory process for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. For such strategies to be effective in every country, there needs to be a real commitment by government, the private sector, and civil society to work together in a true partnership, in transparent ways which enable genuine stakeholder participation, and to co-ordinate necessary mechanisms and processes to enable continuous learning and improvement.The Resource Book provides flexible, non-prescriptive guidance on how to develop, assess, and implement national development strategies. It sets out principles and ideas on both processes and methods, and suggests how these can be used. Based on an analysis of practice in both developed and developing countries, it promotes a multi-stakeholder, continuous improvement approach, rather than one of rigid master plans.Individual chapters offer a rich range of guidance, ideas and case studies on: The nature of sustainable development strategies and current practice; Key steps in starting, managing and improving sustainable development strategies; Analysis of – and for- sustainable development; Participation mechanisms and methods; Information, education and communications; Decision-making frameworks and procedures; The financial basis for strategies; Monitoring and evaluation systems.


In April 2000, at the High-Level meeting of the OECD DAC in Paris, development aid ministers endorsed DAC Policy Guidance on national sustainable development strategies. This practical guidance was developed as a partnership between donors and a range of developing countries. It was based on reviews of past experience of strategic planning, and analysis undertaken through multi-stakeholder dialogues in the partner countries and three international workshops. Details of this process, the products and outcomes are available on this website.

The endorsement by ministers of the Policy Guidance marked the culmination of the first stage of the DAC project on sustainable development strategies. Since then, the focus has turned to ‘outreach’ with an effort to take the lessons and recommendations contained in the Policy Guidance to a wider audience and particularly into the process leading to the World Summit on Sustainable Development where national sustainable development strategies are likely to be a focus of much discussion.

In November 2001, UNDESA, in collaboration with the Government of Ghana, UNDP, DFID and DANIDA, hosted an Expert Forum in Ghana on national strategies for sustainable development. The Forum approved UN guidance on strategies which builds on the DAC’s Policy Guidance and draws from other experience and sources, and sets out elements of strategy processes which broadly concur with the principles for strategies set out in the DAC Policy Guidance. The report of this event was formally tabled at PrepCom2 for the WSSD in New York in late January 2002. IIED, UNDP and DFID UK prepared an Opinion Piece on strategies which was also distributed at PrepCom2.

In parallel, the second stage of the DAC project has been to build on the country dialogues and DAC Policy Guidance to develop a Resource Book on sustainable development strategies. Below we describe the target audience and scope of the Resource Book, the process through which it is being prepared and how contributions can still be made.

The development and publication of the Resource Book is being supported financially by:

Department for International Development (DFID), UK
European Commission (EC DG8)
Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
French Ministry of Foreign Affairs
German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ)
Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Spanish International Cooperation Agency (AECI)
Swiss Development Cooperation
United Nations Development Programme (Capacity 21)

Target audience:

In simple terms, the Resource Book will of interest to and relevant everyone involved in and concerned about the challenge of strategic planning for sustainable development. In practice, it will have a multiple audience including:

Policy-makers and decision-takers concerned with sustainable development at all levels (international, national, sub-national, local);
United Nations other international organisations, multilateral development banks, development cooperation agencies and others concerned with assisting countries meet the international development goal to develop and implement an nssd;
All those engaged in the process leading up to and beyond the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, 2002;
Planners and technical advisers involved in the practical business of coordinating the development and implementation of nssds;
Private sector companies and associations wishing to learn more about nssds and how they can engage in strategy processes;
Academic and students;
Institutions and individuals involved in developing training materials and in undertaking training on strategic planning;
Civil society organisations and NGOs concerned with sustainable development

The Resource Book aims to provide technical guidance on options for developing and implementing sustainable development strategies at national, sub-national and local levels, as well as the policy implications, bringing together the main issues and lessons from the dialogues and also from experience of strategic planning processes from elsewhere.

It expands in detail on the OECD DAC Policy Guidance on strategies for sustainable development, and includes case materials drawn from around the world – from both developed and developing countries, including the partner countries; and offers technical guidance for the set of strategic processes that make up sustainable development strategies.

Process of Developing the Resource Book

Technical exercise

The DAC Task Force on strategies for sustainable development commissioned IIED to develop the Resource Book and to coordinate the associated process. This has been a mainly technical exercise drawing on experience, materials and documentation from a wide range of international sources, as well as all available project materials (policy guidance, dialogue reports, reports from parallel learning countries, documentation from partner countries).

In developing the Resource Book, IIED has worked with an ad hoc team of resource persons – individuals with good technical knowledge and ’hands-on’ experience of strategy work. This group has been primarily concerned with the technical lessons and guidance, and preparing and reviewing chapters, sections of text and case materials.


Step 1: A first draft was prepared by an IIED team during May-September 2001, drawing on available materials and including contributions from resource persons. Copies of the first drafts of chapters were placed on this website as they were developed, and also circulated to project partners and donors for comment and early feedback.

Step 2: A first full draft of the Resource Book was circulated electronically to all project participating countries and DAC Task Force members in October 2001, as separate chapter files; and a CD Rom of the website was prepared and distributed to the UN Expert Forum on strategies in Ghana.

Step 3: Formal reviews of all chapters were commissioned from strategy experts during November 2001 – January 2002.

Step 4: Further revision of all chapters was undertaken by IIED during January-February 2002, taking on board review comments.

Step 5: Revised drafts of all chapters placed on website in March 2002, and sent to all OECD DAC members for official review (comments are due by 15 April 2002).

Step 6: Mid April to mid-May 2002: Final text by IIED.

Step 7: June-July 2002: Publication of Resource Book by OECD DAC and UNDP in association with Earthscan Publications Ltd., London (including CD Rom)

Please send any comments by e-mail to barry.dalal-clayton@iied.org.

©2003 International Institute for Environment and Development