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Rethinking Sustainable Development Strategies.
Promoting Strategic Analysis, Debate and Action

Dalal-Clayton D.B., Bass S., Robins N. and Swyderska K. (1998): Rethinking Sustainable Development Strategies. Promoting Strategic Analysis, Debate and Action. Environmental Planning Issues No.6, International Institute for Environment and Development, London.

Agenda 21 urges all countries to introduce a national strategy for sustainable development. In 1997, five years after Rio, the UN General Assembly Special Session set a target date of 2002 for introducing such strategies in all countries. The OECD-DAC has set a target date of 2005 for countries to meet the same aim. Yet no official guidance has been provided on how to develop strategies. Indeed there is much current debate on what such a strategy is or should be, and how donors can help in their development and implementation. Whilst past experience indicates that a blueprint approach is not appropriate, there has been little examination of whether past strategies have had any effective impact. There remains uncertainty about how best to proceed.

This paper re-examines the experience to date, considers why recommendations of past reviews have not been addressed or implemented, draws out some key lessons and identifies a range of challenges. It argues that a new focus and approach is required which places less emphasis on the production of a strategy document and focuses on processes which can facilitate strategic analysis, debate and action. Such an approach should be more cost-effective, politically appealing and economically viable, and respond to real needs locally, while enabling countries to contribute better to international decisions. The authors set out IIEDís first thoughts on why such a new start is required and what it might mean in practice. The focus is primarily on developing countries, but many of the themes have relevance elsewhere. The paper concludes with suggestions of both how the process may be started and some basic elements of the approach.

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