Moving forward after September 2015 – Implementation in Countries and Review of Progress

Speech by Thomas Silberhorn, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, at the UN Economic and Social Council High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, 7 July 2015, Washington, D.C.

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Honourable delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be here today and share with you some insights on how Germany is going to implement the post-2015 agenda at the national level.

In line with our understanding of the new Global Partnership and its principles of universality and shared responsibility, our National Sustainable Development Strategy will provide an essential framework for the implementation of the post-2015 agenda in Germany.

Let me start with some introductory remarks about our Sustainable Development Strategy. With the signing of Agenda 21 at the UN Conference in Rio in 1992, signatories committed themselves to implementing the concept of sustainable development at the national level in all policy areas. In order to honour this commitment and establish sustainable development as a true national priority, the German government decided that the Federal Chancellery should have the primary responsibility for designing and implementing a National Sustainable Development Strategy, and that it should coordinate the work of the government in this regard. In 2002, the National Sustainable Development Strategy was presented at the UN World Summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg.

In the following years, the strategy was continuously revised and improved, underlining the prevailing political consensus in Germany that sustainable development remains the goal and yardstick of any action the government takes at the national, European and international levels in all policy fields.

Today, the centrepiece of the strategy consists of what we call the management concept for sustainable development. It comprises:

  1. management rules that summarise the guiding principles of sustainable development for all areas of action,
  2. political goals, representative indicators and indicator-related targets providing the basis for continuous monitoring,
  3. an institutional structure, and
  4. procedural provisions.

The effective functioning of the Strategy is being ensured through the last two points, namely its institutional framework and the related procedural provisions:

The State Secretaries’ Committee for Sustainable Development sees to it that sustainable development is the guiding principle for any policy of the German government. Any changes in the Strategy have to be approved by the Federal Cabinet.

The responsibility for the Sustainable Development Strategy rests with the Federal Chancellery in order to emphasise the significance for all policy areas and assure cross-departmental monitoring and control.

A Council for Sustainable Development consisting of 15 outstanding personalities from academia, business and civil society appointed by the Chancellor contributes to the improvement of the Sustainable Development Strategy.

In order to ensure that the principle of sustainability is respected consistently, a sustainability impact assessment is a prerequisite for the consideration of any law or regulation by the cabinet. This impact assessment is based on the political goals, targets and indicators of the National Sustainable Development Strategy.

A Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development composed of 17 members of Parliament plays the role of a "watchdog" that "barks" as soon as an initiative fails to give consideration to the National Sustainability Strategy. The advisory Council has been assigned to evaluate the sustainability impact assessment of the Federal Government. In addition it lends a parliamentary dimension to the National Sustainability Strategy, plays a role in developing goals, measures and instruments and defining them in concrete terms.

Last but not least, let me touch upon an essential aspect of the Strategy’s effectiveness that is particularly relevant in this context: its monitoring and review mechanism.

Every two years, the Federal Statistical Office publishes an Indicator Report to provide information on the extent to which the sustainability targets have been reached.

This monitoring is complemented by a review process: The Federal Government publishes a Progress Report every four years (the next one being scheduled for autumn  2016), thus contributing to the effectiveness of the Strategy. In the past, we have involved the public on a broad scale in preparing the reports, and we will continue to do so in the future.

In order to complement our monitoring and review structure, so far two times we did submit the Sustainable Development Strategy to international peer reviews. The last review took place in 2013 with experts from Finland, the UK, Malaysia, the Netherlands, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and the U.S., and we were happy about the useful feedback.

Against this background, we look forward to the regular reviews taking place in this very forum from next year onward. We stand ready to engage in this process.

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