Den svenska nationella strategin för hållbar utveckling : En process av betydelse eller bara ett anonymt dokument?
At the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 the nations stated that traditional environmental policies were not sufficient to handle the multidimensional challenges posed by sustainable development. Governments needed to broaden their political decision making procedures in order to coordinate and integrate environmental, social and economic policies. Therefore a new tool was introduced in Agenda 21, National Strategies for Sustainable Development (NSDS). The aim of an NSDS would be to bring together actors from all parts of society to jointly reach a consensus on how to work towards the vision of a sustainable society. An NSDS would be seen as a strategic tool to help focus national policies for SD. The NSDS should be an iterative learning process consisting of phases of situation analysis, policy formulation, implementation, follow-up and independent audits. Commitment in the highest political level and institutional leadership would be necessary to give legitimacy and ensure continuity in the process.
Sweden formulated its first NSDS in March 2002. The strategy has been revised twice since then, in 2004 and 2006, all formulated by Social Democratic governments. In the autumn of 2006 a new Right-wing Cabinet with four parties was installed in the government offices. The main problem raised in this thesis is how the 2002-2006 Social Democratic Government organized the work with the 2006 strategy and how the Right-wing Government has chosen to continue these efforts. The aim is also to discuss some short-comings in the process and to discern which political role the strategy plays today.
The thesis uses a qualitative and descriptive approach to the problem. Empirical data were collected through six interviews and literature studies performed in the spring of 2008. The starting point for the literature studies was a special issue in the European Environment No. 17/2007 where a number of scientific articles concerning national strategies for sustainable development were published.
It is showed that during the Social Democratic government there were institutional mechanisms designed for cross-sectoral co-operation, participation and implementation of the strategy, e.g a Co-ordination unit for sustainable development in the government offices, as well as a Council for sustainable development which were to facilitate local implementation of the strategy. Still, the strategy did not enjoy a high-level political status; regional strategies funded by the EU gained much more governmental attention. The NSDS strategy was formulated by civil servants at the government offices and the Council for SD was only invited as the strategy was to be implemented in local contexts. In many ways it seems that the Social Democratic government did not wish to establish the kind of broad and participative process that characterizes an ideal NSDS.
However, in 2006 an intense implementation process got underway in 15 municipalities, coordinated by the Council for SD. At the end of 2006, however, the process ceased as the new Cabinet decided to discontinue the Co-ordination unit and the Council for SD. Instead a new Commission for Sustainable Development, chaired by the Prime Minister, was initiated in 2007. The Commission is to promote cross-sectoral cooperation and link government with Swedish industry and scientific field. Today, the strategy plays a highly marginal role in Swedish SD-policies. The strategy has not been with-drawn by the new government, but there is no activism around the strategy and it carries only a symbolic meaning in international contexts.
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