towards Holistic Development
Ella S. Antonio, Area Manager for Asia Pacific of Earth Council
Agenda 21 the global program of action for sustainable development was the major output of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). It calls for countries to formulate their respective National Strategies for Sustainable Development (NSSDs). In 1997, the UN General Assembly Special Session gave a timeframe for this. It stated that “by the year 2002, the formulation and elaboration of NSSDs, which reflect the contributions and responsibilities of all interested parties should be completed in all countries, with assistance provided, as appropriate, through international cooperation”. To date, countries with NSSDs in Asia Pacific region number less than ten. About 25 countries in the region have National Environment Action Plans (NEAPs), a limited proxy of NSSDs.
MISP (Multi-stakeholder Integrated Sustainability Planning)
The sustainability of development depends as much on the participatory process by which planning is carried out, as on development plans themselves. As such, the Earth Council is developing and promoting a sustainable development process called "Multi-stakeholder Integrated Sustainability Planning (MISP)". The Earth Council has prepared draft guidelines (see www.ecouncil.ac.cr) that attempt to describe a planning approach that meets Agenda 21’s requirements of integration and multi-stakeholder participation. Since countries vary widely, the draft guidelines provide enough flexibility for innovation and creativity.
By its very nature, sustainable development is a partnership between all members of society and their environment. The nature and process of sustainable development is too complex, inter-connected, holistic and of eminent public interest to be left to any one main actor in society. Though governments have the delegated responsibility and are expected to take the lead, what is important is that the respective stakeholders from the different sectors of society (cultural, economic, social, ecological, spiritual, and political) actively participate in reaching basic consensus on the road to follow towards sustainability.
MISP is a process that is: multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary, multi-level, coordinative, dynamic and iterative. The MISP process tries to reconcile the divergent interests of stakeholders in an interactive and cooperative manner.
MISP proposes a living and on-going process to pursue the common public interest by bringing together representatives designated by their respective constituencies in search of the common public interest and good. This should be carried out in a manner that empowers each group and level of society and integrates and builds upon the dynamics of particular interests into an integrated whole.
The MISP Process
The MISP process follows standard planning procedures. Its basic difference is on the manner by which it is undertaken. The steps are undertaken keeping in mind specific questions that must be responded to effectively. Following are the MISP steps:
1. Formulate the Vision: What do we want to be?
2. Analyze the current situation: Where are we now?
3. Set goals, objective and target: Where do we want to go and when?
4. Craft development strategies: How can we get there?
5. Formulate Investment Program, implementation mechanism, action agenda (including Legislative Agenda): How do we ensure that we get there?
6. Establish monitoring and evaluation mechanism: How do we know we are getting there?
MISP and NCSD
A multi-stakeholder body has been proven to be the best mechanism to spearhead and monitor a sustainability planning process and ensure its implementation and up-dating. Such a mechanism, generically called a National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD), exists in various forms in about 70 countries worldwide. Their positive experiences and best practices have encouraged other countries to establish theirs. Usually, “NCSDs” are created when a country decides to formulate an NSSD in the most effective way.
Political Will and Other Requisites
Political will is the single most important and critical element in preparing and implementing an NSSD. Without this, MISP may not even take off or when it does, little may be accomplished. Political will must emanate from two levels: the official leadership and the people.
In addition, the MISP process would require most, if not all, of the following elements in order to become effective and produce the desired NSSD:
· Representation of all major stakeholders in the planning team.
Stakeholders, however, must seek and pursue the common public good and
interest despite their specific interests and constituencies.
· Planners must be responsible, committed and open-minded team players, i.e., they need to be willing to listen and consider the views and concerns of others.
· A dynamic leader, able to deal with and balance the concerns of stakeholders is critical.
· A secretariat able to provide effective and efficient support
· A clear implementation plan for the planning work itself
· The progress of planning must be closely monitored.