Sustainability Objectives and Implementation Gaps
Many policy documents contain objectives of sustainable development. One can even say that talking of sustainability has become so widespread in the Alpine countries and regions that no public policy can get by without formal reference to this concept. Putting the intentions into practice, however, is more difficult. It needs an in-depth transformation of procedures and attitudes which is still in the beginning.
Written documents may contain hidden contradictions between different objectives but they arise only when implementation steps are to be taken because different interests of involved persons are concerned.
How is Sustainable Development Measured?
The famous Brundtland definition as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" is complemented by the "three pillars approach" which implicates that sustainable development requires the closer integration of economic, social and environmental policies.
The "Thematic Evaluation on the Contribution of the Structural Funds to Sustainable Development" (GHK 2002) uses a 'four capitals' model. It allows for an operationalisation of the claim of integrating the three pillars. The 'four capitals' model considers development to be sustainable if the stock of capital (wealth) per capita remains constant or rises over time. Four types of capital stocks provide a flow of goods and services, which contribute to human well-being:
(Source: M. DI LENARDO)
Often, a wide gap opens up between targets or ambitions and practical implementation. All too often, sustainability has to take a back seat when it comes to concrete decisions.
manufactured capital (economic infrastructure);
- natural capital (environmental resources that provide services for social welfare);
- human capital (human productivity potential based on individual health, skills etc.);
- social capital ("relating to the stocks of social trust, norms and formal and informal networks that people can draw upon to access resources, solve common problems and create social cohesion" - GHK 2002)
Sustainable development evokes objectives in terms of development (socio-spatial fairness, economic efficiency and respect for the natural environment) as well as organisational principles (consultation, assessment, local governance). The methods of implementing public policies are just as important, if not more so, than the expected results. The way public policies are applied requires assessment.