TWG 2 – Evaluating Sustainable Development

TWG 2 – Evaluating Sustainable Development

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The concept of sustainable development (SD) acquired worldwide attention following the publication of the  Brundtland Report by the World Commission for Environment and Development in 1987. It  defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Since then SD has become broadly accepted as a guiding vision for policy makers, programme managers, civil society and the business sector. The  financial and economic crisis (as well as growing societal concerns about climate change, loss of biodiversity and unfair production and consumption patterns) has focused  public attention towards implementation and measurement of SD.

While inclusion of broad SD objectives into planning and implementation seems relatively simple, evaluation of the impacts of concrete measures on sustainability is still a challenge for researchers, evaluators and client organizations. Adoption of SD principles has profound implications for evaluation: the focus on future generations requires evaluation methods with a comparably long time horizon; the holistic principle requires sound aggregation and valuation methods to achieve a well-balanced assessment of environmental, economic and societal impacts and their trade-offs;  the global perspective requires tracking of long lived and systemic effects; the principle of public participation requires evaluation methods and processes which can accommodate involvement, empowerment and learning of a wide range of stakeholders. The implications for the skill set and competencies of evaluators, as well as their ability to identify and handle moral dilemmas, are far reaching.

The proposed EES Thematic Working Group “Evaluating Sustainable Development” is designed to broaden the outreach of several national initiatives dealing with SD evaluation, to offer a platform for a continuous debate among SD evaluators from all over Europe, to stimulate a discussion on quality and competency standards for SD evaluation and to support education and training in this area. It will be co-ordinated by Dr. André Martinuzzi, Director of the Research Institute for Managing Sustainability at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. He was co-chair of the task force for environmental evaluation in the German Evaluation Society for nearly 10 years and co-ordinated the successful EASY-ECO programme (see www.easy-eco.eu).