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The pioneers of the partnership: which complementarities between the approaches?
Since 2010, the General Commission on Sustainable Development of the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy and the Council of Europe have had discussions about the integration of the SPIRAL methodology and the Agendas 21/Climate and Energy Package so that a mutual reinforcement can be established with a common goal: to succeed in mobilising all the stakeholders around a common objective that is the sustainable well-being of all.
In 2013, the first SPIRAL trainings took place in Grenoble (France) in March, in the Midi-Pyrénées (region of France) in June and in Gironde (department of France) in September with two objectives:
- to help the territorial collectivities which are implementing an Agenda 21 on a voluntary basis to acquire the foundations of the SPIRAL methodology;
- to prepare a methodological framework which incorporates the Agenda 21 approach all together and make it available for the other collectivities that may be interested.
In practical terms, these two approaches have the same concerns at the local level as well as the same construction principles for co-responsibility between stakeholders and citizens. However, they have different competence pools and different tools which can be complementary.
Their convergence aims to create synergy and mutual enrichment. This means that, on the one hand, SPIRAL will be able to:
- Reinforce the integration of social concerns in the environmental challenges thanks to a better citizen participation in the Agendas 21;
- Enable the construction of a shared vision of the sustainable well-being of all from the criteria given by different groups of inhabitants;
- Help “reset” the public policy to the local needs, identify new priority areas depending on the development of the global context;
- Follow up on the progress towards the objectives for the sustainable well-being of all.
On the other hand, the Agendas 21 will be able to bring about reflection and tools on key issues such as:
- Reduced use of all the resources that are essential for both our basic needs and our sustainable well-being;
- Reduced use and consumption of fossil fuels and implementation of energy transition;
- Reduction of “debts” for future generations like non-absorbable waste, non-recycled greenhouse gases, etc.
Thanks to this convergence, the territories will eventually succeed in generating better dynamics around these more ambitious goals. These goals are consistent with the central idea of the sustainable well-being of all which is based on partnership, co-responsibility and the participation of all the stakeholders to answer to the global challenges and the ones of the territories all together.
What is a local Agenda 21?
Agenda 21 is an action plan for the 21st century which was made public at the 1992 Earth Summit, where 178 governments voted to adopt the programme. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which is a compact set of 27 principles, was signed during the same summit. Since then, a lot of commitments have contributed to the dissemination of the principles of sustainable development throughout the world. Here are some key elements of Agenda 21:
- It provides recommendations from the principles of sustainable development as they appeared on the Brundtland Report published in 1987;
- It makes participatory governance the focus of its approach;
- It mainly concerns the local collectivities but it also applies to the State services of the State, schools, etc.
In 1991, the first international campaign of local Agendas 21 featured 21 pilot collectivities. 14 of them were located in Europe, where its Northern countries (United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries) are considered as being its pioneers. This trend has continued to grow and today, France is coopuying an interesting place.
The Agendas 21 in France
France has had a specific situation because it got involved in the approach much later than its neighbours. In June 2003, the government adopted a national sustainable development strategy which strategic focus called “Territories” particularly mentions the State’s commitment to support local Agendas 21. The acceleration of the whole process started during the Grenelle de l’environnement in 2008 which found 5 purposes in the principles of sustainable development:
- Fight against climate change and protection of the atmosphere;
- Conservation of biodiversity, environmental and resource conservation;
- Full development of all human beings;
- Social cohesion and solidarity between the territories and between the generations;
- A development dynamic following responsible production methods and consumption patterns.
According to the general principle, Agendas 21 are led by the collectivity with the cooperation of all its stakeholders: elected representatives, inhabitants, associations, firms, the education system, etc.
The approach to the development relies on 5 essential elements that are: participation of stakeholders, steering, transversality of the approach, evaluation and ongoing improvement strategy. It is reflected in the production of a diagnosis of the challenges linked to sustainable development in the territory, a strategy to respond to these challenges and an action plan.
There are currently more than 1,000 Agendas 21 in France. They are of voluntary nature and are non-standardised. Nevertheless, the Senate already has draft bill which aims to introduce an obligation for the regions to establish their own Agendas 21.
Finally, the second-generation Agendas 21 are of particular interest for SPIRAL because they consider co-responsibility as a key element of the approach. New emerging issues and citizens are central. The main question is to know how to reconcile the two approaches -top-down and bottom-up- and to enable an efficient and constructive collaboration that will lead to the transformation of society towards one which objective is the well-being of all. The answer may be found in the convergence of these two approaches and a common effort for this change to be successful.
To know more about the French experience in Agenda 21, have a look at the following links: http://www.agenda21france.org/ http://www.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/-Agenda-21-et-demarches-locales-de-.html
To have more information about SPIRAL trainings, click on the following links: Formation Toulouse (DREAL): http://storage.dolist.fr/857/www/SPIRAL_Avis.pdf Formation Gironde (CG33): https://enquete.extra.gironde.fr/enquete/index.php?sid=26252
Useful link about the Senate bill on Agenda 21: http://www.senat.fr/amendements/commissions/2012-2013/495/Amdt_COM-213.html
Link about the second-generation Agenda 21: http://observatoire-territoires-durables.org/spip.php?article1408