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Publication

Introducing sustainability assessment in Flanders, Belgium

Book Contribution - Book Chapter Conference Contribution

Sustainability assessment can be viewed both as a process and as a tool to improve the quality of decision-making and to foster a gradual transition towards sustainability.
In Flanders, the institutionalisation of sustainable development has only recently entered public debate. A range of evolutions such as the adoption of regulatory impact analysis, the 2006 regional strategy for sustainable development and the introduction of sustainability assessment systems both at European and at federal Belgian level, have boosted interest in the development of a customised Flemish sustainability assessment framework. The Flemish Centre of Expertise for Sustainable Development is taking on the challenge. Based on the international state of the art and on the potential impact of sustainability assessment depending on the interpretation of its role in the policy process, a set of quality criteria is being developed. This will result in the drafting of a general guiding framework for conducting sustainability assessment in Flanders. This framework will subsequently be submitted to a panel of relevant stakeholders in order to amend it. Ultimately, the combination of scientific knowledge, international experiences and locally formulated needs will yield a practical framework for sustainability assessment. Once implemented, this will strenghten the anchoring of sustainable development as a guiding policy principle in Flanders.

The presented paper will give an overview of the work performed half-way the project implementation. An analysis of the current state of the art in sustainability assessment focussed on the situation at European level, where the European Commission's impact assessment guidelines succeed in combining sustainability principles with better regulation objectives. The European experience is especally relevant to Flanders, as it acts as an example of integrated impact assessment. Further research and extensive consultations with decision-makers will be realised to explore linkages with other types of ex ante assessment.
Besides the 'state of the art' research, a reflection on the function of sustainability assessment in the policy process resulted in a dual conceptualisation. Sustainability assessment can indeed be viewed as a practical instrument to aid decision-makers and to enhance the quality of final decisions. But it is also a process of change, which can initiate various different learning processes that ultimately play a major role in the necessary transition towards a sustainable future.
The challenge is to provide the Flemish decision-makers with a sustainability assessment framework that makes full use of the learning potential of the exercise, while also allowing the application of practical tools on the decision-making process, resulting in short-term policy improvements.
Book: Proceedings of the 2nd International Sustainability Conference, Basel, August 2008
Publication year:2008
Keywords:sustainability assessment, Flanders