34007896.doc - SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS FOR POLICYMAKING Paper prepared for the session on Politics and Statistics at The OECD World Forum on


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SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS FOR POLICYMAKING Paper prepared for the session on Politics and Statistics at The OECD World Forum on Key Indicators in Palermo 10 -13 November 2004. THORVALD MOE, Ph. D. Deputy Secretary General Norwegian Ministry of Finance _______________________________________________________
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I. Introduction 1. In Norway, the Prime Minister has asked The Ministry of Finance to coordinate policies to enhance sustainable development which is considered to be a key political priority for the Norwegian Government. To that effect, a Norwegian Action Plan (National Agenda 21) was presented to the Parliament in The National Budget 2004 which is the main economic policy document in Norway. The follow up of the Action Plan is coordinated by a group of State Secretaries chaired by The Ministry of Finance. 2. Since the Second World War, developing indicators for economic policy making has been an important activity by establishing national accounts, leading to GNP and other indicators for economic developments like prices, employment, public expenditures and so on. Such indicators are no longer controversial and widely used in economic policy making nationally and internationally. In Norway, Statistics Norway plays a key role in producing and refining statistics and indicators for economic policymaking, as well as statistics regarding social developments, the environment and so on. 3. Since the Harlem Brundtland Commission presented its report "Our Common Future" in 1987 1) , and after the Rio Summit in 1992, sustainable development has been an important part of the longer term policy agenda nationally and internationally. I will here focus on how we go about making indicators for policy making regarding sustainable development in Norway, and not go into a broad discussion of the wide ranging topic of sustainable development more generally. II. National Wealth as an Indicator of Sustainable Development 2) 4. According to The World Commission for Environment and Development, WCED,: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, ibid. page 43. The concept is intuitively fairly easy to comprehend, but in practise more difficult to make operational. 1) See WCED 1987 2) This section and the next one draws on current work in an Expert Group on Indicators for Sustainable Development in which I am deputy chair. I am grateful to Knut H. Alfsen for comments to an earlier draft. 2
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5. For an economist, it seems natural to define sustainable development as non-declining welfare (pr. capita) over time. What constitutes welfare is, of course, controversial, but since maintaining or enhancing welfare over time is a main goal of policy making requiring almost daily political decisions, we have tried to adapt a pragmatic approach to measuring sustainable development (hereafter SD) 6. One may ask if SD is a meaningful concept on the national level. The Norwegian Government argues that it is, and that a main purpose is to pursue national policies that contribute to global sustainability. If all OECD countries pursue sound long term SD
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