Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires that they are integrated in an early stage of the preparation of laws and strategic policies. Integrating sustainability in Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) procedures is an excellent way to avoiding unsustainable laws and policies.
A growing number of EU member states, as well as the European Commission, are integrating the SDGs in their regulatory impact assessment procedures. It is also part of the Commission’s online Better Regulation Toolbox. The OECD supports such mainstreaming of the SDGs with extensive guidance and good practice collections.
Peer learning as support for mainstreaming
From December 2021 until July 2022, thirteen (and ultimately seventeen) EU Member States, the European Commission and the OECD participated in a dynamic and highly interactive project aiming at mainstreaming the SDGs into RIA procedures.
NEWS! On 5th September 2022, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection (BMU) decided to extend the project grant, thus enabling ps4sd to organise two additional peer learning workshops end of 2022, and one in-person workshop early 2023.
The first reports of this project is available for download here:
The project was implemented by the think tank Public Strategy for Sustainable Development (ps4sd) and financed with a grant from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection (for further questions contact email@example.com).
The thirteen countries took part in three peer learning workshops on key challenges identified through a survey: (1) the framework conditions for SDG mainstreaming in RIA schemes, (2) methodologies and process design, and (3) embedding sustainability impact assessment in inclusive policymaking.
The project brought together national experts on sustainability /SDGs and on RIA world, to exchange practices and experiences with their peers. The European Commission and OECD took an active interest in the workshops and shared guidance and research findings, as did speakers from civil society organisations and academia.
The closing event of the first phase on 14 June 2022 attracted seventeen EU countries, European Commission and OECD. The project showed great interest among the national SDG and RIA experts to continue with this promising approach and addressing the identified challenges and obstacles.
The report of the project presents four recommendations:
- Strengthen leadership and increase resources for mainstreaming SDGs in national RIAs.
- Continue with peer learning workshops, supported by a moderated network and political involvement.
- Develop and organize training for policy officers about how to mainstream the SDGs in the RIAs they are responsible for.
- The European Commission could support the national mainstreaming of SDGs in RIA with existing instruments (such as the existing TAIEX peer-2-peer tools).
In several of the participating countries, the project resulted in a first-ever collaboration across the ‘silos’ between SDG and environment coordinators and those responsible for regulatory impact assessment (RIA). In addition, since the project started, some countries have started revising their RIA regulations. The European Commission and the OECD are open to support the EU member states in this endeavour.
Topics for further exchange and learning
The project resulted in many topics for further exchange and learning, including:
- Case studies from national RIAs integrating the sustainability perspective.
- Linking sustainability in RIAs to national sustainability strategies and action plans.
- Using IT-tools to facilitate lean and effective sustainability-informed RIAs.
- Methodologies to integrate foresight; multi-criteria analysis; impacts on vulnerable groups and poverty; assessment of climate impacts.
- Avoiding that sustainability RIAs become just a box-ticking exercise, by ensuring focus.
- RIA helpdesks and guidance with respect to sustainability mainstreaming.
- Communicating the results of sustainable RIA to political decision makers and parliaments.
- Linking RIA to enhance policy coherence for sustainable development.
All participants of the workshops and final event agreed that it would be important to maintain the now established network collaboration and continue with peer learning workshops on outstanding challenges. The Czech Republic (EU Presidency from 1st July 2022) kindly hosted the final event at their Representation in Brussels and have planned a presentation of the project results in the Autumn of 2022 at the EU Council Working Party on the 2030 Agenda.
The project team at ps4sd: Louis Meuleman, Andreas Versmann, Ingeborg Niestroy and Francesca Valentini