Switzerland’s promotion of sustainable development is enshrined as a principle in both the Preamble and Article of Purpose (Article 2) of its Federal Constitution. A specific article on sustainable development (Article 73) states that the Confederation and the cantons shall contribute to sustainability. The goal of the Swiss Federal Council is to “improve the quality of the environment while simultaneously improving economic performance and social solidarity”. The commitment to sustainable development is also identified in the Constitution as a matter of foreign relations (Article 54).
This constitutional mandate has been implemented since 1997 at federal level through the “Sustainable Development Strategy”, which includes guidelines and an action plan. The action plan contains measures for the three sectors of the economy, environment and society. On January 25, 2012. the Federal Council adopted the new Sustainable Development Strategy 2012-2015, setting out a roadmap with concrete policy measures to be taken in the coming four years.
The cantons and communes supplement the “Sustainable Development Strategy in appropriate ways through their activities. Sixteen cantons have established their own strategies and tools for sustainable development and 220 towns and communes, i.e. 32 percent of the Swiss Population, are involved in the implementation of a Local Agenda 21 project.
One example of this is the city of Onex in the canton of Geneva, which allocates a portion of its operating budget to development aid as part of Agenda 21. The canton of Basel City has promoted sustainable development through the comprehensive involvement of its population and, based on this, has developed and implemented 180 concrete measures to improve the quality of life in the canton (other examples of “good practice”).
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