Promoting sustainable development in our cantons, cities and municipalities The cantons, cities and municipalities are committed to sustainability

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

For the last 20 years, local public authorities throughout the world have demonstrated a growing commitment to sustainable development. In Switzerland, 16 cantons and around 230 municipalities have officially introduced sustainability measures, representing over 30% of the population. Foremost among their sustainability priorities are mobility, spatial management, nature and the countryside, and energy. In addition, there have been numerous campaigns aimed at spreading the message and rais- ing awareness of sustainable development.

As stakeholders, the cantons, cities and municipalities play a pivotal role in achieving sustainable de- velopment, as is apparent from the Swiss submission for Rio+20 (Submission by Switzerland for UNCSD 2012). Cooperation between the federal government and the local public authorities is con- sidered vital. In this regard, the ARE fulfils the role of instigator and coordinator, offering numerous activities and providing methodological, logistical and financial support.

A platform for sustainable development

For the last 12 years the federal government has provided a platform for exchanges between the three institutional levels (federal government-cantons-municipalities), the Sustainable Development Forum, which brings together these various stakeholders twice a year and fulfils its role by unearthing new issues with regard to the three dimensions of sustainable development (public procurement, tourism, sport, biodiversity in sustainable cities, the economy, etc.). The forum is organised in cooperation with the Swiss Conference of Directors of Public Works, Planning and Environmental Protection (DTAP), the Swiss Cities Association (SSV) and the Swiss Municipalities Association (SGV). In this context, the ARE offers a number of activities to promote the implementation of sustainable development.

A range of activities

The cantons, regions, cities and municipalities have been invited to pursue or embark upon an official sustainability process, in the form of a strategy, guidelines or local Agenda 21. To support this proc- ess, the ARE provides them with a wide range of effective tools, including a database of existing measures, communication aids and quality criteria. The federal government can also provide financial support for the measures and projects, through a special programme set up to promote sustainability. For Rio+20, six projects were chosen following the “Rio+20 vor Ort”/“Rio+20 ici aussi” (“Rio+20 on our doorstep”) call for ideas launched in 2011. In areas such as public procurement and governance, they relate to the themes of Rio+20 – the green economy and governance – and are particularly worthy of interest because they can be replicated in other regions of Switzerland.

Drawing inspiration from good practices

There’s no point in reinventing the wheel. There are many examples of successful projects in the past that have furthered the aim of sustainable development. The ARE has drawn up a list of good prac- tices, categorised by theme, such as communication, procurement contracts, social and international solidarity, food and education. Two new publications have just been issued which tie in with the themes of Rio+20: “Tourisme et développement durable. Bonnes pratiques et pistes d’action” (“Tou- rism and sustainable development. Good practices and courses of action”) and “Promotion économi- que et développement durable dans les cantons. Etat des lieux et recommandations” (“Eco-

nomic promotion and sustainable development in the cantons. Progress report and recommenda- tions”).

Designing sustainable neighbourhoods

Whether it is a case of modernising existing neighbourhoods or building new ones, they are the cor- nerstone of municipal development and fuel political debate in numerous cities and municipalities. Neighbourhoods lend themselves well to implementing the principles of sustainable development, whether this is achieved through very low-energy buildings, constructed using environmentally-friendly materials, creating a social and intergenerational mix or promoting non-motorised transport. Through

its “Sustainable Neighbourhoods” programme, the federal government helps the municipalities to cre- ate such environments.

Assessing sustainability

In an increasingly complex political setting, it is essential at the planning stage to gauge the likely im- pact of the completed measures or programmes. A sustainability assessment examines the projects in light of criteria based on the three dimensions of sustainable development. It enables comparisons between different alternatives, highlights any conflicts of interest and, based on these conclusions, lays the right foundation for decisions and for coherent implementation. The “Cercle indicateurs” (Indi- cators’ Circle) forum enables 19 cantons and 16 cities to measure their progress in regard to sustain- able development and compare themselves with one another.

Further information:

Anne DuPasquier, Deputy Head of the Sustainable Development Section, Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE,
tel. 031 325 06 25, 079 423 56 72