Overline: Brandenburg
Headline: Draft Strategy for Sustainable Development Is Well-intended, but Lacking in Detail

The draft proposal for Brandenburg’s future sustainable development strategy has met with a mixed response from Brandenburg's Sustainability Advisory Board and Sustainability Platform Brandenburg, two bodies coordinated by the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS). The strategy’s alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and commitment to adopting a whole-of-government approach to sustainability challenges were noted positively by both organisations. However, the strategy lacks "an overarching vision of where Brandenburg wants to go" and a clear roadmap and timeline for efforts to achieve the state’s goals. Both bodies have called on the state government to make improvements to the strategy, in particular by prioritizing targets and refining the selected indicators.

Rural settlement in Brandenburg: Regional development should be oriented towards sustainability.
Rural settlement in Brandenburg: Regional development should be oriented towards sustainability. Shutterstock/Mike Mareen

As part of the public participation process for the strategy’s development, the State Chancellery invited Sustainability Platform Brandenburg to provide a written submission on the draft and to participate in a hearing during the revision process. The Sustainability Advisory Board, appointed by Minister President Dietmar Woidke, has also been asked to comment on the strategy. Both bodies welcome the decision to align the sustainable development strategy with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in cooperation with the relevant ministries and to pursue sustainability gains across the whole of government. However, they also take the government to task on a number of issues:

Statement by Sustainability Platform Brandenburg

Sustainability Platform Brandenburg is a network of over 180 initiatives for sustainable development in the state of Brandenburg. It was founded by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Environment and Climate Protection and is coordinated by the Research Institute for Sustainability in Potsdam (RIFS, formerly IASS). The network is managed by a steering committee in which around 25 initiatives and civil society organisations are represented. The former IASS scientific director and facilitator for the platform, Ortwin Renn, emphasized that the platform’s statement on the strategy was prepared by all of the steering committee’s members. “Everyone – from the Chamber of Crafts & Skilled Trades to various youth and environmental associations – agreed to take a constructive but critical stance on the current draft”, explained Renn. “As a consequence, this statement has considerable political clout." Above all, the platform criticizes the lack of an overarching vision for sustainable development in Brandenburg, including an outline of the necessary steps and goals as well as a timeline for their achievement. The current draft of the strategy also does not live up to its claim of being a “sustainable development strategy for the state of Brandenburg”. “The draft currently on the table is really a strategy for the state government rather than for the state as a whole”, said Renn.

The statement criticizes the draft’s failure to adequately address the strategy’s implementation at the regional and municipal levels. It also fails to engage with municipalities and rural areas, despite their important role in the implementation of measures to improve sustainability. And although the strategy identifies a number of focus areas, it does not specify which should be tackled with priority. However, efforts to implement the strategy can only succeed if its specified goals are linked to concrete targets and indicators.

The platform also highlights the importance of effective monitoring and public participation at all levels for the successful implementation of a state-wide strategy for sustainable development. However, the current draft remains largely silent on the extent to which cities, municipalities and citizens will be able to have their say on the strategy’s implementation. Renn also explained that the wording of the current draft is challenging and will not be comprehensible to many.

Statement by Brandenburg Sustainability Advisory Board

Brandenburg Sustainability Advisory Board comprises a panel of six members and is tasked with advising the state government on all issues relating to sustainable development. The board’s members are Prof. Gesine Grande, Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer, Silke Hansen, Rüdiger Kuhn and Prof. Uta Steinhardt, as well as Prof. Ortwin Renn, who chairs the body. In its statement, the board acknowledges the strategy’s vital role in providing guidance at a broad level and highlights the voluntary commitments outlined in the draft as a bridge to a sustainable future that could possibly serve as a model for others. Despite this, the board is less than satisfied with the current draft and makes a number of recommendations relating to four overarching issues:

  1. In its present form, the document cannot properly be considered a “strategy”. Many of its observations are abstract and vague. The details of the draft need to fleshed out, ordered by priority and honed to present a clear and easily grasped vision for the future of Brandenburg.
  2. Key issues are not addressed in the current draft.
  3. The selection of indicators is too narrow and needs significant improvement. The board also recommends adopting at least one indicator for all appropriate sustainable development goals to measure progress for children and youth.
  4. The board also criticised the approach to public participation adopted in the draft as too narrow. More opportunities for participation will be needed, especially during the implementation phase, in order to gain the broad approval and support of the business community, civil society and public.