skip to main content



Sustainable Development Issues
  1. The sustainable development process in Barbados is fraught with the same problems common to Small Island Developing States. Barbados has a small land area of 430 sq km and a resident population of 260,000 people and an annual visitor (stay-over) of approximately 500,000. This makes Barbados one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
  2. In addition, Barbados has jurisdiction over an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of approximately 167,000 sq km which is almost 400 times larger than its land area. In Barbados almost 60% of the people live within the coastal zone.
  3. Given this background the main sustainable development issues in Barbados include:

(1) Fragile National Resource Base:

  • limited groundwater supply and agricultural land;
  • threat of flooding and natural disasters as a result of global climate change and sea level rise;
  • coastal/marine zone issues;
  • solid and liquid waste (including toxic/hazardous waste);
  • urban issues;
  • energy conservation issues.

(2) Institutional

  • fragmented legislation framework;
  • overlap, duplication and gaps in decision-making process;
  • limited capacity (human resource, technological);
  • lack of public involvement and awareness;
  • lack of financial resources.
  1. In 1994 the Programme of Action for Small Island States called on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to continue to work in cooperation with national, regional and international organizations, on the development of vulnerability indices. It is felt that vulnerability indices better reflect the unique states of SIDS.
  2. In direct response to these calls the Government of Barbados through the Environment Division, Ministry of Health and the Environment formulated a national programme aimed at developing National Indicators of Sustainable Development. The objectives of this programme are:
    • to develop a broader framework for collating and providing information about progress towards sustainable development;
    • to provide quantitative information for measuring environmental trends, formulating policy targets, and evaluating targets;
    • to provide an environmental information system that is useful to policy makers, technicians and the public at large, and to regional and international agencies.
Institutional Arrangements
  1. In 1994, the Government of Barbados established a National Commission on Sustainable Development (NCSD) which has overall responsibility for guiding government's sustainable development programme. The NCSD was set up to:
    1. Advise Government on measures required to integrate environmental and economic considerations in the decision making process and on global issues of sustainable development;
    2. Facilitate national level coordination mechanisms on sustainable development;
    3. Promote greater understanding and public awareness of the cultural, social, economic and policy approaches to attaining sustainable development in Barbados;
    4. Receive and review the annual report of actions taken in pursuit of Sustainable Development, prior to its submission to Cabinet and to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.
  2. The NCSD comprises members of the public sector, private sector, NGO's and Trade Unions. One of the constraints to Barbados' thrust in the area of Sustainable Development has been the inactivity of the NCSD. This will be addressed shortly with the revitalisation of the Commission. The Environment Division functions as secretariat of the NCSD.
Status of Indicators Programme
  1. The Government of Barbados is committed to the development of sustainable development indicators. It is felt that traditional indicators such as GDP which are used at national, regional and international level are flawed. These traditional indicators do not sufficiently capture the impacts (negative or positive) in the bio-physical environment. Indeed these traditional indicators are often a disadvantage to Small Island Developing States, such as Barbados which loses financial assistance because of high GDP. These traditional indicators ignore positive contributions made in the area of environmental conservation.
  2. On November 4, 1996 the Government of Barbados through a national consultation, launched its Sustainable Development Programme. Its main aims is to translate the global concept of Sustainable Development into the local context. As evidence of Government's interest in indicators for Sustainable Development, one of the four themes of the one day consultation addressed the area of "Monitoring and Performance Indicators for Sustainable Development". However various factors have since delayed the continuation of the sub-programme dealing with indicators.
  3. Generally in Barbados there is access to high quality data relating to socio-economic activities. The weakness lies in the area of bio-physical and environmental data which are sporadic and disperse. This is one of the problems the national programme will seek to remedy. Data collection compilation and analysis is dispersed among various ministries and departments.
  4. There is also the need to build local capacity particularly as it relates to human resource development, technology, and financial resources. In order to overcome these constraints it is desirable that regional and international agencies work in collaboration with national agencies in developing and executing a programme for indicators of Sustainable Development.


  1. The commitment to prepare progress reports an the achievement of sustainable development was assumed by all participant countries at the United Nations Conference for Environment and Development - UNCED, in 1992.
  2. To carry out this task, the UNDPCSD is discussing with the United Nations system the methodology sheets with the aim of assisting all participant countries to develop their own group of indicators with a common methodology and to enable data comparisons and information exchange among all involved actors.
International Workshop: strategies and priorities
  1. Since then, the Brazilian Government has been working on this issue, and in 1994, promoted an International Workshop to discuss and select indicators of sustainable development. This Workshop was held by the Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and the Legal Amazon (MMA). The main directives resulting from the Workshop were:
    • Definition of guidelines to formulate indicators, considering local and regional cultural and physical landscape characteristics;
    • Use of already existing information sources, before seeking new ones;
    • Agreement on a study process, using as reference the Pressure-State-Response OECD s, methodology for the developing of sustainability indicators, distinguished regionally.
The Framework to Develop Indicators and the MONITORE Program
  1. During the year of 1995 the MMA, working on results of this International Workshop defined the most suitable framework to be used in the process of selecting and setting up indicators for Brazil. The chosen framework was the Pressure-State-Response proposed by OECD, and after updating with some conceptual inputs, the Driving Force-State-Response framework (DSR).
  2. These activities were carried out with the aim of producing and supporting the development of variables and indicators that will allow environmental monitoring. This urgent initiative is needed not only because of the lack of existing environmental data, but also due to the awareness that indicators are a useful tool for public administrations and can surely contribute to the revision of policies and Government programs. The existing environmental gap at the global level is also known by CSD.
  3. However, the availability of data, variables and environmental indicators is precarious, which makes a clear view of the country s environmental situation impossible, obstructing the construction of sustainable development indexes, obtained from the main axes of sustainability:
    • Gather reliable data and information on the environmental quality of the country and make them available
    • Coordinate, promote and disseminate environmental monitoring practices and procedures
    • Build capacity of institutions in order to carry out environmental monitoring
    • Develop methodological standards for gathering and analysis of environmental monitoring data
    • Develop statistical and sampling standards for significant research on environmental quality at regional and national levels
    • Promote the exchange of information on environmental quality
    • Allow an integrated analysis of the environmental situation of Brazil
  4. What must be emphasized is that the proposed indicators, following the conceptual framework, are closely related to Driving Force identified elements. Further more, they reveal the achievement of the public policies to all involved social actors affected by economic development.
  5. During the execution of the ongoing MONITORE Program, six thematic meetings were held, on selected topics related to the following environments: continental waters, coastal zone and marine; land (fauna, flora/vegetation, soil/subsoil) and atmosphere. The participants of the meetings were governmental and non-governmental representatives, researchers and representatives of the scientific community. The main objective was to identify the representative variables and indicators, and procedures for obtaining this data.
Selection of Indicators
  1. As a goal for 1997, based on the work already carried out, and considering the results of the thematic meetings mentioned above, we expect to obtain a set of indicators that will be used to describe the state of the environment as well as the structure of the monitoring system at national level.
  2. While dealing essentially with the sustainable use of natural resources and pollution prevention and control, the MONITORE Program will, necessarily, deal with a large spectrum of sustainability indicators, since the constitutional concept of environmental management implies the improvement of living standards and equal access to natural resources for present and future generations; therefore, those indicators for social aspects of sustainable development related to the sustainable use of natural resources and quality of life, proposed by the CSD, are to be considered in the MONITORE s framework design.
  3. Actually, some CSD indicators are already in use or proposed by the major State Agencies and will be tested, at a national level, within the MONITORE Program.
  4. The feasibility of systematic data collection for these indicators and the generation of a database for environmental monitoring will be tested in a MONITORE pilot-project in 1997; however the regional disparities within the State Agencies are considered to be an important obstacle; to help the State Agencies overcome the technical deficit, the Ministry will promote the cooperation between Agencies and Universities, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. It is noteworthy that the Ministry expects that the cooperation process will do more than just improve the process of getting and analyzing information, it will help to promote the partnership between the different social actors and facilitate the access to environmental data.


  1. In Chile the sustainable development theme has been explicitly incorporated into Government statements. It is frequently used by public authorities to express concern about natural resource management and the environment, with implications of intra generational equity and inter generational justice. But what really has been done on the subject?
  2. There are many well known achievements of Chilean economic policy, mainly in reference to market openness, management of macro economic variables, recovery of confidence for foreign investment, incentives to private initiative and free trade. A controlled inflation, (single digit from 1994 onwards), a sustained growth of GNP (6.7% yearly average in between 1990 and 1995; 6.5% in 1996), some betterment in income distribution, a reasonable rate of unemployment (From 10.5% in between 1984 and 1989, 5.6% in between 1990 and 1995, with a rise to 7.2% in 1996), and decent values for other traditional indicators (balance of payments, capital markets, consumption), are all facts that permit to assess the Chilean economy as relatively sound and stable, with good perspectives into the future.
  3. Chilean economic growth has had a strong centralization component, favoring mainly the capital and a few regions outstanding for their participation in the export oriented dynamic. The problem lies on what Chile exports, which has traditionally been mining products, mainly copper, which is the base for sustaining the economy. In the past years other goods have diversified this mono export pattern, namely timber and paper, agricultural goods (mainly fruit), and agricultural products.
  4. Chile is a country that rests especially on its natural resources as key elements for its development. New investment in copper mining will further intensify the dependency upon mining resources, and upon natural resources as a whole if we consider the projected growth of the agriculture and fishing sectors. This has led many to wonder about the environmental sustainability of the Chilean development model.
  5. On the public level the task of bringing answers to this problem is only just being tackled. Some studies made by the Central Bank have shown preliminary results which doubt the sustainability of the current development process, at least in three sectors : native woods, fisheries and mining. These results have however been questioned by sectorial and firm organizations, originating a still ongoing debate.
Academic Inputs
  1. The most significant work done on the matter, is presented in a book called Sustentabilidad Ambiental del Crecimiento Económico en Chile (Environmental Sustainability of Economic Growth in Chile),is a research work carried out by the "Programa de Desarrollo Sustentable" (Sustainable Development Program) of the Public Policy Analysis Center of the University of Chile, in which several faculties are striving to co-operate.
  2. In the introduction it is maintained that, "According to the requirements of sustainable development, the relative achievements on the economic, political and social levels are not enough to secure the country's future development. There arises the need for a forth pillar, whose stronghold is the identification and achievement of the sustainable environmental conditions necessary for economic growth with equity and in democracy."
  3. Environmental indicators, however inaccurate, do not show any improvement , but rather a continuous process of decline. This translates into the following challenge. " One would therefore expect that unless significant action on the policy making level is taken... the environmental situation could worsen.... Chile would have to double the value of it's exports, an aim which must be thought about from the environmental point of view, considering that this implies mainly a further strain upon natural resources."
  4. The main conclusion of the study is that "the present tendency to the growth of demand cannot be maintained without compromising in a non reversible manner the quality of life of the Chilean population, especially in big urban centers. The development level of the country already presents a certain rigidity in the supply of environmental goods and services , such as drinking water resource and land resource, be it for vehicle circulation, the installment of dumping sites, or recreational activities."
Sustainable Development Indicators
  1. The University of Chile research includes a chapter on sustainability indicators, which we shall overview.
  2. The starting point is the conception that sustainable development indicators are a source of information about the "future of sustainability" confronted to particular social an economic aims. In other words, they are part of a data base relevant for decision making. In this setting the indicators which should be developed must reflect actual sustainability problems, their consequences, and the activities that have brought them about.
  3. For these authors, indicators must be a synthesis of the problem and the solution. This is the point at which traditional socio-economic indicators cease to be useful, since they do not consider resource depletion and environmental degradation. One example of this is the "Sistema de Cuentas Nacionales (National accounting system), which has the following important shortcomings:
    1. It does not consider natural resource depletion as a decrease in value.
    2. It does not consider fully the costs of environmental protection and recovery.
    3. It does not consider environmental degradation
  4. Therefore the National Accounts System indicators cannot orient development towards sustainability. The only way to obtain useful tools for decision making would be to reach a macro economical adjustment, sort of GNP, that would account properly for the use of natural resources in a country whose economy rests so fundamentally upon them, not only for their productive uses, but also for other activities such as infra-structure, tourism and recreation.
  5. Another point that is not considered by the system of national accounts is the degradation of natural assets, be it by over exploitation or waste generation. This is yet another shortcoming for decision making, since the future outcome of particular activities cannot be foreseen.
Lines of Action
  1. These are the lines upon which current work is being done in order to obtain a set of macro economic indicators based on information generated by National Accounts (including Environmental Accounts). These would allow for the direction of political economy towards a sustainable use of natural resources.
  2. It would furthermore enable the elaboration of environmental statistics in order to cope with present needs and overcome the major shortcomings of this matter. For this reason CONAMA is pushing for the development of a National Environmental Information System (SINIA) which uses and completes the actual data networks. In a still unofficial proposition the SINIA also considers the selection of a set of environmental indicators that would allow for the expression of the collected information in synthetic tools.
  3. The new environmental legislation also considers the development of indicators on a regional level, setting a further challenge for the Environmental Authority. On the face of this CONAMA jointly with academic circles have this year engaged on a project for the development of Sustainability Indicators at regional and sectorial levels, for selected regions and economic activities. It is expected that the said project will be the continuation of what has been done until now to analyze critically the environmental sustainability of the Chilean growth pattern, and furnish environmental authorities with a first set of sustainability indicators useful for decision making.


  1. The National Planning Department (DNP), is one of the most important entities of the Colombian Government. As an executive body at the most strategic level, DNP has the responsibility of giving advice to the President and Ministries in the decision making process for the design and implementation of Investment Policies, Plans and Programs at the national level. As a Planning Institution DNP has to foresee and guarantee, as far as possible, the viability of such Policies, Plans, and Programs, and after a period of time, to evaluate them as well.
  2. Among the main actions that the DNP has to achieve in order to reach such strategic performance, are:
    • To coordinate the design and implementation of the National Planning System.
    • To set macro economic and financial goals according to Government s policies, plans and programs.
    • To manage the National Investment Budget.
    • To act as the Executive Secretariat of the National Council for Economic and Social Policy.
    • To assess and advise public entities in the formulation of social, economic and environmental Programs.
    • To analyze and evaluate these entities performance.
A brief Institutional Diagnostic
  1. Through the implementation of Law 99 of 1993, Colombian government did create the Ministry of Environment and designed the National Environmental System which is the global framework that governs environmental management in Colombia.Colombia is involved in a decentralization process since 1986; however the recent re-organization of the institutional context for environmental management includes the creation of the Ministry of Environment and which replaces a National Level Institute called INDERENA which was responsible for the management of Natural Resources, without any responsibility related to the environmental policy design at the National Level.
  2. Besides the creation of Ministry of Environment, 99 Law reformulated the functions of Regional Corporations and created 16 more (there were 18 but those did not cover all the country); this Law also created 4 Urban Environmental Units (each one for the 4 most important cities). The last two kind of Institutions are responsible for the execution of Investment Programs and Projects at regional and local levels, and can be considered the most important authorities at regional and local levels.
  3. The implicit objective of the Environmental National System Structure is to make a change in the traditional policy making in Colombia. The main idea is that other organizations and institutions besides Government s ones can share the control and implementation phases of environmental management, as well as in policy making and projects formulation.
  4. For this change to happen, it is necessary to have an inter-institutional coordination which although is formally established, requires an effort of each one of the entities involved to become reality. The effectiveness of decisions at national, regional and local levels depends on the availability and quality of environmental information.
  5. Because of that, DNP is leading a Coordination Process with the institutions that might be involved in the Project. In the first stage of this process must be a close relationship with the "Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies Institute" (IDEAM) which belongs to the Ministry of the Environment, the National Statistics Department (DANE) , the Geographical Studies Institute (IGAC), the Contraloria and in a second stage with the Regional Corporations (CARs), in order to cross information at the detail of a regional level.
  6. The DNP project "Environmental Indicators System for Monitoring Natural Resources and its Management", is the first official effort to formulate environmental indicators in Colombia. In addition, if the process works, it will provide a productive exchange between national information institutes, and the actors involved.
Available Information.
  1. Various organizations in Colombia are responsible for providing environmental information; the data making, statistical analysis, and development of economic indicators are done by different institutions. The production of that information does not use the same methodologies, which makes it difficult to build indicators. Besides, according to the Information Pyramid (Hammond et al, 1995), in Colombia there are different levels of state of information, depending on the way each institution handles the information making process, from simple data to an index. Therefore, to build the environmental indicators proposed by DNP, information from many sources will be required.


  1. Costa Rica's current National Development Plan (Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 1994-1998) is based on the concept of sustainable development, following the general principles of Agenda 21. It is a development strategy intended to promote the transition to a first stage in the road toward sustainability, providing the initial "push" required to foster further achievements.
  2. The Government of Costa Rica, under the coordination of the Ministry of National Planning (MIDEPLAN),) has promoted two initiatives to push such development strategy, with implications for the implementation of indicators or sustainable development. First, the creation of a National System for Sustainable Development (SINADES), and second, the elaboration of indicators that can be used for monitoring progress in each of the different dimensions of sustainable development. The second initiative has led to the implementation of a System of Indicators of Sustainable Development (SIDeS- Sistema de Indicadores sobre Desarrollo Sostenible), an effort supported initially as part a Capacity 21 project aimed at promoting implementation of Agenda 21.
  3. The System of Indicators of Sustainable Development (SIDeS) is the program of the Government of Costa Rica on indicators of sustainable development. It has two main objectives. First, to have an instrument to follow-up and evaluate the national development process from a sustainability perspective, and to guide public policies and decision making-processes in the private and public sectors. And second, to make available to the civil society relevant information on the main variables and indicators that illuminate on Costa Rica s sustainable development progress, thus contributing to democratize information, as called in Chapter 40 of Agenda 21. SIDeS is part of the National System for Sustainable Development (SINADES).
  4. Indicators are currently separated in three components: (1) social and demographic indicators (v.g. social public expenditures, poverty and income distribution, wages and employment, education, health, and housing); (2) economic indicators (short term and long term indicators, including areas like production, investment, savings and consumption, prices, employment conditions, international trade, public finance and external debt), and (3) environmental indicators (vg. land use, urbanization, biodiversity and protected areas, forest resources, water resources, coastal and marine resources, pollution, solid waste management, and energy). Currently there is information for about 500 variables and indicators. The system was called initially "System of Socio-Demographic, Economic and Environmental Indicators".
  5. The implementation of the system has been facilitated by the relatively good data available in the country, specially economic and social. Economic data, as in most countries, is the most reliable and validated data, with good time series dating back to the 1950s. Social data has been consolidating, especially over the last twenty five years, as a result of a public policy agenda pushed during the 1970s, which put social policy at the center of government policies. Current efforts are been concentrated on strengthening the environmental component of the system, given the shortcoming of this type of data, which has been characterized as:
    1. scarce, relative to the availability of social and economic data;
    2. scattered, both in time (point estimations for only one or a few years) and in space (point estimations for very specific locations);
    3. very aggregated, in many cases only available at the national level;
    4. unreliable; when there is more than one measure there are problems of comparability because the lack of standardized criteria for data collection and processing; and
    5. disperse, in many institutions and government agencies and usually it is not shared.
  6. It is important to point that since MIDEPLAN is not a producer of primary data, current work is focusing on the strengthening of the relationships between MIDEPLAN and the institutions providers of information. Also important are efforts devoted to facilitate electronic access to the data and to divulge information about the system.
  7. A first compilation of indicators was published by MIDEPLAN in the first quarter of 1995, with data for the period 1980-1994 (Costa Rica: Tendencias Sociodemográficas, Económicas y Ambientales 1980-1994). In the near future other three publications are planned, which will include separately the environmental, economic, and socio-demographic information included in the data base. The environmental issue will be the first to be printed, under the name of "Principales Variables e Indicadores Ambientales de Costa Rica" (Main Variables and Environmental Indicators of Costa Rica). The environmental data is currently available at the Home Page of the Ministry of Planning (
  8. The environmental publication is based on a compilation of environmental statistics and indicators available in Costa Rica, contracted by The Ministry of Planning (MIDEPLAN) to the State of the Nation Project (see below), with resources from a World Bank Grant for strengthening of Institutional Environmental Planning.
  9. The next stage after the consolidation of the data base will be the development of summary indicators of sustainable development, combining social, economic and environmental information.
  10. The creation of the National coordination mechanism for the testing and evaluation of indicators, has been accomplished with the appointment of The National Commission on Information for Sustainable Development (INFODES), in which there is participation of representatives from the government (Ministry of Planning, Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, General Direction of Statistics and Censuses, and the Central Bank of Costa Rica), the academic sector (appointed by the public universities), the business community, and NGOs. (both appointed through the National Council of Sustainable Development).
  11. As already indicated, the objectives and work program of this commission are consistent with the activities foreseen for the testing phase, in terms of promoting the production and use of information on sustainable development; promoting the establishment of coordination mechanisms between producers and users of information on sustainable development; promoting access to sustainable development information to all sector of society; and promoting the use of methodological sheets developed following CSR guidelines.
  12. The INFODES commission has already started promoting activities involving assessment of the use of indicators in the country, and selecting those indicators based on national priorities and strategies. This has been the case with the workshops on environmental statistics celebrated in February and October of 1996.
  13. During the first workshop two main results where reached. The first result was the distribution of information about the most relevant environmental statistics available in the country. For that purpose an inventory of the environmental information produced in the country was elaborated, through a consulting process with public and private institutions that produce such information. Also, a working draft of the document on environmental variables and indicators was distributed among participants for review and comments.
  14. The second result was the elaboration of a list of prioritized environmental variables, with priorities based on the following criteria: national relevance, as defined in the National Environmental Policy Plan; existence of related data, operational feasibility for obtaining the data; quality of the data; political acceptability; relevance for decision-making; urgency of the data; and international comparability.
  15. The work plan under consideration for the INFODES commission (see section III-D above), tough focusing on environmental information, considers many of the recommendations raised in the guidelines, regarding assessment of: (1) technical issues (elaboration, discussion, and proposition of methodological sheets, following CSR guidelines); (2) decision-making issues (regular technical meetings to involve producers and users of environmental information; follow-up of the production of environmental information using the methodological sheets), and (iii) institutional support and capacity building issues (strengthening the capacity to produce environmental information).
  16. In addition, during the first workshop on environmental information (see section IV-B) the activities related to the elaboration of the inventory of environmental information produced in the country involved collecting methodological information about the most important providers of information. Such information included:
  17. basic characteristics of each variable produced, such a the type of measurement (whether it is continuous or not); periodicity; time span of the data available and level of aggregation (national, regional, etc.);
  18. Collection and registry, such as the type of producer (primary or secondary), procedures used to collect information, aggregation of data (national, regional, etc), methodological guidelines to produce information, the data product (paper, electronic, etc); and use of the information, such as the main internal use, the main external users, external accessibility, and services provided to external users.
  19. The proceedings of the First Workshop on Environmental Statistics have been published and distributed among the participants in the event and other interested parties. This publication can be considered a reporting activity in line with the objectives of the testing phase.


  1. Following Agenda 21 provisions, the Central American countries subscribed to the Alianza Centroamericana para el Desarrollo Sostenible (ALIDES), This Alliance is the vehicle to materialize the Agenda 21 mandates relevant to sustainable development in the Central american region.
  2. At the country level, ALIDES envisages the constitution of national entities for Sustainable Development. In el Salvador, approval of Executive Decree Nº 38 dated 13 May 1996, established the Consejo Nacional para el Desarrollo Sostenible (CNDS). Currently, this decree is under revision in order to make the Consejo more responsive to the evolving policy demands of sustainable development at the national, departmental and local levels.
  3. The Consejo Nacional para el Desarrollo Sostenible is a high level entity headed by the Vice President of the Republic. Its membership comprises most sectoral ministries, private sector institutions and NGO's related to Sustainable Development operating in the country.
  4. It is expected that forthcoming revisions of this institutional framework, will lead among other things, to the apppointment of a focal point for the testing and evaluation of relevant sustainable development indicators.
  1. Due to the current preliminary status of organization at the national level in relation to sustainable development Indicators Coordinating Mechanisms, only an introductory review of indicators has been conducted. Therefore, no testing is in progress at this juncture, as yet.
  2. Preliminary relationship between national priorities and strategies and indicators to be selected for testing in El Salvador

1. Social Aspects of Sustainable Development

National priorities:

  • Poverty alleviation, and increase access to public services.
  • Generation of Productive Employment.

Matching Indicators:

  • Combating poverty
  • Promoting education, public awareness and training
  • Protecting and promoting human health.

Data availability and quality:  From medium to high. However, the main problem is te lack of uniformity in some of the indicators in this area.

2. Economic Aspects of Sustainable Development

National Priorities:

  • Translate economic growth into sustainable development.
  • Attract foreign investment linked to the demands of a globalized economy.
  • Promote local socio-economic development.

Matching Indicators: Transfer of environmentally sound technology, cooperation and capacity building.

Data availability and quality: From medium to high. The Central Reserve Bank provides official data on the country's economic indicators.

3. Environmental Aspects of Sustainable Development

National Priorities:

  • Watershed management and soil conservation
  • Combat Deforestation and Forest Protection
  • Biodiversity.
  • Climate.

Matching Indicators:

  • Protection of the quality and supply of freshwater resources.
  • Combating deforestation.
  • Conservation of biological diversity.
  • Protection of the atmosphere.
  • Promoting sustainable agricultural and rural development.

Data availability and quality: Minimum to none. It is not until very recently, that efforts have started in order to gather indicators on development and environmentally related issues.

4. Institutional Aspects of Development

National Priorities:

  • Strengthening institutional capacity of public and private entities
  • Participation of civil society in decision making.

Matching Indicators:

  • Strengthening the role of major groups.
  • Information for decision making.

Data availability and quality: Medium to fair. More reliable data could be refined if so desired.

Some Key National Efforts On Selected Aspects On Sustainable Development.

(A) Human Sustainable Development Program(PDHS)

  1. According to national priorities, this program consists in the strenghtening of local capacities for planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of sustainable human development. The first satge of this projecet will cover four out of the 14 departamanets of the country. Its four main areas are: Poverty alleviation, Governability, Diversification of Productive Activities and Reversal of Environmental Deterioration.
  2. This programe will be monitored and evaluated through a Geographic Information System (GIS) combined with selected human development indicators focused mostly in the local level. The user friendly design of this system will, in turn, be utilized by all interested users through a Web Page for PDHS in the Internet.

(B) Release of periodic Human Development Reports(HDR) at the national, departmental and local levels.

  1. In order to facilitate planning of development projects and disemination of information on human development in the country and among the international organizations and NGOs, some key information and key indicators are expected to be released periodically.
  2. To this end, the UNDP Office in El Salvador, hired a team of consultants, so that in coordination with the National Statistics Office will be in charge of producing the updated HDI for the national and departamental level. The first reports are expected to be released in June 1997.

(C) Capacity building in sustainable development to all governmental ranks dealing with sustainable development indicators.

  1. The National Environmental Secretariat has arranged , with support from the WB and USAID, the provision of courses and training in order to increase awareness and debate leading to the incorporation of sustainability in development . This includes the establishment of "green accounts" and sdi at the national level.

(D) Establishment of a Unit within the National Environment Secretariat on Environmental Indicators.

  1. With the support of UNDP for an initial trial period of two years, this unit will be the basis for calculation and use of environmental indicators I for policy development at the national level in the long run.


General Objectives Regarding Environmental Protection and Improvement
  • Modernize environmental legislation and specification of environmental offenses.
  • Reduce air, water and soil pollution.
  • Investigate, utilize and rescue biodiversity through the promotion of - among others - the development of protected areas.
  • Promote the inclusion of environmental aspects in educational programs.
  • Reduce the speed of deforestation and promote reforestation as well as productive forestry activities at the regional level.
  • Appropriately manage water basins in order to guarantee the utilization of water resources as regards quantity and quality
Principal Problems Related To Sustainable Development
  1. During the last three decades, the environmental situation in Guatemala has been deteriorating rapidly due to the interaction of various factors: the level of poverty resulting from the lack of opportunities which causes a large part of the population to exploit the environment in order to satisfy its basic needs; the use of production processes highly detrimental to the natural environment; the limited impact of public policies and institutions related to the environment; the absence of environmental considerations in the formulation of economic and social policies as well as productive investment; and the general lack of environmental education and consciousness. This has caused an environmental situation of alarming proportions, in the context of which the main problems are: deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and air, water and soil pollution.
  2. Deforestation: The soils suitable for forestry comprise 51.1% of the national territory while the actual deforestation indicator is 34%. The annual deforestation rate is estimated at 90,000 ha. The principal causes of deforestation are the substitution of forests for agriculture and livestock production, the felling of trees for firewood and industrial uses as well as forest fires. Some 97% of the wood cut is being burnt in the field or used as fuel; 17 million cubic meters of wood are used as firewood annually and only 2% is utilized in industrial processes.
  3. Soil Erosion: The main erosion occurs on over utilized land, i.e. steeply inclined areas on which plants of low economic and ecological value are grown. Some 68,000 km2 are highly susceptible to erosion where an estimated soil loss of between 36 to 122 tons is observed every year while in certain areas of the country erosion reaches 1,100 tons p.a.
  4. Loss of Biodiversity: There are no precise indicators regarding the loss of biodiversity, but it is known that the degree of extinction of animal and plant species - and, therefore, of genetic material - is considerable.
  5. Pollution: The inappropriate use of agro-chemicals as well as industrial and domestic waste cause serious water pollution to which one needs to add the deterioration of air quality due to gas and particle emission from industry and vehicles which poses a growing problem in urban areas.
National Coordination Mechanisms for Environmentally Sustainable Development
  1. A large number of institutions exists in Guatemala which directly or indirectly relate to environmentally sustainable development. Especially the National System of Rural and Urban Development Councils is promoting the sustainable development strategy at the national and local level in which the Planning Secretariat (SEGEPLAN) is responsible for the formulation, coordination, implementation and revision of sustainable development plans. Other institutions involved in that area are:
    • the Environmental Cabinet;
    • the National Environmental Commission (CONAMA);
    • the Environmental Policy Committee; and
    • the Guatemalan Environmental Fund (FOGUAMA).
  2. The National System of Rural and Urban Development Councils was installed in order to organize and coordinate public administration through the formulation of development policies and to promote the organization and participation of the population in the country s integrated development. This System consists of the national (one council), regional (8 councils), departmental (20 councils) and municipal (330 councils) levels.
  3. The National Council consists of the President of the Republic who is chairing it, the line ministries, the Planning Secretariat, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, universities and civil society. This Council is responsible for the organization and coordination of public administration and the formulation of development and zoning policies.
  4. The Environmental Cabinet is being coordinated by the Vice-president of the Republic and consists of the National Environmental Commission, the Planning Secretariat and the sector ministries. In addition, this Cabinet receives technical advice from specialized agencies. Its prime objective is the institutional coordination necessary to establish a uniform, precise and coherent course of action between the entities involved in the problems and requirements related to environmentally sustainable development.
  5. The National Environmental Commission (CONAMA) depends directly on the Presidency of the Republic and its function is to advise on and coordinate all measures related to the formulation and implementation of the national environmental protection and improvement policy. It has at its disposal a Technical Advisory Council which up to now has been supervising environmental impact assessments (EIAs) in order to determine the best option to achieve sustainable development. The formulation of a draft "General Law for the Environment and Natural Resources" is one of CONAMA s recent achievements. This draft law proposes the creation of an Environment and Natural Resources Ministry which should replace CONAMA and comprise other institutions related to the subject.
The Integrated and Sustainable Development Strategy of Government
  1. The current administration s development strategy has been established in the Government Program 1996-2000 which provides for three main areas of action, called commitments, namely:
  2. Political commitment to liberty to construct peace, democracy and justice: Its fundamental elements are democratic coexistence, strengthening the state of law and judicial security; unity in cultural diversity; and modernization, decentralization and deconcentration of the public sector. Within this commitment, a Peace Program has been established, named "Guatemala s opportunity investing in national reconciliation, democracy and sustainable development".
  3. Economic commitment to productive investment: It calls for investment to improve production and standards of living; infrastructure improvement at the national level; local development; and the establishment of general, positive, clear and stable economic rules.
  4. Social commitment to integrated human development: Its main components are improvements in education and culture oriented towards work, coexistence and peace; a healthy population; environmental protection and improvement; and the establishment of a country of proprietors.
Profile of the Information and Sustainable Development Indicator in Guatemala
  1. Up to now, only development indicators - instead of sustainable development indicators - have been used in Guatemala. The most important indicators are the following:


  1. A National System of Social Indicators has been developed which aims at the generation of information required for the evaluation of the impact of the Poverty Alleviation Program and other Government plans and programs. For example, the following indicators may be mentioned:
  2. In education: illiteracy rate, enrollment according to area, ethnic group, sex and age, repetition rate, student-teacher ratio at the pre-school, primary and secondary levels, education budget in relation to the GDP, public education expenditure etc.
  3. In health: infant mortality, life expectancy, fertility, maternal mortality, low birth weight, mortality due to diarrhea, respiratory infections etc. There are also health indicators according to ethnic groups, such as medical child-delivery services, midwife services, breast-feeding periods, knowledge and use of birth control methods, vaccination, etc.
  4. Indicators related to drinking water and waste water disposal, housing, rural development, culture and cultural heritage are also available.


  1. There are indicators on economic growth, GDP, bank deposits, money in circulation, consumer price indices, interest rates etc. Furthermore, regarding productive activities, the following examples may be mentioned:
  2. Agriculture: shares in GDP, total employment, exports, public investment, imports of agricultural inputs etc.
  3. Industry: industrial activity index, electric energy consumption in industry, raw material imports, credit to industry etc.
  4. Commerce: imports of goods, credit to commerce, credit card transactions etc.
  5. Tourism: tourist arrivals according to origin, foreign exchange earnings, average expenditure per tourist, hotel capacity, hotel occupancy rates etc.

Environment and Natural Resources

  1. Basically, the following indicators are in use: deforestation rate; use of wood for firewood; forest areas; soil suitability, utilization and productive capacity; actual and potential land use; erosion susceptibility; rainfall; temperatures; mineral resources; protected areas etc.


Status of indicator development and use in Mexico
  1. Mexico has achieved considerable progress in developing environmental information. For instance, in 1995 the first compendium on environment statistics was published and actually the second compendium is being prepared which will be printed by middle of present year. In 1996 an exercise on the System of Economic and Environmental Accounts was also published, and every two years, since 1986, the bi-annual environment state report is published. It is also very important mention that in 1996 the first assessment of environmental performance was initiated by OECD (and it will conclude by early 1998), which has implicated for Mexico an enormous challenge in order to compile and/or produce the most of environment indicators required.
  2. It may be said that at the present, the exercises on environmental and sustainability indicators are trying to link environment information with other demographic, economic and social data. It is necessary to incorporate and/or specify into these indicators, as the Methodological Sheets point out: objectives, national strategies, targets and priorities, among others issues.
  3. Several institutions are designing environmental digital information systems. Nevertheless, they are still isolated and disperse exercises, they are elaborated following genuine methodological or procedures frames, and it need to be integrated into a national network.
  4. In Mexico there are a great number of non-governmental organizations, with a high potential of activities and mobilization, but the information about them and their activities related to sustainable development is insufficient. Their role is very important and it has a significative impact at the level local, but such activities are do not known and recognized by public opinion.
  5. According to the OECD preliminary environmental performance assessment report on Mexico (October, 1996) the present environmental information does not sufficiently support the sustainable development policy directions adopted by Mexico, and it is therefore important to adapt the Mexican Environmental Information System to support progress towards national and international objectives of sustainable development.
  6. In order to generate environmental information according to international standards and parameters, it is required to promote the methodological sheets frame at the national level and among the different institutions. In the short term, to review and/or adapt the current environment statistics into the requirements of indicators of sustainable development will be necessary.
  7. There are certain conditions to progress in that respect: the commitment of Mexico for Agenda 1, which is incorporated into the National Plan of Development, 1995-2000; the compendium and reports mentioned at the beginning; a lot quantity of available basic statistics; a greater contact and interchange between data producers and users; Mexico participates in regional and bilateral co-operation schemes, which requires to monitor some environmental aspects; and finally, the environmental performance assessment carried out by OECD has encouraged to reinforce and/or generate information not only within administration public but also in the private sector, as well as the NGO, research centers, universities, etcetera.
Environmental Data Availability
  1. Based on the findings of Survey of the Present State of Environment Information in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1996, conducted by ECLAC and INEGI, the overall level of regional availability comes to 77 percent. The remaining 23 percent represents variables for which information is either not available, not applicable, or not known whether it is available in the countries. Inter-institutional availability of environment statistics for the region countries is as follow: the availability of environment statistics for the region countries is as follow: 51.1 percent of all variables generated in the ten environmental categories are produced by the organization responsible for the environment; other entities such as ministries, secretariats, autonomous and/or decentralized institutions are responsible for 24 percent;18 percent of the information is in charge of, among others, non-governmental organizations, universities and research institutes; and the National Statistical Offices participation in the generation of information is equal to 6.5 percent. In the case of Mexico, the percentages are, respectively: 57, 26, 6 and 11 percent.
  2. In Mexico, responsibility for generating environment and sustainability information and for data collection, compilation and analysis resides in several institutions, although there are two national agencies direct and mainly involved: the Secretariat of Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries (SEMARNAP) and the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (INEGI).
  3. The first is in charge of prescribing, conducting and assessing the general environmental policy and therefore it is responsible for all environmental information. In addition, the National Institute of Ecology (INE), a body dependent on SEMARNAP, has already some environment indicators related to air pollution, wastes, climate change, ozone layer, wildlife, among others. This indicators are structured according to Driving Force-State-Response Frame.
  4. The second institution INEGI plays an important role because has an explicit legal mandate to produce and collect all the statistic and geographic information, which is gathered from population censuses, surveys on establishments and households and on economic performance, as well as administrative records. It also uses satellite images and aerial photo to produce maps. Briefly, INEGI generates mostly the basic information which is used by all of the institutions involving in the generation of environment and sustainability indicators, and actually it has plans for elaborating indicators on sustainable development.
  5. In 1995 both institutions signed an arrangement of co-operation, which is operating for elaborating the compendium on environment statistics and also to prepare the Environment State Report. Therefore, it is needed to establish a national inter-agencies mechanism (committee) which does have a specific mandate to co-ordinate the handling and processing of environmental information.
  6. Responsibility for producing environment and sustainability indicators is shared by governmental and non-governmental institutions and it is supported by national initiatives, such us the INEGI-SEMARNAP Agreement of Collaboration, as well as bilateral and international programmes and activities. For instance, Mexico is member of the Commission for Environment Cooperation as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement; it carries out the Border XXI co-operative programme with the United States to monitor the environmental protection activities on the border area.
  7. In addition, the new 1996 General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection include a comprehensive view of environmental problems, recognizes the people s right to environment information, provides a sound legislative basis for protecting the environment, and include the concepts of sustainable development and efficient use of natural resources. It is expected that this law will contribute to develop more information.
  8. The institutional work above mentioned is a platform for the testing phase to develop indicators in Mexico. It is sure that the use of Methodology Sheets will increase the quantity and will better the quality of the available environment statistics and indicators.
Key national sustainable development issues
  1. Considering the current state of indicators (generally focused to environmental impact), as well as the environmental problems and the priorities for sustainable development of Mexico, it would be possible to develop and strengthen a priority set of indicators of sustainable on the following topics:
    • Biodiversity
    • Air pollution of cities
    • River water quality
    • Energy uses and production
    • Implement a system of coastal water quality
    • Implement a hazardous waste inventory
    • Environment expenditures focusing on sustainability and environment-economy linkages
    • Poverty and issues on equity in the use of resources.


  1. Panama does not have a program on indicators of sustainable development, as such, but compiles statistical information which is managed by the Controller General of Panama. This compiled information covers:
    • Physical aspects - climate
    • Demographic conditions - population, vital statistics, migration
    • Economic situation - agriculture, livestock, fishing, industrial structure, manufacturing production, construction, electricity and gas, domestic trade, transportation, communication, balance of trade, national account, public finance, bank, insurance, mercantile registration, prices, consumption, production and marketing of water.
    • Social situation - housing, social security, health services,job, salaries, traffic accidents.
    • Cultural conditions - education
    • Justice - justice
  2. To incorporate environmental statistics into the system, the Government created the National Commission of Statistics of the Environment (CONEMA) in July 1996, which includes the Controller General of Panama, the Ministry of Planning and Economical Policy (MIPPE), the National Institute of Natural Renewable Resources (INRENARE) and the Inter-Oceanic Regional Authority of the Panama Canal (ARI).
  3. 124. The objectives of this Commission are:
    • to implement a series of environmental statistics into the National Statistical Environment System;
    • to establish the basis to create national environmental accounts and to incorporate them to the National Accounting System, in accordance with the United Nations standards
  4. This Commission made an inquiry based on the recommendation of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to update the status of environmental information in 1996. The research determined that there is an important volume of information which needs to be reclassified, compiled, managed and stored.
  5. The recently created National Statistical Environment System integrated 11 governmental organizations, one non-governmental institution and the Panama Canal Commission. The objective of this system is to collaborate with the Department of Statistics and Census and CONEMA to reach their objectives and to implement the proposed plan of work.
  6. With all this information, the country is establishing the basis of having indicators that could aid in the sustainable development of the country.
  7. Regarding the specific topic of "Sustainable Forest Development," Panama participated in regional meetings organized by The Central American Commission of Environmental Development (CCAD) where criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management were established. In this context, Panama is working with the following indicators:
    • Control and evaluation of forest management plans;
    • Quantity of remaining trees for seeds per hectare managed;
    • Quantity of extracted trees per hectare;
    • Delimitation of forest managed areas;
    • Annual extraction of trees by species;
    • Surface and percentage of the total protected areas of natural forest;
    • Measurement to prevent and to control forest fires;
    • Control and conservation of watersheads.


  1. Venezuela institutionalized its environmental management with the creation of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Renewable Resources in 1977. In this respect it is a pioneering country in Latin America. More recently, however, when asked to identify its main achievements at international fora, only general figures could be provided, despite the numerous environmental control programmes that had been undertaken.
  2. Towards 1992, the environmental authorities became increasingly concerned by this fact, and began to show interest in obtaining information about what other countries were doing in this respect. Consequently,in 1993 the decision was made to develop an Environmental Statistics Programme, leading to the creation of a Centre for Environmental Statistics.
  3. The development of the environmental statistics programme was based on two fundamental facts: (i) the acknowledgment of the existence of environmental problems; and (ii) the existence of an institution responsible for their solution. That is to say, environmental problems were studied as well as the measures implemented to solve them, which are basically executed through the Ministry of the Environment. The actual causes of the environmental problems. were not explicitly included in the analysis.
  4. In addition to these basic aspects, other factors of a procedural nature were considered, such as sources of information, information gathering mechanisms; norms for the revision, analysis and processing of environmental data. With these elements in mind as an initial step, the Centre's structure would be outlined, and the necessary investment for its development be estimated. adopted: (a) historical-documentary, and (b) testimonial, through the opinion of sectoral and thematic experts. The sectors considered were: oil, petrochemical and coal; iron and aluminium, hydro-electricity, forestry, fisheries, mining, agricultural, industrial and urban.
  5. The environmental issues were initially grouped into: (i) urban, (ii) demographic, (iii) educational, (iv) exploitation of natural resources, (v) institutional capacities. This initial grouping revealed the awareness of analysts about the causes and problems alike. However, the need to stick to the Ministry's competences dominated, and the focus remained on the solution of the problems.
  6. The identification of the Ministry's responsibilities, was made according to the mandates established in the existing legislation. The consideration of that legislation allowed the identification of other responsibilities outside the competence of the Ministry of the Environment. The analysis of responsibilities covered the competences on a nation-wide, regional and descentralized basis.
  7. To establish environmental indicators, an analysis was made of each issue, which covered causes, effects, and its sequencial breakdown. With these elements an initial series of indicators obtained from various sources was proposed, and presented and discussed in a workshop.
  8. The resulting series was submitted to a meticulous examination to evaluate the possibility of their development (analysis of data sources) and their ability to measure and communicate: (a) the degree of environmental degradation and (b) the effectiveness of the responses. The result was a group of environmental indicators which were used as a basis for the preparation of the Venezuelan State of the Environment Report.
  9. This brief synthesis of the process followed shows that the indicators developed then respond basically to environmental criteria, thus they are not directed to measure the progress towards sustainable development.
  10. As previously indicated, the identification of the environmental issues and the establishment of environmental indicators was made through the participation of all sectors involved by means of interviews and workshops, in order to reflect their opinion.
  11. Despite this fact that the Venezuelan SOE report has been published as a document that is intentionally open to a wide national debate, to be improved upon and adapted to the needs of decision makers and public interests, including politicians, the media, academics, etc.
  12. Environmental matters, including the orientation of the investments and the development of the norms and regulations, and the legal system.  Additionally, they will consider the aspects to be dealt with at national, regional or local level.
  13. Therefore it is necessary that the indicators developed are understandable for the decision makers, and at the same time they are able to measure the degree of natural resources depletion, or changes in the quality of the environment.
  14. One of the most important considerations was the financing of the programme. The solution adopted was to contract a consultancy firm to do the initial work of the formulation of the SOE report, and subsequently to set up the Centre with a minimum staff at first, with the responsibility of creating the framework and process for an integrated environmental system to be developed upon the existing systems operating within the Ministry of the Environment.
  15. Ultimately the Centre will be expected to provide information access and interpretation, including regular "State of the Environment" reports and special bulletins on key environmental issues.
  16. A second stage includes the possibility of obtaining funds from international cooperation and/or financing, to enable the Centre to provide improved and integrated information so that decisions can be made taking all key environmental factors into account, as well as to continue to publish and improve the successive SOE reports.
  17. During the process of preparation of the Balance Ambiental de Venezuela, we had access to the existing published information mainly from developed countries and international agencies. We also had the opportunity to visit the United Kingdom and France, which allowed us to come into direct contact and learn from the experiences of the various organizations responsible for the preparation of State of the Environment reports both at national and global level.
  18. Political leverage was basic for the establishment of the Environmental Statistics and Information Centre, in this sense is has been important for Venezuela to participate actively in international events, as well as a continued communication with multilateral organizations.
  19. The institutional response was planned according to the resources available and its future will depend on the benefit it represents to the social actors.