The Federal Council for Sustainable Development (FRDO-CFDD) advises the Belgian federal government on federal policy on sustainable development. Particular attention is paid to fulfilling Belgium’s international commitments, such as Agenda 21, the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. These commitments stem from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992.
The FRDO was set up in 1997 as the successor to the National Council for Sustainable Development (NRDO) which had been in operation since 1993. The Council was set up under the law of 5 May 1997 (as amended in 2010). This deals with the coordination of federal policy on sustainable development.
The long-term vision on sustainable development
By 2050 Belgium will be an inclusive society with a protected living environment, with an economy suited to the economic, social and environmental challenges and with a socially responsible federal government. These are the ambitious challenges set by the federal long-term vision on sustainable development adopted by the federal government on 17 May 2013. This confirms the federal government’s commitment to work for a sustainable society for our generation and those to come.
As well as four major challenges, the long term vision also sets goals and indicators. The goals are connected to areas of federal competence such as the fight against poverty, public health, mobility, energy, climate change, consumption and production patterns, finances and development cooperation. The indicators help to track the trends.
If these long-term goals are to be met, then cooperation between different levels of government will be required. This vision can serve as a starting point for the development of a national strategy on sustainable development.
The long-term vision is the framework for the five-yearly federal plans for sustainable development. These plans include activities and measures for the step by step development of an inclusive society that respects the environment and a suitable economy. The next Federal Plan for Sustainable Development based on this long-term vision is currently under preparation.
This long-term vision is coordinated by the federal planning service for sustainable development in collaboration with the interdepartmental commission for sustainable development, with contributions from the federal planning office, the Federal Council for Sustainable Development and the parliamentary committee on climate and sustainable development.
Policy cycle and players
The creation of this long-term vision takes place step by step following a five-year cycle. This means that in each cycle activities and measures are defined via interdepartmental cooperation in order to move the existing situation on towards the desired situation in 2050. These activities are published in the Federal Plan for Sustainable Development. The activities are carried out by each federal administration and then evaluated. The evaluation serves as the basis for a new five-year cycle. This cyclical approach implies that the decisions taken can always be optimised further and adapted to new situations. The experience and knowledge acquired are used to improve each cycle and to draw up new activities and measures.
Four different partners are involved over the five year cycle of the federal policy on sustainable development, each with its own roles and responsibilities:
- The federal planning office’s taskforce on sustainable development,
- The interdepartmental Commisson for Sustainable Development,
- The federal government’s policy cells on sustainable development and
- the Federal Council for Sustainable Development.
The task of the Federal Council for Sustainable Development
The statutory duties of the Council are:
- to advise the government on all measures concerning federal policy on sustainable development and to take part in policy dialogue with members of the government;
- to serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas on sustainable development. This includes the organisation of dialogues with stakeholders in preparation for the drafting of opinions within the statutory bodies, working groups and forums.
- to provide information and raise awareness about sustainable development among citizens, individuals and public bodies. This mainly takes the form of study days, the sustainable development press award, and publications;
- to conduct research in all areas relating to sustainable development.
The advisory role of the council has over the years been broadened with additional specific tasks in the fields of product standards, international cooperation, environmental planning and programmes and marine environmental policy.
The Council draws up opinions at the request of ministers or secretaries of state, the parliament or on its own initiative. The ministers or secretaries of state subsequently inform the Council on what action the government has taken on the basis of the opinions and, where relevant, its reasons for diverging from them.
The members of the Council
The members of the Council are representatives of various social groups: environmental organisations, organisation for development cooperation, users’, employees’ and employers’ bodies, youth organisations and the scientific world. Representatives of the federal government, the language communities and the regions, and environmental councils and economic and social councils are non-voting members.