French Government tests a methodology for the peer review of national strategies for sustainable development

Political commitment

In his speech at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, the President of France, M. Jacques Chirac, made a commitment that France would be prepared to submit its National Strategy for Sustainable Development to be ‘peer reviewed’ by other countries, following the proposal by the European Union to develop such a system in order to promote the sharing of experience.


As a follow up, a project was initiated in 2004 by the French Ministère de l’Ecologie et du Développement Durable ( Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development) and the Ministère des Affaires Etrangères ( Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) was engaged to help develop the methodology and facilitate the process.

The project set out to develop and test a methodology for ‘peer review’ of, and shared learning about, national strategies for sustainable development, using the French strategy as an experimental case. The aim throughout has been to demonstrate that such a process has common benefits for the involved countries, and broader generic value. It is hoped that the methodology can be used (and developed further) by other countries through similar exercises, and that such an approach will be of help to countries as they seek to meet the UN target on strategies for sustainable development set out in the WSSD Plan of Implementation (take immediate steps to make progress in the formulation and elaboration of national strategies for sustainable development and begin their implementation by 2005, para 145).

Methodology workshop

A technical workshop, held in Paris, on 8-9 November brought together government representatives from four partner countries (Belgium, Ghana, Mauritius and the UK) and from the UN Department for Social and Environmental Affairs (DESA) and the European Commission (EC – DG Environment), and a range of actors who had been involved in developing and implementing the French NSDS. This workshop considered approaches to undertaking a peer review/shared learning process. It agreed an approach which was then followed and tested on an experimental basis during the French process. It also suggested how the process might be improved for application in future cases.

Peer review/shared learning workshop

This was then held in Paris on 7-11 February 2005. The peers included two representatives (one from government, one from civil society) from each of the four peer partner countries. Participants included representatives from UN DESA, the EC, the Environment and Energy Institute of the Francophie, and 45 individuals from government departments/agencies and civil society organised through the National Council for Sustainable Development (CNDD).

The workshop involved French participants providing answers and commentary related to a set of key questions and the peer countries sharing their own experiences. The questions were set by the peers, based on a Background Report prepared by IIED following analysis of a questionnaire and structured interviews with key actors. The questions were grouped under four strategy components: process, content, outcomes, and monitoring and indicators. The peers then agreed their recommendations structured in the same way

Participants also offered suggestions on how the peer review/shared learning methodology could be improved in the future and these have been incorporated in an updated methodology paper.

CSD side event

The methodology and outcomes of the process were presented at a side event on Thursday 14 th April at the meeting of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD13) in New York

Further information

Further information is available, including the report of the peer review process, a background report on the French national sustainable development strategy, a paper on the peer review/shared learning methodology, and a range of strategy and related documents from France and the peer countries.

Read more…