SINGLE COUNTRY PROFILE
Wednesday, 15 July 2020
Early attempts towards national SD strategies included the development of NSTRAT, the Austrian Strategy for Sustainable development, adopted as a document relating to the federal level authorities by the Federal Government in April 2002. Two more work programmes were published at federal level: the 2003 work programme presented 200 specific measures and a second work programme (2004) with 80 additional measures.
Starting in 2006, a joint national strategy addressing both the federal and regional levels (ÖSTRAT) had been developed by coordinators and adopted by the Council of Governors in May 2009. In July 2010, the Federal Council of Ministers re-affirmed this decision, thereby adopting the national SD-strategy (ÖSTRAT), and adding new objectives within the jurisdiction of the federal level. ÖSTRAT was the first common SD strategy of an Austrian federal state (“Bundesland”) addressing both the national and regional level in Europe.
On the basis of the UN General Assembly´s adoption of the Agenda 2030 in late 2015, the Austrian Council of Ministers took an important step towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Austria in January 2016. Accordingly, all Federal Ministries were encouraged to develop action plans and implement the SDGs in all programmes and strategic approaches. Furthermore, an Inter-Ministerial Working Group was set up (IMAG), to support this process. Nowadays, the 2030 Agenda is subject to multiple strategic documents, such as the Climate and Energy Strategy #mission 2030, the Three-Year Programme on Austrian Development Policy 2019-2021, the Austrian Health Targets and others. Over the past years, the SDGs also became an important element of several regional strategies (for instance of the “Raumbild Vorarlberg 2030”, “Climate and Energy Strategy SALZBURG 2050” or the “Smart City Wien Framework Strategy 2019-2050”).
The current implementation at national level covers all three dimensions (economic, ecological and social) of SD, plus international issues according to the overall principles and targets of the Agenda.
While the NSTRAT had been coordinated by the then Federal Ministry of Environment, implementation of the Agenda is coordinated by the Federal Chancellery together with the Ministry of European and International Affairs.
As mentioned earlier, Austria launched the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with a Decision by the Austrian Council of Ministers in January 2016. In line with its universal, integrated and interrelated nature, the Decision of the Council of Ministers emphasizes a mainstreaming approach. Hence, the SDGs are integrated into all activities of Austrian politics and administration in an efficient, goal-oriented and autonomous manner. The sectoral ministries will utilize their existing multi-stakeholder strategies and programming processes to take the SDGs into account in the respective national policy frameworks. Thereby, well-established structures of numerous national policy frameworks may be deployed for the enhancement of SDG implementation.
Additionally, the SDG Focal Points of each ministry teamed up in an inter-ministerial working group, called IMAG, co-chaired by the Austrian Federal Chancellery and the Ministry of European and International Affairs – with particular involvement of the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, the Federal Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection. This working group accelerates information sharing on the Agenda 2030 and provides guidance on national reporting. Moreover, it coordinates reporting at the federal level on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
In March 2017, the working group published the Outline 2016 - Contributions to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the Austrian Federal Ministries (German). The Outline 2016 provided information on the general approach taken, the national policy processes and on the international dimension of the SDG implementation in Austria as well as a basis for further discussions with Parliament, civil society and other stakeholders.
Further work has been carried out by Statistics Austria on the development of the national indicator report in conjunction with Austria`s first Voluntary National Review (VNR). National indicator works and selection are compatible with the UN guidance and should be regarded in addition to Eurostat reports on SDG progress.
At its level, the former Austrian Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism also devised an action plan, “SDG Action Plan 2019+” in 2019 tracking the ministry's then activities including its future planning with respect to the SDGs.
Austrian Federal Chancellery and the Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs
All ministries are closely involved, with special involvement of the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, the Federal Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection in the then VNR drafting group and now in a steering group to the IMAG.
Voluntary National Review: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/26661VNR_2020_Austria_Report_German.pdf
Austria submitted its first VNR in 2020.
National — sub-national linkages
Several institutional arrangements foster the cooperation and coordination between the national and sub-national levels in the Agenda context, taking advantage from previous networking experience on SD issues. Since 1998, members of the Actors Network Sustainable Austria have regularly met in “round tables” organised by the former Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management in cooperation with one of the Austrian federal states. The round table meetings focused on the exchange of experience and information among actors of different working fields and different levels of implementation. From 2010 onwards, the activities of the network have been closely linked with the implementation of the ÖSTRAT, the joint SD strategy of the Federal and provincial authorities, its implementation by means of joint work programmes, and its further development. As a consequence, the “Round Table Sustainable Austria” was given a new design. In November 2010, the Actors Network Sustainable Austria met to develop the first joint ÖSTRAT work programme. More than 50 actors from key institutions of the national and regional levels discussed the further development of existing initiatives as well as options for new partnerships and new initiatives
- The “Expert Conference of National and Regional SD Coordinators” was approved by the “Conference of the Environmental Ministers of the Federal Provinces” in 2000. National and regional SD coordinators meet twice a year in order to develop common activities and to coordinate the implementation of SD strategies and policies. In 2019, the “Expert Conference of National and Regional SD Coordinators” merged with the “SDG Focal Points” from the federal level to promote the exchange of information and experience on the 2030 Agenda implementation.
- The chair of the Regional SD coordinators now participates in the IMAG at federal level. An external support agency provides technical assistance for the implementation of the work programme. It also supports the preparation of progress reports.
Local Agenda 21 (LA 21) is regarded an important approach to implement SD and Agenda 2030 at the regional and local level. In 2019, the quality management process started in 2002 on evaluation of LA 21 processes and quality assurances was adapted to the goals and targets of the Agenda 2030.
Austria actively participates in EU processes connected to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. As an EU Member State, Austria belongs to one of the most important actor groups in development cooperation worldwide. In this role, Austria is particularly committed to supporting sustainable economic development in selected partner countries, mainstreaming of environmental protection, and the advancement of human rights, democracy and good governance.
During the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2018, the priority of the Council Working Group on the 2030 Agenda was to establish instruments, processes and structures that would promote the desired mainstreaming within the Council and make use of synergies. In addition to communication with external stakeholders (e.g. the Multi-Stakeholder Platform on the implementation of the SDGs in the EU, SDG Watch Europe, UNECE), other Council Working Groups were also sensitised to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. For example, an informal dialogue on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda was initiated on EU level.
In previous times, horizontal coordination on the Federal level was fostered by the “Committee for a Sustainable Austria” that consisted of representatives of all Federal Ministries, social partners and the chairs of the “Expert Conference of National and Regional SD Coordinators”. Moreover, a “Sustainable Development Steering Group” was established on the national level to coordinate SD activities among the different ministries. As of 2010, the Committee was co-chaired by the Federal Chancellery and the now Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology. These mechanisms worked as a
- means of coordination through common projects and programmes,
- political guidance and
- steering mechanism.
Horizontal coordination on the level of federal states still is facilitated by the Regional SD Coordinators. They assist the implementation of SD within the provincial administrations. Furthermore, they share experiences and develop joint activities, mostly using the mechanism of the “Expert Conference of National and Regional SD Coordinators”, in German called NHKK, which serves both horizontal and vertical integration.
Some of the Austrian federal states decided to develop own SD strategies complementary to the ÖSTRAT to enhance the process of horizontal integration within the respective region.
Horizontal coordination on the regional and local level was encouraged and fostered by the above-mentioned sub-group of the “Expert Conference of National and Regional SD Coordinators” on LA 21. For more details see “sub-national activities”.
More recently, the interministerial working group “Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (IMAG) was created in 2017, including representatives of all federal ministries under the Co-Chair of the Federal Chancellery and the Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs. The IMAG now meets at regular intervals, approximately four times a year.
It is envisaged – in order to promote vertical and horizontal policy integration – that further relevant actors may be invited to and informed about the IMAG meetings on a more regular basis and that the running chair of NHKK will be invited regularly.
As part of the preparations for Austria's first VNR, a drafting group – consisting of ministerial delegates perceived to representing the three dimensions of sustainability as well – was created under the co-chairmanship of the Austrian federal Chancellery and the Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs. In addition, two editorial committees were set up, which include all relevant Austrian stakeholders with regard to the 2030 Agenda.
The first Austrian Voluntary National Review on the implementation of the SDGs is regarded as a stocktaking and a point of reflection to spur further activities on all levels. The production of this review has initiated greater cooperation between all levels of government and all relevant stakeholders. The Government Programme 2020-2024 foresees the further strengthening of a targeted coordination in implementing the 2030 Agenda by systematically involving relevant stakeholders.
- The Federal Chancellery commissioned a National Indicators Report that was published by Statistik Austria in May 2020. The results of this special report are also taken into account in Austria's first VNR and are published there yet in a shortened manner.
- A first stocktaking compilation of implementation measures undertaken by all federal ministries was released 2017.
- Statistik Austria plays a central role at national level. In 2017, it published its first Austria-specific set of indicators, based on the UN framework of indicators and the standards of the European Statistical System (ESS). The national indicators were updated in December 2018 and 2019. As a whole, the Austrian set of indicators was substantially improved and expanded there are now around 200 indicators, some of which have even been disaggregated based on gender.
In the past, transparency in, and information on the progress in the implementation of the NSTRAT was considered as equally important. Several measures were set so this end:
Work programmesProgress reportsExternal process reviewExternal evaluation: In 2005, an external evaluation of the implementation activities and results achieved regarding NSDS was conducted by a group of independent researchers. Audit by the Austrian Court of Auditors: Several audits on the NSDS and its mechanisms of horizontal and vertical integration took place also by the Austrian Court of Auditors. The results of the audits were published mostly in the Court´s Activity report Bund 2011/13 and also gave insights in the regional level of integration at that time by rendering 3 specific reports, each covering three federal states.
Statistik Austria. STATISTICS BRIEF – Dezember 2018. p. 1.
Statistik Austria. STATISTICS BRIEF – Dezember 2018. p. 3.
Austria takes part in Eurostat and OECD publications on benchmarking sustainability and has recently refined its national indicator based monitoring system again as outlined above.
It should be noted in this context that in addition to official indicator reports such as those by Statistik Austria, Eurostat or the OECD also private benchmarking systems on parts of sustainability or the SDGs as a whole occur and a few of them are carried out regularly even on a global basis. The EU 27 and Austria in particular so far perform well in such private reports that are fairly different to official reports from a methodological view.
Indicators can be found on the website of the Federal Chancellery.
In addition to the various participatory approaches applied to ensure stakeholder group integration in the development and implementation of both the NSTRAT and the ÖSTRAT, a strategy group was established in 2002 in order to develop guidance for participation in relation to SD and to interlink the actors working in this field in Austria. For further information, please visit the following website: www.partizipation.at.
In July 2008, the Council of Ministers approved the new work sheets for public participation. These standards should be applied by the administration when developing programmes and policies.
The outcomes of these standards and the work of the strategy group aimed at:
- Within the IMAG (see above) and in the context of the preparations of the VNR (see above), specific stakeholders, including social partners, NGOs and representatives of scientific community, are informed and invited to meetings on a regular basis.
- The stakeholders provide their inputs as members of the VNR Editorial Committee in all phases of preparation of the VNR. The relevant stakeholders for elaborating the VNR were determined in a participatory and transparent manner by the VNR Editing Group that consists of the IMAG and five ministries:
- the Federal Chancellery, Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs, Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, the Federal Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection. The members of the VNR editorial Committee inter alia include representatives of social partners, NGOs such as SDG Watch Austria, and the scientific community.
Within the last months, there is a new attempt of the Federal Ministry for Climate Action to update the existing website www.partizipation.at and include major ongoing participation activities.
LA 21 initiatives
Local/regional Agenda 21 in Austria:
In 1998, the first Local Agenda 21 processes (pilot-processes) started in Austria. Currently, more than 529 processes at local level and almost 50 at regional level (provinces, districts) can be found. Processes at regional level cover political districts as well as tourist regions or aggregations of communities. A constantly increasing number of processes in Austria can still be observed. The number of LA21 processes is measured periodically by the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology. Local Agenda 21 was strongly linked to the NSDS (2002) and the ÖSTRAT (2009/2010).
All federal ministries were tasked with the coherent implementation of the 2030 Agenda by a decision of the Council of Ministers of 12 January 2016. In its progress report on implementing the SDGs the former Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism mentioned the Local Agenda 21 as one of important activities with overlapping function.
Organisation at regional level (nine Austrian federal states):
Each of the nine states has its own coordinating office providing quality management, evaluation, training of moderators, subsidies in processes and projects, communication etc.
To provide best possible support, a working-group on Local Agenda 21, the “DNS-LA21”, has been established by the “Regional SD Coordinators of Austria” in 2003. A board of representatives of the nine Austrian states and of the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and developed the “Joint Declaration on Local Agenda 21 in Austria”, which was politically adopted by the “Conference of the Environmental Spokespersons of the Federal Provinces” on 9th October 2003 (further adapted in 2010 and also quality based renewals with focus on the Agenda 2030 in 2019). According to this declaration, a work program was implemented and is being further developed.
Tasks of the board „DNS-LA21“:
- Implementing the “Joint Declaration on Local Agenda 21 in Austria” in a view of a “Good Governance Model” for Austrian local authorities
- Focusing on the 2030 Agenda
- Bilateral cooperation between the federal states
- Coordination of common topics and public relation by the federal ministry
- Coordination and organisation of the periodically held Austrian Summit on Local Agenda 21; 8th Summit (Salzburg, 2017), Conferences on Local 2030 Agenda (Linz, 2019; Styria, 2021)
- Quality management; developing methods for a long-term stabilization of processes and orientation on the 2030 Agenda
- Political and institutional lobbying
Which criteria have to be fulfilled to declare a process a “Local Agenda 21”?
To ensure high quality of processes, a set of five criteria was elaborated by a working group of the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology together with the heads of the co-ordinating offices of the nine Austrian federal states. These criteria form the basis for the uptake of municipalities or provinces into the register of Austrian Local Agenda 21 processes. The quality management process was adjusted to the objects of the 2030 Agenda and politically adopted by the “Conference of the Environmental Spokespersons of the Federal Provinces” on 28th June 2019.
- Political decision at local level – has to be fulfilled
- Participation of local civil society – has to be fulfilled
- Mission statement for Sustainable Development – has to be fulfilled
- Co-ordinated learning process (targeted goals, measures, projects – scheduled level
- Cross-community exchange and networking – scheduled level
Subsidies and support from national and/or regional level
Local Agenda processes are usually supported directly by the co-ordinating office responsible for the respective region. Subsidies are provided for keeping high quality standards, training of moderators and citizens, pilot projects, public relation (events, materials, websites), networks etc.
The Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology provides support for co-ordinating common topics, public relation and for the recurring conference “2030 Agenda at the local level” (former: “Austrian Summit on Local Agenda 21”). An internet platform for LA 21 provided by the Federal Ministry provides the most important information about LA 21, news, a list of coordinating offices as well as a register and regularly presents a representative Austrian LA 21-process to the public.
Local Agenda 21 receives subsidies by “The Austrian Programme for Rural Development 2014-2020”and was included as an explicit topic, which triggered funding of several research activities over the last years. Funding of research activities took place within the national research programme “provision” in the years 2005-2009.For further details please visit our website for Local Agenda 21.