Last updated on:
Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Since 2000, the State Secretaries' Committee on Sustainable Development exists as a high-ranking steering, coordinating and monitoring body for sustainable development. It decides about the strategy and its further development (subject to later formal approval of the cabinet), and keeps a close eye on its implementation. The Committee is composed of state secretaries (representatives of the minister, top level of civil servants) from all ministries. It is chaired by the Head of the Federal Chancellery, who is the main leader in the national SD process.

In Germany, the responsibility for national SD policies does not lie with one of the ministries but with the Chancellery itself. This is considered a key success factor for SD in Germany. The Chancellery does not only have a coordination role, but is also steering the process and providing important inputs to the relevant ministries. It shows the special importance that the federal government attaches to SD policies and is based on the fact that sustainable development is a cross-cutting subject. A permanent inter-ministerial working-group for sustainable development (chaired also by the Chancellery) prepares for the meetings of the State Secretaries´ Committee.

The State Secretaries’ Committee on Sustainable Development meets about four times a year. The Committee works on the basis of a working program comprising the most relevant topics for sustainable development.

Depending on the topic, external experts may also be invited to attend. The chairs of the Sustainable Development Council and the Parliamentary Advisory Council are also present.

The working group on Sustainable Development, which is led by the Federal Chancellery, is also responsible for supporting the implementation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy, and for its continuing evolution.

Additionally, in each legislative period each ministry reports on progress on putting the Strategy into effect. (available only in German).

A major reform in order to strengthen the implementation of the strategy in daily policy was the introduction of SD as a criterion for the impact assessment for new laws or regulations. In May 2009, SD was included permanently in the standing orders of the federal government (”Gemeinsame Geschäftsordnung der Bundesministerien”, GGO). A guideline published by the Department for Internal Affairs in June 2009 advises to use the indicators and the then-management rules (now: principles) of the strategy for this SD impact assessment. In March 2018, an online tool was introduced to support a more systematic assessment of possible effects on sustainable development. The Parliamentary Advisory Council on SD of the German Parliament evaluates and comments the procedural quality of the impact assessment as it is documented in the drafts of new laws or regulations delivered to the German Parliament.

As part of the 2018 GSDS, it was decided to further strengthen policy coherence: Coordinators for Sustainable Development have been appointed in each ministry, in most cases at Director-General level. They are central contact persons for all issues relating to Sustainable Development and will be involved in the preparation of the Sustainable Development Impact assessments.

The main responsibility for sustainable development and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda stays at the Federal Chancellery. Yet, for the first time the federal cabinet has transferred the responsibility for sustainability policy to a Minister of State, Mrs. Sarah Ryglewski.

As envisaged in the coalition agreement, the German government has further developed the sustainability governance structure with the aim of making it even more effective and making it more binding.

This affects for example the work of the State Secretaries' Committee. The Committee is a strategy-forum in which central questions of sustainable development with the participation of high-ranking external experts are discussed and processed across all departments. For the next years the work of the Committee will be focused on six transformation areas identified in the DNS in 2021 where acting is especially urgent:

  1. Human well-being and capabilities; social justice (SDGs 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10)
  2. Energy transition and climate action (SDGs 7 and 13)
  3. Circular economy (SDGs 8, 9 and 12),
  4. Construction and buildings, as well as the transport sector (SDGs 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 13)
  5. Sustainable agricultural and food systems (SDGs 2, 3, 12 and 15)
  6. A pollutant-free environment (SDGs 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14 and 15)

With a view to modernizing administration, the coalition agreement provides for the introduction of permanent, cross-departmental and cross-agency project teams. For this purpose, the so-called transformation teams (TT) start their work beginning of December as temporary cross-departmental project groups preparing the Committee’s work on the transformation areas.