Last updated on:
Tuesday, 18 August 2020

The first GSDS was adopted 2002 by the German Government after an intensive public consultation with stakeholders, including the federal states and local level and was presented to the 2002 UN-Summit in Johannesburg.

As the GSDS is the strategy of the national government only, the GSDS is not binding for the federal states. Nevertheless, the cooperation between the national level and the federal states for GSDS implementation has been significantly increased. The federal states are involved in the definition process of concrete measures based on the GSDS. They participated in the consultation process to the Progress Reports 2008, 2012 and 2016.

In 2008, 2012 and again in 2016, the federal countries have contributed own statements to the national government´s Progress Reports, which were adopted by the Prime Ministers of the federal states.

In their progress report-statements, the federal states advocate a stronger cooperation between them and the federal government on the GSDS and the national implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Since 2008, the cooperation especially in the fields of sustainable public procurement, reduction of land use and sustainability-indicators has been addressed in the regular meetings between the Head of the Federal Chancellery and the Heads of the Prime Ministers´ offices of the federal states:

The federal states welcome the lively exchange on public procurement between the federal government, the federal states themselves and the local authorities. The “Alliance for Sustainable Procurement” provides a platform for the federal government to bundle know-how for public procurement at the federal level. The federal states take this as an opportunity to make experiences accessible and useful, whilst maintaining their autonomy. They intend to continue this exchange of knowledge, methods and instruments.

The federal states stress the significance of common sustainability indicators at the national and federal states levels. The orientation to universal, national indicators based on the indicators of the GSDS has proven valid and seems to offer the greatest possible compliance and comparability at the federal states level based on the existing data. This includes a mapping of federal states-specific targets with their own indicators. In November 2018, the Federal Government and the federal states agreed on a set of common indicators in order to support alignment and vertical integration of policies for sustainable development.

The participation of the federal states is also institutionalised in various working groups involving public administrators of the national government and the federal states as part of the Conference of Environmental Ministers (a forum in which the Environmental Ministers of the federal states and representatives of the Federal Ministry for the Environment meet), which mostly serve as a forum for exchange of experiences. SD is currently addressed in the working group “climate, energy, mobility sustainability (BLAG KliNa)”, that has been operating since January 2008, and in various further working groups, providing a platform for an exchange of the federal level with federal states and municipalities.

In June 2019, the federal states and the federal government have adopted a joint declaration (s. Annex) to further intensify cooperation. Sustainable Development is being described as a joint responsibility and both levels want to orient their policies towards the principles of sustainable development which have been introduced in the GSDS update in 2018. Furthermore they envisage a collaborative project with the aim to raise the profile of already existing activities for sustainable development, strengthen them and to encourage further actions.

In terms of their responsibility on education policy, the federal states have consistently expanded their activities in the field of education for sustainable development with specific measures and programs.

EU linkages

The Federal Government is campaigning for a systematic sustainability policy approach at EU level. In order to implement the 2030 Agenda at EU level, an implementation strategy is necessary as requested by the Council of the European Union, outlining timelines, objectives and concrete measures to reflect the 2030 Agenda in all relevant EU internal and external policies, taking into account the global impacts of the EU’s domestic actions.

The Federal Countries (Bundesländer) call for a comprehensive implementation framework, too. The Federal Council (legislative body that represents the Bundesänder) has adopted a resolution on EU policy for sustainable development in early 2017.

As EU action plays an important role in many of the relevant policy areas (for example agricultural and environmental policy), a European sustainability framework is crucial to ensure that Europe makes an effective contribution to implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. That is the only way to ensure that activities at the EU level and activities in the Member States are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

The Federal Council, therefore, considers that ambitious strategic goals to implement the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 should be stipulated promptly at the EU level and that an indicator system should be adopted. As also advocated in several Opinions from the EU’s Committee of the Regions, this process could, for example, take the form of a new EU sustainability strategy or a Europe 2030 strategy, building on the Europe 2020 Strategy. A new strategic approach of this type must also be equipped with an effective implementation mechanism, which was lacking in the EU’s previous sustainability strategy from 2001. It is crucial to ensure that a unit in the Commission, endowed with sufficient capacities and influence, is in future entrusted with implementation of sustainable development as a guiding principle and of Agenda 2030 in its full thematic breadth; the Commission’s Secretariat-General is of particular importance in this context.

Furthermore, the Federal Council considers that the Commission should initiate an inter-institutional consultation process promptly, with the participation of the Member States, as well as the EU’s regions and federal states, in order to devise the requisite overall strategic framework for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals at EU level in a timely manner. The EU’s Economic and Social Committee has already undertaken important initial consultation measures to this end.