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Evaluation of sustainable development strategies and policies: The need for more timely indicators

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Indicators are commonly used as tools to identify and highlight socio‐economic and ecological trends and to assess progress towards sustainability. Different quality criteria can be considered for indicators. This paper focuses on the timeliness of indicators used in the evaluation of sustainable development strategies. The analysis is based on indicators included in four assessment reports of the sustainable development strategy of the European Union and three assessment reports of the national strategy of Finland. Furthermore, a web‐based national level indicator portal is analysed. The results show that the timeliness of indicators has generally not improved during the past decade and that indicators used in strategy evaluations have a time lag of approximately two years. It is suggested that more attention should be given to efforts to improve the timeliness of indicators in order to increase the effectiveness of the evaluations. More generally, it is suggested that greater emphasis should be put on the empirical research on actual use of indicators.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-8947.2012.01447.x

Affiliations: Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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