THE TURN OF THE CONCEPTUAL BASE
OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

New Dimensions in Efficiency
Part II

3. TERRITORIAL DIMENSION

3.1. The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Local and Regional Goals

Until now, the territorial approach was not considered as a dimension (or a pillar) in the concept of sustainability. This is well illustrated by a comprehensive analytical framework published by the OECD which has a critical role to play in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs).11 OECD, ‘A Territorial Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals: Synthesis Report’, OECD
Urban Policy Reviews (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2020), https://doi.org/10.1787/e86fa715-en.
The 2030 Agenda was designed according to the traditional macroeconomic and top-down methodology, excluding cities and regions, or local and regional governments. However, the role of SDGs is important for this sphere, as its share is about 60 per cent of total public investment and almost 40 per cent of public expenditure in the OECD area.

The OECD report seeks to document local and regional performance and disparities through a common set of indicators that allow cities and regions to see where they stand with the SDGs compared to their national averages and their peers. Data from the 135 indicators of the OECD localized indicator framework for the SDGs (covering at least one aspect of each of the 17 SDGs for both cities and regions) show that regions and cities in OECD countries are far from achieving the SDGs, and their average distance to the suggested end values varies widely across the 17 SDGs. In particular:

  • ‘At least 80 per cent of regions from OECD countries have not achieved the suggested end values for 2030 in any of the 17 goals.
    • Not a single region in the OECD has achieved the suggested end values for SDG 13 on “Climate action” and SDG 5 on “Gender equality”;
    • Only 20 per cent of OECD regions have achieved the end values for SDG 10 on “Reduced inequalities” and SDG 12 on “Responsible consumption”;
    • Goals 14 (Life below water), 9 (Industry and innovation), and 7 (Clean energy) display the largest distances to the end values for the lagging regions, with an average distance of around 50 per cent of the total way.
  • At least 70 per cent of cities from OECD countries have not yet achieved the end values suggested for 2030 in 15 out of the 17 SDGs.
    • The SDGs where most cities lag behind relate to the environment (SDGs 13 about “Climate action” and 15 about “Life on land”) and gender equality (SDG 5), where at least 95 per cent of cities have not met the suggested end values.
    • Goal 7 on “Clean energy” displays high disparities in distances to the objectives across cities. While 30 per cent of the cities have reached the end values for this goal (i.e., more than 81 per cent of their electricity production are coming from renewable sources with no use of coal or fossil fuels), the remaining 70 per cent are halfway from achieving the recommended outcomes.2’2 OECD, ‘A Territorial Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals: Synthesis Report’.

Accordingly, the report has showcased recommendations on the way cities and regions could benefit from using SDGs as a basis on which to carry out development activities in the fields of planning, policies, and strategies; multi-governance; financing and budgeting; data and information; and engagement.

3.2. Need for New Territorial Approaches

The starting points aim to meet three general requirements:

  • The territorial approaches must be integrated into the concept of sustainability in order to improve sectorial efficiency and localize sustainable development.
  • It is useful to benefit from territorial experiences acquired since the global coronavirus pandemic. For example, by now it has been recognized that there is a need to build a resilient, sustainable society, as opposed to the old-fashioned type of problem solving.
  • Territorial approaches must suggest a conceptual framework, and a range of multi-sectoral, participatory, and place-based models of sustainable development.

These general requirements and the related stocktaking methodology have been greatly supported by the international exchange of views. Following the Living Territories 2018 Conference in Montpellier, France, eight contributors partnered to produce a White Paper entitled ‘Fostering Territorial Perspective for Development (TP4D): Towards a Wider Alliance’.33 Cirad.fr., TP4D, ‘Fostering Territorial Perspective for Development (TP4D): Towards a Wider
Alliance’ – White Paper (2019), www.cirad.fr/en/cirad-news/news/2019/ca-vient-de-sortir/
territorial-approach-to-development: OECD.
This initiative assembled 14 case studies and one country study of existing territorial-level project for the analysis.

The White Paper summarizes the need for a more knowledge-based territorial development, followed by increased coordination as well as wider and deeper participation. As a new focus, it suggested attaining a dense flow of people, goods, services, and information between rural and urban areas in order to link them more closely, unlike the former (historical) growth model which resulted in huge challenges (e.g.: rapid population growth, lack of basic services) in towns. Such a rethinking of rural-urban linkages allows a deeper understanding in the entire set of spatial dynamics as well as in the diverse socio-economic and political contexts.

The new territorial perspective also pays great attention to multiple-level organizational structures, whether local or regional, national or international, including the effects of globalization. It provides a bridge between the current disconnected rural and urban management and the multi-stakeholder governance structure. Another important aspect of this paradigm shift is to allow a proper identification of synergies that are capable of enriching sectoral policies or value chain interventions, instead of the current, simple coordination of public policies that are mostly both top-down and expert-driven.

There is also a need to define functional territories which assume coherence-based decision-making and make real sense to local actors, as opposed to the former, decentralized administrative approach. Additionally, it is also expected that the new territorial approaches will assist in attaining the objectives defined in the UN 2030 Agenda by providing policy-makers with broader and more accurate datasets as well as by covering both socio-ecological areas (species and ecosystems) and socio-economic dimensions (the usage of natural resources).

In a broader sense, self-governance also highlights the importance of territorial sustainability. According to the European Charter of Local Self-Government, ‘Local Self-Government denotes the right and the ability of local authorities, within the limits of the law, to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility and in the interests of the local population’.44 Wolters Kluwer, ‘European Charter of Local Self-Government’ (2022), https://net.jogtar.hu/
jogszabaly?docid=99700015.
Self-governance is a right, but it also presupposes an appropriate ability.

3.3. Conceptual Framework

The spheres of the conceptual framework can be understood according to three new dynamics, according to their classification levels and linkages.55 ‘GIZ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH. Territorial Approaches for
Sustainable Development: Stocking on Territorial Approaches – Experiences and Lessons’ (2021),
www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ah
UKEwi1oMfJqsH3AhUUi8MKHfN-DcoQFnoECAYQAQ&url=https per cent3A per cent2F per
cent2Fwww.giz.de per cent2Fde per cent2Fdownloads per cent2Fgiz2021-en-territorial-approachesfor-sustainable-development.pdf&usg=AOvVaw3CC69orK8bj25EA2vVhnWO: OECD.
These are the following:

  • Rural areas, small towns, and intermediary cities. Here, the rapid and often spontaneous transitions are a result of demographic changes and the reciprocal flow of people, goods, services, information, and capital.
  • Structural changes to economies, and food systems in particular. The changes reflect the land use, with fragmentation related to biodiversity loss and the loss of ecosystem functions.
  • Changes and flows, with a large number of spatial impacts to the rural– urban continuum, which unfold over varying periods of time.

From the above-identified viewpoints, five key principles from the White Paper are considered to be the main elements of the conceptual framework of territorial dimension of sustainability.66 Cirad.fr., TP4D, ‘Fostering Territorial Perspective for Development (TP4D): Towards a Wider
Alliance’ – White Paper (2019).

Table 2. Key Principles of the Conceptual Framework

1Place-based. The social construct of people living in a certain area and
the relationships built among the people there.
2People-centred. The territorial approach that analyses spatial
interrelations between the different places in order to identify
synergies and unlock new opportunities for growth by overcoming
these spatial inequalities
3Multi-actor. The territorial approach, which recognizes the multiple
roles of its actors in the public and private sectors and civil societies,
in both the rural landscapes and urban areas—as well as the
transformative power of these actors.
4Multi-level. Territorial approaches that are built to connect the micro,
meso, and macro levels in order to re-localize (national and even
global) development strategies.
5Cross-sectoral. The focus is on agricultural production as the foremost
development option, since there is no doubt in that in the near future
this sector will remain one of the main economic engines in the rural
areas of the developing world.
Source: Author’s own editing (2022) and Cirad.fr. (2019).

From among the key principles of the conceptual framework, the focuses of the territorial development efforts are directed towards the first two principles: the people, and the places where they are living.

  • All are reflected in the scope and the orientation, which should be appropriate for the given people and places, and engage the different levels and types in governance, including institutional adaptation and financing; and
  • incorporate all the actions that are related to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and other global agendas, as well as the specific local priorities .77 ‘GIZ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH. Territorial Approaches for Sustainable Development: Stocking on Territorial Approaches – Experiences and Lessons’.

The second part of the conceptual framework is the set of entry points for the territorial approaches. These are not singular issues, but clusters of interrelated challenges that are based on the 14 case studies of countries, which were mentioned before. Of course, in practice, the roles of singular issues are very important in the implementation process of the strategies. These issues can lead the strategies from sectoral issues through national levels to multiple (holistic) issues of territorial development. Therefore, such a conceptual framework for the territorial dimension of sustainability makes it possible to measure the impacts of territorial planning, polices, and sustainable development.

Table 3. Entry Clusters of Interrelated Challenges

1Local economic development to reduce poverty with a focus on local enterprise
development, local added value, and employment opportunities;
2Integrated natural resource management, especially coordinated planning
of agricultural, conservation, and other land and water resources at
the territorial level;88 Examples comprise interventions to avert or recover from environmental crisis including integrated
watershed management, agrosilvopastoral systems, forest and landscape restoration, sustainable
land management, source to sea and coastal area management, etc.
3Improved food systems, food security and nutrition benchmarks linking
producers and consumers in a territorial context;
4Inclusive access to public and private human services, including social
protection, health, and education across the rural–urban continuum;
5Community-led strategies for strengthening rights, especially for smallholder,
indigenous, women’s and traditional populations’ rights;
6Response to disruptive site-specific shocks through new peace
building, reconstruction, or national development efforts;99Examples include natural disasters, civil or armed conflict, political disruption, etc.
and
7Strategies and programmes to address protracted crises with specific longterm challenges and problems.1010 Examples include ecosystem approaches, circular economy interventions, climate smart
agriculture, migration, land tenure reform, etc.
Source: GIZ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH. (2021).

As a third part of the conceptual framework, questions might be formulated for the analysis and the future of territorial approaches. As an example, five questions were derived from the case country studies, which offer useful insights for the strategies of sustainable development and territorial decision-making.

Table 4. Five Future-oriented Questions

1What are the common features, challenges, and entry points for
territorial approaches and where do they differ?
2In what ways do the institutional environments, in relation to the
local context, enable territorial approaches?
3How do the policies and practices of territorial approaches integrate
with formal subnational, national, and sectoral governance structures?
4Which methods or instruments for coordination have proven effective
and how relevant are the capacities of partners, public institutions,
and other stakeholders?
5How does knowledge gathering and data management relate
to understanding and consolidating territorial planning and
development?
Source: GIZ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH. (2021).

3.4. Methodology for Territorial Dimension Practices

According to the majority of the international literature, the most efficient methodology of sustainability should be applied in three stages:

  • The first stage is the establishment of the conceptual framework (identical with Tables 2, 3, and 4).
  • The second stage is the construction of the database and analysis of the identification of the rural territorial units.
  • The third stage comprises the definition of the typology model.

Regarding the second stage, the construction of the database can rely on detailed statistical information (indicators) and other international, professional information with five levels of analysis: municipalities, micro-regions, territories, national and international (global) levels. It is also critical to undertake the analyses of how context determines the rural-urban linkages including country and, to possibly some extent, multi-country studies. Also, there is a need to test the significance, the determinant, the dynamics, and the distribution of the costs and benefits of rural-urban linkages.

The third stage of the territorial dimension is the formulation and application of the typology model. This task is based on territorial identity, which is the result of the activities performed in the second stage. The typology model allows public managers to create policies and define local investments that provide the basis for formulating and operating territorially differentiated public policies. For many countries, the application of this model has been a valuable and practical help in constructing public policies in an objectively determined space, based on the converging interests of the population and government representatives.

3.5. EU Territorial Agenda 2030

After the summary of the international territorial approaches, as a best practice, it is essential to refer briefly to the EU’s ‘Territorial Agenda 2030 – A Future for All Places’ programme which is another similar territorial development project.1111 European Union, ‘Territorial Agenda 2030 – A Future for All Places. Informal Meeting of Ministers
Responsible for Spatial Planning and Territorial Development and/or Territorial Cohesion (2021),’
https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/information/publications/brochures/2021/territorialagenda-2030-a-future-for-all-places: European Commission, (1 December 2020, Germany).

The ministers responsible for spatial planning, territorial development, and/or territorial cohesion, in cooperation with the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Investment Bank Group, and relevant European and national associations, have reviewed the Territorial Agenda launched in 2007 and updated in 2011,1212 European Union, ‘Territorial Agenda of the European Union 2020 – Towards an Inclusive, Smart
and Sustainable Europe of Diverse Regions’ (agreed at the Informal Ministerial Meeting of Ministers
responsible for Spatial Planning and Territorial Development on 19 May 2011, Gödöllő, Hungary),
https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/information/publications/communications/2011/territorialagenda-of-the-european-union-2020: European Commission.
and agreed on the new Territorial Agenda 2030. The ministers encouraged their ‘colleagues in neighbouring countries to take note of the Territorial Agenda and join them in putting it into practice at European, transnational, macro-regional and cross-border levels. Everyone is welcome to use the Territorial Agenda within their countries at national, regional, and local levels, and in cooperation with other countries.13’13 EU, ‘Territorial Agenda 2030 – A Future for All Places. Informal meeting of Ministers Responsible
for Spatial Planning and Territorial Development and/or Territorial Cohesion (2021)’, https://
ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/information/publications/brochures/2021/territorial-agenda-2030-
a-future-for-all-places: European Commission, (1 December 2020, Germany).

They also encouraged ‘everyone involved in spatial planning and territorial development policies at all administrative and governance levels in the EU and neighbouring countries to put the Territorial Agenda into practice. The Territorial Agenda applies everywhere, focusing on mutual relations and people’s well-being.14’14 EU, ‘Territorial Agenda 2030 – A Future for All Places’.

Beside the similarities of the overall territorial perspective (‘philosophy’), the EU general requirements for territorial development appear to be very close to the global ones, which were presented briefly before.

Europe has many different types of places, such as capital regions, metropolitan areas, small and medium-sized towns, peri-urban areas, rural areas, inner peripheries, peripheral areas, northernmost areas, sparsely populated areas, islands, coastal areas, mountainous areas, outermost regions, cross-border regions, macro-regions, areas of demographic decline, and areas in economic transformation and industrial transition. At all levels, from sub-local to pan-European, there are increasing economic and social disparities between places and between people along with environmental risks and pressures. These are driven by economies of scale, imbalanced access to markets and qualified labour, as well as disparities in quality of governance and public services. Furthermore, links and flows between places, especially along corridors, affect the possibilities to realize potential or respond to challenges.1515 EU, ‘Territorial Agenda 2030 – A Future for All Places’.

By meeting these general requirements, the EU and its member countries should reach the following development goals:

  • The quality of government and governance processes as a cross-cutting principle for local, regional, national, and European development;
  • The reintegration of people and places that are drifting apart (by increasing the quality of life; services of general interest; digitalization; employment; and global embeddedness);
  • Greater attention towards sustainable development and climate change (through loss of biodiversity and land consumption; air, soil, and water quality; secure, affordable, and sustainable energy; a climate-neutral economy; circular value chains; and natural and cultural heritage).

All of these goals require efficient political and professional responses with a strong new territorial dimension and coordinated approaches acknowledging the great variety and specificity of people and places.

CONCLUSION

The study concludes with a summary of the objectives which must be met in order to attain the primary results. The new financial dimension can support sustainable development with a stable and properly working financial system as well as with a real turn towards green financing by applying a comprehensive range of green financial instruments.

The new cultural dimension can contribute to greatly enhance the effectiveness of the sustainability policies and practices through the development of human qualifications and consistent, coherent cooperation, along with strengthening the integrity in the field of deepened morality and of organizational culture, in particular. In addition to the correct human attitude towards reality and one another, openness to global thinking is likewise an important goal. Moreover, it is also important that all of these should be reflected in management activity.

The suggested territorial dimension can be tailored to fit sustainably into socio economic and ecological conditions, as well as encouraging progress in three main ways:

  • The enabling of environmental matters (e.g., multi-sector engagement; cross-sector coordination);
  • Territorial assessment (e.g., transversal exchanges of landscape and territorial knowledge and data; improved national resource management);
  • Inclusive and lasting multi-stakeholder participation (requiring governance being inclusive; engagement with territorial actors).

RECOMMENDATION

Although the three new dimensions of sustainability have been introduced at a conceptual level, they can be taken as a starting point for further, more detailed research activity not only on a national level, but also on the level of international organizations and institutions, especially in the cases of the UN and the OECD. The global application of these more versatile, and more supported dimensions, or even one or two of them—which are also based on national experiences—would be the next phase towards a more complete methodology of sustainability. On the one hand, this development could facilitate greatly the achievement of the goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for the upcoming years, while on the other hand, the results of research could contribute to the development of a new UN sustainable project for the period after 2030.

  • 1
    1 OECD, ‘A Territorial Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals: Synthesis Report’, OECD
    Urban Policy Reviews (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2020), https://doi.org/10.1787/e86fa715-en.
  • 2
    ’2 OECD, ‘A Territorial Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals: Synthesis Report’.
  • 3
    3 Cirad.fr., TP4D, ‘Fostering Territorial Perspective for Development (TP4D): Towards a Wider
    Alliance’ – White Paper (2019), www.cirad.fr/en/cirad-news/news/2019/ca-vient-de-sortir/
    territorial-approach-to-development: OECD.
  • 4
    4 Wolters Kluwer, ‘European Charter of Local Self-Government’ (2022), https://net.jogtar.hu/
    jogszabaly?docid=99700015.
  • 5
    5 ‘GIZ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH. Territorial Approaches for
    Sustainable Development: Stocking on Territorial Approaches – Experiences and Lessons’ (2021),
    www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ah
    UKEwi1oMfJqsH3AhUUi8MKHfN-DcoQFnoECAYQAQ&url=https per cent3A per cent2F per
    cent2Fwww.giz.de per cent2Fde per cent2Fdownloads per cent2Fgiz2021-en-territorial-approachesfor-sustainable-development.pdf&usg=AOvVaw3CC69orK8bj25EA2vVhnWO: OECD.
  • 6
    6 Cirad.fr., TP4D, ‘Fostering Territorial Perspective for Development (TP4D): Towards a Wider
    Alliance’ – White Paper (2019).
  • 7
    7 ‘GIZ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH. Territorial Approaches for Sustainable Development: Stocking on Territorial Approaches – Experiences and Lessons’.
  • 8
    8 Examples comprise interventions to avert or recover from environmental crisis including integrated
    watershed management, agrosilvopastoral systems, forest and landscape restoration, sustainable
    land management, source to sea and coastal area management, etc.
  • 9
    9Examples include natural disasters, civil or armed conflict, political disruption, etc.
  • 10
    10 Examples include ecosystem approaches, circular economy interventions, climate smart
    agriculture, migration, land tenure reform, etc.
  • 11
    11 European Union, ‘Territorial Agenda 2030 – A Future for All Places. Informal Meeting of Ministers
    Responsible for Spatial Planning and Territorial Development and/or Territorial Cohesion (2021),’
    https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/information/publications/brochures/2021/territorialagenda-2030-a-future-for-all-places: European Commission, (1 December 2020, Germany).
  • 12
    12 European Union, ‘Territorial Agenda of the European Union 2020 – Towards an Inclusive, Smart
    and Sustainable Europe of Diverse Regions’ (agreed at the Informal Ministerial Meeting of Ministers
    responsible for Spatial Planning and Territorial Development on 19 May 2011, Gödöllő, Hungary),
    https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/information/publications/communications/2011/territorialagenda-of-the-european-union-2020: European Commission.
  • 13
    ’13 EU, ‘Territorial Agenda 2030 – A Future for All Places. Informal meeting of Ministers Responsible
    for Spatial Planning and Territorial Development and/or Territorial Cohesion (2021)’, https://
    ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/information/publications/brochures/2021/territorial-agenda-2030-
    a-future-for-all-places: European Commission, (1 December 2020, Germany).
  • 14
    ’14 EU, ‘Territorial Agenda 2030 – A Future for All Places’.
  • 15
    15 EU, ‘Territorial Agenda 2030 – A Future for All Places’.

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