Thursday, March 27, 2008

UN Local Agenda 21 -- Sustainability Indicators

It looks like I'll have my "own" computer soon and will be able to keep up with my email again. Thanks to everyone who's made comments lately!

Somebody looked up "agenda 21 seattle" and got to the ACL. I followed their google search to see what else was available to them on that topic. Found this Appendix to something called the City Data Book. I pasted the whole 2 pages in here because maybe I need to save this for some reason. I pasted the link into my browser I found under the first U.S. section, but got to a NASA page that denied me access because I don't work for NASA. I guess I should assume this means our indicators are out of this world.

So what exactly is a "indicator of sustainability?" What is the "process for sustainablity monitoring?" And as a conscripted victim of Sustainable Seattle pilot tests on private citizens in 1999, I can assure you Sustainable Seattle did a LOT more in Seattle than what this report indicates.

All bold emphasis is mine.

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Urban Indicators for Managing Cities
Appendix 1. Resources on the Internet:
A Directory
A. Indicators Systems
Poverty Monitoring
Systems Approach
Sustainable Development
B. Sustainability Indicators
Agenda 21
The most widespread indicators movement, sustainable devel-
opment indicators, has been the successful outcome of recom-
mendations from Agenda 21, the policy document of the 1992
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
(UNCED) Rio Conference, which recommends that
sustainability monitoring systems be put in place. This has initi-
ated a process of sustainability monitoring in many countries
and communities. DocumentD=52
Agenda 21 reporting includes direct reporting through a
system of indicators and country profiles developed by the UN
Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD), the United
Nations Environment Programme, and a great many indepen-
dent activities known under the collective title of State of the
Environment (SoE) Reports. This has generally involved the
publication of yearbooks, and occasionally the development of
comprehensive indicators systems, usually making reference
to a sectoral, strategic policy, and/or systems approach. The
SCOPE Project (Moldan and Billharz 1997) effectively synthe-
sizes all international research in the area.
Most developed countries, and many states/provinces and cit-
ies, have independently engaged in sustainable development
debates and consultations, and many have produced SoE Re-
ports, which investigate human components of sustainability
as well as the physical components. Some of the most notewor-
thy national activities have been
Canada. SoE reporting through reports and brochures
carried out by Environment Canada is generally regarded as
state of the art. A comprehensive indicators database has been
developed on most environmental aspects and this has been
coupled with excellent outreach activities.
The IISDNet Working Group on Sustainable Development
Indicators has been working on composite indexes of
sustainability using clusters of related variables, similar to the
approach used in the Cities Data Book.
United States. In the US, an Inter-Agency Working Group
on Sustainable Development Indicators (IWGSDI) has devel-
oped a framework to identify, organize, and integrate national
SDIs, selecting 32 key indicators from a much larger set, to
monitor the capacity of the US to meet present and future needs.
Australia. One national SoE Report (1997) has been pub-
lished, together with several comprehensive state reports, for
Queensland and New South Wales. The national report included
a system of indicators developed specifically for human settle-
ments, and this has been subject to considerable peer review
and further development (as discussed in Newton et al. 1998).
Hong Kong, China. Hong Kong, China has a system of
Social Indicators of Quality of Life and also a system of
Sustainability Indicators sponsored by the Government.
As well as national sustainability studies, of which there are rela-
tively few at present, an increasing number of cities and munici-
palities are undertaking community sustainability studies, encour-
aged by the Local Agenda 21 initiative. In such cases (see for
example Besleme and Mullin 1997; Farrell and Hart 1998), the
community selects those indicators it considers most important
for monitoring issues such as economic security, ecological integ-
rity, and quality of life. The resultant material is used to raise
public awareness, identify achievable goals, make trends visible,
Page 3
and help individuals, communities, and their governments estab-
lish priorities (several case studies are found in OECD 1997).
The US maintains an excellent network of city indicators
initiatives and newsletters, for example the Urban Quality Indi-
cators newsletter. These local government initiatives are mostly
concerned with sustainability, as already discussed, and vari-
ous performance measurement exercises and community em-
powerment initiatives. Some of the best known and well devel-
oped of these are the Sustainable Seattle, maintained by the
YMCA, which sought to establish indicators by public consulta-
tion that would “capture the hearts as well as the minds” of
Seattle citizens, and included such Seattle-specific indicators as
“number of days you can see the Rockies,” or “wild salmon
running in streams;” and the Sustainability Plan for San Fran-
cisco, which combines an excellent strategic planning approach
with sustainability. The Sustainable State of New Jersey indica-
tors are based on a strategic approach to city goals, with indica-
tors divided into thematic goal categories.
C. Web-Based Statistical Collections
Most of the major multilateral agencies conduct general statis-
tical activities partly as an information function or as part of
yearbooks, but increasingly as a formal part of policy goal set-
ting. The indicators programs of these agencies are linked to
organizational policy and strategy development, but generally
are not associated with a specific indicators approach.
World Bank Development Indicators 2000. This database
is available on CD-ROM and diskette. The 1995 Social Indi-
cators of Development may be accessed at
Regional Social Indicators for East Asia has been devel-
oped as a monitoring system following the East Asia
Crisis, at
The United Nations Statistical Division is the ultimate world
authority for harmonized international data definitions. It
maintains demographic data and social indicators. This can
be found at,
and maintains links with all member country statistical of-
OECD maintains a database of development indicators and
extensive data and metadata resources. This can be found
at and
UNCHS (Habitat) Statistical Programme maintains several
downloadable collections, including the Human Settle-
ments Data Collection (time series of mostly national data)
and Citibase, the results of a postal data survey of 3,500
cities in 1994/95. This can be found at
UNICEF Progress of Nations Report contains a range of
social indicators and league tables of country performance
against various indicators. These can be found at
World Resources Institute: The environmental and social
database of this influential think tank is available at, and interactively at
ESCAP Statistical Division maintains a time series data-
base of social indicators in the Asian and Pacific region at
Eurostat, the statistical arm of the European Union, main-
tains several extensive databases, including the NewCronos
metadata system, which provides a good sectoral catalogu-
ing system for social indicators.
A number of other general and sectoral databases from
multilateral organizationsincluding ILO, UNIDO, UNESCO,
UNHCR, WHO, and APEC, etc. are detailed in the Web Resources
listing, along with a listing of national statistical offices in the
Asian and Pacific region.
D. National and Local Collections
At the national or city level, some of the main activities with
index links in the Web Resources listing are
Australia. Many national and state departments and au-
thorities maintain websites with sectoral statistics; for ex-
ample as part of the Australian Productivity Commission
evaluation and reporting systems, Environment Australia,
Health Indicators in the ACT, the Bureau of Transport Eco-
nomics, the City of Melbourne, most public utilities, etc.
Hong Kong, China. There are social indicators for qual-
ity of life and sustainability indicators.
Japan. There are economic/business and consumer confi-
dence, industrial and business statistics, demographic and
employment time series, science and technology indica-
tors, and gender indicators.
India. India was active in the Habitat II Indicators prepa-
ration. India has been a focus for Global Urban Observa-
tory training and indicators collection activities.
Indonesia. There are the Asian crisis poverty surveys and
health indicators.
Nepal. There are aspects and incidence of Nepal poverty;
and the development database for Nepal regions.
Taipei,China. There are urban and regional development
indicators, and science and technology indicators.
Thailand. An indicators approach is encouraged by the
strength of the central planning agency, the National Eco-
nomics and Social Development Board, for a comprehen-
sive if rather undirected statistical system, and a move to-
wards more decentralized forms of local government (which
until the 1994 reforms were organs of the National De-
partment of Local Administration) involving less control
and more accountability. Some of the main activities have
been the Rural Database, the Village Basic Needs Indica-
tors, an online Health Indicators system, Poverty Indica-
tors, and a new Performance Indicators for the Local Gov-
ernment scheme which will require submission of finan-
cial and other data by all local governments in Thailand by
US. Many pertinent government and commercial data
websites are maintained in the US, including national level
databases such as the Department of Housing and Urban
Development’s State of the Cities Report and Database,
h t t p : / / w e b s t a g e 1 . a s p e n s y s . c o m / S O C D S /
SOCDS_Home.htm. (not a good link)

What authority do representatives of our state governments have to gather these kinds of indicators about private citizens and store it in huge international databases? Officials in Seattle who were questioned about their authority to test innovative enforcement proceedures responded that these actions protected the "community at large." As one Seattle official explained, "Sacrifices have to be made for the common good." (Veronica Jackson, Seattle Department of Neighborhood's (DON) Neighborhood Action Team Seattle (NATS), Director, 1999)

Our unauthorized private data was gathered by a NATS sub-committee called the Rooming & Boarding House Committee. The "idea" for the new enforecemnt based on the data was suggested by a Community Police Team member, and several Seattle Police Officers who were also COPS were on the R&B committee. The same COPS helped my neighborhood to write a new vision for the future called The Roosevelt Neighborhood Plan. The process for sustainability monitoring was inserted into the plans. Sustainable Seattle presented the "dog-and-pony-show (their own terms) to small groups of neighborhood residents who validated them during "validation events." 38 plans went before City Council that year; all 38 plans passed unanimously into law.

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