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Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Australia's report to the UNCSD - 1996

Implementation of Agenda 21
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1996
ISBN 0 6422 4868 0

Integrated decision-making

Chapter 8 of Agenda 21

Australia has initiated a variety of strategies and processes in recent years in an attempt to improve the quality of decision-making through integrating environment and development considerations. These efforts are guided by the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development, which states that 'decision making processes should effectively integrate both long and short term economic, environmental, social and equity considerations'. They need to be seen, however, in the context of Australia's federal structure and the lack of specific reference to the environment in the Australian Constitution. State and Local Government Authorities have the major decision-making powers in land use management and most development decisions occur at the local level.

The Council of Australian Governments is the most senior intergovernmental forum of all Australian Governments, consisting of the heads of the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, and the President of the Australian Local Government Association. There are also intergovernmental Ministerial councils which meet to improve coordination and cooperation on national or common issues in their relevant portfolio areas.

Institutional arrangements have been supplemented by the InterGovernmental Agreement on the Environment (IGAE) of May 1992 which provides a cooperative framework to coordinate government activities and the National Environmental Protection Council (NEPC), recently established to develop national measures for environmental protection. As a result of the ecological sustainable development (ESD) process, the Commonwealth Government and States have proposed and implemented a number of administrative reforms, including changes to Cabinet processes in some jurisdictions, to ensure the incorporation of ESD principles in existing institutional arrangements and reviews of the activities of government agencies. Considerable effort has been put into improving the coordination of land use planning issues within the State Government jurisdictions.

The Intergovernmental Committee for ESD (ICESD) coordinates and reviews the National Strategy for ESD (NSESD) and oversees the operation of the IGAE. The committee reports to the Council of Australian Governments on progress in implementing the national strategy.

Further details on initiatives to improve the integration of the environment and development in decision-making are provided in Australia's 1995 report to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD). Of relevance to the 'Oceans' theme of this year's report, management arrangements in place for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park provide a specific example of efforts to improve intergovernmental coordination and to reconcile environmental, economic and social objectives.

Sustainable development principles and Australia's development cooperation program

Australia's revised policy statement on ESD in relation to its Development Assistance Program, Towards a Sustainable Future, was released in October 1994. This updated Australia's policy in light of Agenda 21 and the release of the NSESD. One of the main focuses of the updated policy is on strengthening the role of major groups in decision making. Australia recognises the importance of people's participation in development through community involvement in the design and implementation of aid activities, and also through the strengthening of the organisations and processes of civil society.