2009 Amsterdam Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change location:Volendam date:2-4 December 2009
In both academic and policy circles there is wide consensus that sustainable development (SD) needs to be tackled at all levels of governance, from global to local. Efforts of different governments, in addition, need to be integrated, both horizontally and vertically. While international, national and local efforts have received wide attention, little is known about existing governance initiatives at the subnational level. Subnational entities, however, have an important role to play since they are often responsible for the implementation of national and international policies. This paper wants to identify existing challenges to vertical policy integration by investigating the strategies used by subnational entities to deal with complex multi-level architectures for SD. Four cases are compared: North Holland (the Netherlands), North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), Flanders (Belgium) and Quebec (Canada). The Regional Authority Index shows that the four cases vary in their degree of autonomy, both with regard to the competences they have within their own borders (self-rule), as to the influence they can exert in national policy and decision-making (shared rule). A subnational government's degree of autonomy grants it certain rights to play a role in national SD policies, but it also comes with responsibilities. How do subnational entities deal with the autonomy they have (or do not have) in the context of SD? Which linkages exist between the subnational and the national governance system for SD and how are those linkages used by the subnational entities? The author analyzes to which degree the coherence between SD policies at the national and subnational levels is influenced by the degree of autonomy of subnational governments. The paper also looks at the strategies applied by the subnational governments to influence national policy-making on SD. The comparative research applied in this paper is aimed at identifying both impeding factors and opportunities for vertical policy integration.