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G. Role of Supporting Structures
In order to plan for sustainable development, it is necessary to have information about the impact of economic policies on the environment and vice versa. For example, emissions and wastes produced by the activities of human beings impact on the state of the environment. These pressures have, in turn, been induced by various factors such as changes in government policy towards development, demographic changes, as well as macroeconomic changes (e.g., GDP, trade, prices and exchange rates). Although there are sophisticated modelling techniques to measure the impact of policy changes on economic indicators such as GDP or employment, there is currently a dearth of knowledge about how these policies affect our use of environmental resources. Such information is often lacking due to the absence of supporting structures in the specialist areas of environmental and economic analysis. In this section, we consider the role of policy research institutes, R&D institutes. This discussion is followed by examples of such structures from various countries.
Policy Research Institutes
Considerable research effort is required to provide the necessary information inputs required for sustainable development planning. Some countries in the region maintain publicly funded policy research institutes to advise governments on social and economic and environmental issues. Examples include the National Research Institute in Papua New Guinea, the National Institute of Environmental Research in Korea, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and the Crown Research Institutes in New Zealand.
- The type of resource information required for sustainable development planning often resides in various institutions, each with its own activities, mandates, and ambitions that are often conflicting.
- Sometimes the statutory mandate of an institution to collect, process, analyse and use the information for decision making is not clear or is not respected. Consequently, two or more institutions may, on the basis of their statutes, rightly claim overlapping mandates.
- Over time, the interpretation of an institution's mandate may drift from its original content.
Policy research institutes are faced with difficulties in carrying out their mandate. The constraints include lack of adequate financial resources, lack of qualified staff, poor management procedures, and problems of coordination.
- Financial resources: National budget allocations for research institutes are often not sufficient to sustain operations, maintain equipment, offer attractive salaries or develop human resources.
- Staff: Research requires highly qualified staff. In addition to sector-specific skills, the staff of these institutions must have communications and organisational skills. Many research institutions have had serious problems in finding and retaining staff with these skills. Salaries and working conditions in the public sector are often unattractive. Therefore, there is a tendency for highly qualified staff to move to the private sector or go abroad.
- Management: Research institutions are often led by academics or bureaucrats with no formal training in the area of management. The inability to these institutions to attract increased support, especially from the private sector, is often due to what is perceived to be their poor quality management and inefficient use of resources.
- Coordination: The coordination problems include duplication of effort, information relevance, data standards and compatibility, and information access
- Duplication: Duplication arises due to inadequate coordination This comes about mainly due to ministerial compartmentalization, with two or more institutions engaging in similar activities and not talking to each other. Duplication can also arise from inter-agency rivalry.
- Information relevance: Large amounts of data are often gathered without regard to how they can be used by others for decision-making.
- Data standards and compatibility: Individual institutions have different data standards or structures, usually, due to reasons such as specialised needs and available technology. This variety of information types raises issues of incompatibility for planners/decision-makers who need to conduct inter-sectoral analyses. For example, information produced in a database management system (DBMS) could refer to the record structure, whereas in a geographic information system (GIS), the information could in the form of digital images. Although current technology allows data transfer across software packages, the translation of data from one format to another still presents difficulties.
- Information access: Sometimes various legal, financial or administrative measures restrict access to environmental information. In some cases, various government departments or research agencies do not have access to each other's information. In this age of information technology, it is unclear who owns this information. Does the information belong to the public at large, the government at large, a ministry, or a specific research institution?
Policy Research Institutes, R & D Institutes and other structures
Specialized in environment research
The Australian Bureau of agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE).
Australia: Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation (LWRRDC)
Korea: National Institute of Environmental Research, Korean Environmental Technology Research Institute (under MoE)
Viet Nam: Environmental Protection Centre (EPC)
New Zealand: Crown Research Institutes.
Korea: Environmental official training institute (under MoE)
Autonomous bodies, committees
Australia: Planet Ark
private sector organizations/chambers of commerce and industry
In many countries around the world, consumer attitudes and preferences are changing towards environmentally-friendly products. In supermarkets, consumers are showing a preference for 'green' products, and the message that it pays to be green is filtering through to the private sector. The following is an exanple of the role of a private sector organisation in achieving sustainable development.
United States: The Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD)