Indicators for Measuring and Fostering Sustainable Development: Fifth Belgian Federal Report on Sustainable Development-2009
Natacha Zuinen
Task Force Sustainable Development, Federal Planning Bureau, Brussels, Belgium

The fifth Belgian Federal Report on sustainable development contributes to the debate on the role and choice of indicators and objectives for measuring the development of a country. It studies a set of sustainable development indicators that shows to what extent living conditions in Belgium are heading towards sustainable development strategic objectives (SDSO).

The report describes a structured set of 88 indicators. A large number of indicators is indeed required to assess a vast and complex domain such as the development of a country. These 88 cannot be summarised by one synthetic indicator: neither by aggregating them (lack of common measurement unit) nor by compounding them (arbitrary weights and an unreadable formula).

In order to deliver a synthetic message on the progress towards sustainable development, the Report presents a strategic assessment of these 88 SDIs for Belgium. This assessment shows that indicators on driving forces, such as consumption and production, and on pressures that these driving forces exert on the capitals of development registered some progress towards their SDSOs between 2000 and 2007. Indicators on the state of the three capitals, however, registered very few improvements between 2000 and 2007. Finally, indicators of policy responses are far from reaching their targets.

Finally the Report reviews some synthetic indicators that have been proposed to complement GDP: indicators based on Environmental Satellite Accounts, the Human Development Index, the Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity indicators, and also indicators of implementation of sustainable development plans. It analyses the potential of these synthetic indicators to guide strategic sustainable development policy decisions.

This fifth Federal Report on Sustainable Development argues that both synthetic indicators and a structured table of detailed indicators can be combined to measure progress in a changing world.

Biography: Natacha Zuinen is graduate from the Solvay Business School (Free University of Brussels) and has a master in Economics (Catholic University of Louvain La Neuve). She has about 14 years expertise on sustainable development at the Federal Planning Bureau. Her main fields of expertise are sustainable development indicators and the changes towards more sustainable consumption and production patterns.