Links to UN bodies

Links to site map

Main Links

    [an error occurred while processing this directive]

National Activities: Costa Rica

Costa Rica Flag

Costa Rica

Report Submitted by Costa Rica to the Fourth International Workshop on the CSD Indicators of Sustainable Development
Hosted by the Government of the Czech Republic in Prague
19-21 January 1998

San Jose, Costa Rica, 10-12 March 1997

The Regional Workshop on Indicators of Sustainable Development for Latin America and the Caribbean Region was organized by the Government of Costa Rica at San Jose, in cooperation with the United Nations Department of Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, from 10 to 12 March 1997, in the context of the testing of Indicators of Sustainable Development launched in the Workshop held in Ghent, Belgium, in November 1996, sponsored by the Governments of Belgium and Costa Rica.

At the national level, the event was held as part of the activities of an ongoing International Development Bank (IDB) Technical Cooperation Project (ATN/SF/4717-CR), aimed at supporting the implementation of the National System for Sustainable Development (SINADES). This capacity-building pilot project includes training on sustainable development related issues to government and non-governmental official from major groups as well as institutional strengthening for sustainable development with the Government. The support of the IDB to the Workshop through the SINADES project was recognized and highly appreciated by the participants.

The Regional Workshop for the Latin American and Caribbean Region initiated with a public Conference on Indicators of Sustainable Development organized as part of the activities of the SINADES project. This conference had the participation of three foreign and one national panelist on ISD and was attended by leading representatives from the Costa Rican society, including senior officials, policy and decision-makers, local authorities, the academic and business communities, labor leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

The Workshop was attended by representatives from the host country Costa Rica as well as from Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Venezuela and the United States of America.

The Costa Rican delegation was composed of member of the National Commission on Information for Sustainable Development, a technical advisory body on ISDs of the National System for Sustainable Development (SINADES). This commission includes the participation of government and non-governmental members (business, NGOs and the Academic communities) and is also the national coordination mechanism for the implementation of ISDs during the testing phase of the CSD.

The United Nations bodies and other international institutions represented included the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD), the Department for Economic and Social Information and Policy Analysis (DESIPA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Costa Rica Office, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Panama Office, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Center of Economic Policy for Sustainable Development in Costa Rica.

The workshop itself started after the conference. Its objectives were:

  1. To bring together producers, users and various actors involved in ISD in the Latin American and Caribbean Region, as well as developed countries with indicator-related activities and cooperation ongoing the region;
  2. To provide a briefing on the CSR Work Program on ISDs and the related methodology sheets;
  3. To initiate the national testing phase on ISDs in testing countries of the region;
  4. To encourage other countries of the region which have the potential to become testing countries to participate in the testing phase; and
  5. To meet the training and capacity-building needs of countries at the national level.

In order to achieve those objectives, a dynamics of working in small group sessions was adopted. Those groups addressed the following three topics:

  1. The selection of priority indicators of sustainable development
  2. The analysis of the methodology sheets
  3. The revision of the guidelines for national testing of indicators of sustainable development elaborated by the DPCSD

The participants found the Workshop on Indicators of Sustainable Development to be very useful for better appreciation of the relationship between priority setting and measurement and the methodological issues related to sustainable development indicators. The background information provided, particularly the UN publication "Indicators of Sustainable Development: Framework and Methodologies" (known as the CSD's list of ISDs or blue book) was acknowledged as a useful starting point for developing a national indicator program; however, the translation of the methodology sheets into Spanish is considered a crucial and strategic step for developing indicators in Latin American countries.

The small group discussions were seen as useful way to introduce countries to the process of indicator development and testing and problems of selecting indicators in relation to national priorities and developing related methodologies.

Participants recognized that developing and applying indicators would take time, effort, resources and long term commitments. The Workshop agreed that it was necessary to be practical, pragmatic and flexible, building on strengths on individual countries.

It was noted that, in many cases, information and data are already being collected for several indicators at the national level, but many gaps still exist. It was agreed that, wherever possible and appropriate, existing data and indicators should be used as the basis for indicator development. The development of composite indices for each category of indicators would be useful, and should be submitted for testing in groups of countries. Sectional indicators are lacking and could be developed at a national level based on the specific needs of the country.

Sharing of information, capacity-building, and initiation of activities to exchange experiences among the testing countries and other countries interested in the process were identified as particularly important. At the national level, it is essential to develop a network of people working on this topic and the idea of a national focal point, where appropriate, was endorsed.

With regard to the testing at the national level, participants felt that mechanisms for coordination should be country specific given the variety of different governmental structures. The proposal of having an inter-agency coordination mechanism at the national level to bring various stakeholders together was endorsed. Such a mechanism should include key decision-making bodies such as finance, planning, national councils of sustainable development, statistical offices, environmental and sectoral ministries, where appropriate. It would be important to link the effort to the highest political levels to ensure full support for the process. A wide variety of stakeholders should be involved and participate in the process of indicator development.

Further discussion and work is needed on how to get decision-makers to use indicators of sustainable development. The link between indicators and decision-makers should be based on a communications strategy. Very professional presentations would need to be developed to present information to decision-makers.

While participants felt that resources would be required to initiate a national program on indicators, the need for capacity-building efforts at the country level to get the process started was particularly mentioned. Country workshops to brief working level staff on indicators could be helpful. It was felt important to mobilize technical and other forms of assistance from UNDP, the World Bank and regional institutions, such as the Inter-American Bank (IDB) and the Organization of American States (OAS), in addition to national resources.

Twinning arrangements were seen as useful to support the testing process. Such arrangements need not necessarily involve a developed and a developing country, but might include countries at different levels of indicators use and development.

The participants expressed their sincere gratitude to the Government of Costa Rica for hosting this very useful regional workshop and complementing the Workshop with the National Conference on Indicators of Sustainable Development, and to the Inter-American Bank for the support of the Activity through the SINADES project (ATN/SF/4717-CR). The Workshop noted in this context the continuous commitment of the Government of Costa Rica to promoting the development and use of indicators of sustainable development. The participants commended the sponsors for the excellent organization of the meeting and, in particular, thanked the Costa Rica for the generous hospitality extended to them.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Adrian Rodriguez
General Coordinator
National System for Sustainable Development
Advisor to the Minister of National Planning
Oficina de Asesores
P.O. Box 10127-1000
San Jose, Costa Rica
Tel. no.: (50-6) 221-9524/256-3340
Fax no.: (50-6) 221-3282
Internet address: