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Measuring Sustainability in the Russian Arctic: An Interdisciplinary Study

by Votrin, Valery, PhD

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adaptability, and coexistence) that apply to all autonomous self-organising systems, plus three
system-determined basic orientors (reproduction, psychological needs, and responsibility) that
are peculiar to self-reproducing (autopoietic), sentient and conscious beings.” The orientors are
meant to supply “basic oriental satisfaction” and cover all dimensions of a specific system
considered dynamic and constantly changing.
In this and other models, some common types of indicators are used. They can be

divided into the two rather general categories: state indicators and pressure indicators (also
called driving force or control indicators). The former describe the state of a variable, and the
latter measure a process which will influence a state indicator. The state and pressure indicators
are usually interrelated and represent a trend (Bell and Morse, 1999).
Attempts worldwide to develop aggregated, or single value indices have resulted in the

UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI); the IUCN’s Wellbeing Index; the World Economic
Forum (WEF) Environmental Sustainability Index; the World-Wide Fund for Nature Living Planet
Index; and Redefining Progress Ecological Footprint and Genuine Progress Indicator. An
interesting example of original concept for developing sustainability indicators is the Dashboard
of Sustainability which is “a visual presentation of three sets of sustainability indicators”
designed as a common dashboard including dials, gauges and alert lights to represent
“critical… indicators in the environmental, economic, and social domains”. These indices,
however, have not been developed as comprehensive indices of sustainable development
(Hardi and Semple, 2000).
There are different opinions about which criteria the indicators should satisfy to be

selected. It is fairly pointed out that a good indicator should be:
specific (must clearly relate to outcomes);
measurable (must be a quantitative indicator);
usable (practical);
understandable by all concerned groups, independent of their educational

sensitive (must readily change as circumstances change);
available (supported by readily available data); and
cost-effective (it should not be a very expensive task to access the necessary

data) (Bossel, 1999; Meadows, 1999; Bell and Morse, 2003).
As Guy and Kibert (1998), Hens and De Wit (2003), Bell and Morse (2003) argue,

although the possibility of qualitative indicators should not be ruled out, sustainability indicators
are generally assumed to be quantitative. Stirling (1999) gives a useful account of the practical
implications for decision making and appraisal methodologies concerning sustainability:
Treat the appraisal of sustainability as a social process, not an analytical act.
Recognise the intrinsic subjectivity in prioritising the dimensions of sustainability.
Disaggregate and treat separately the different dimensions of sustainability.

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Fully acknowledge the importance and scope of uncertainty and ignorance.
Include participation as an integral part of appraisal rather than as a “bolt-on”.
Ensure that the assessment process is as transparent as possible to third parties.
Concentrate on exploring sensitivities rather than on prescribing definitive results.
Focus on diverse portfolios rather than on single “most sustainable” options.
Global indicator frameworks make little sense when applied locally, and community level
indicators appear to be hardly applicable in international context. This “sustainable development
of scale” has its impact on the development of the indicators (Hens and De Wit, 2003). Simpler
indicators that are informative about environmental, social and economic problems relative to
sustainability targets require a lower level of aggregation and can be calculated for different
geographical areas (Goeteyn, 1996). Briassoulis (2001) holds that among main features of
current sustainability indicators are the decline of the initial enthusiasm about “ideal” indicators,
the fuller representation of environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability compared
to social and cultural issues, and the shift of interest from global to community indicators. Some
indicator frameworks developed by international organisations, national bodies and community
participants are discussed below.
2.1.4 International Actors
Probably the most famous sustainability indicator framework is the one developed by the
United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) created in December 1992
to help ensure effective implementation of Agenda 21 at the local, national, regional and
international levels. The indicators in this set are grouped into the four general categories of
social, economic, environmental, and institutional issues. For each category, driving force, state,
and response indicators have been developed. All indicators are connected to chapters of
Agenda 21. The indicators relevant to national priorities, goals and targets are intended for use
at the national level by countries in their decision-making processes, and for reporting
internationally on sustainable development.
In 1996, the UNCSD launched a national testing programme, with 22 volunteer countries
from around the globe (including six European Union (EU) Member States) in order to
undertake methodological and consultative work about formulating sustainability indicators. The
UNCSD also served as the central organising body for the WSSD. After carefully considering
the testing countries’ priorities and experiences, a new framework, the UNCSD Core Indicators,
was developed which is aimed to better satisfy common priorities between national and
international issues. In total, 58 indicators are included in the core set, compared to the original
134 presented in 1996 (EC, 2003; UNCSD, 2003).
The European Commission (EC) launched its sustainability indicators project in 1996
seeking to apply the UN indicators to the EU. A total of 46 indicators have been selected based
on such important selection criteria as availability of data in a sufficient number of the EU


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Member States and relevance in the European context. This pilot project was followed by a set
of indicators adapted to the situation in the EU which included 63 indicators. The European
Council Summits in Gothenburg and Seville in 2001 paved the way for a general EU strategy for
sustainable development published in 2002. The ten priority areas were identified by the
Council to provide general guidance for future policy development. They are:
economic development;
poverty and social exclusion;
ageing society;
public health;
climate change and energy;
production and consumption patterns;
management of natural resources;
good governance; and
global partnership.
The EU commitments made in the Johannesburg Declaration and the Plan of
Implementation (PoI) of the WSSD have been integrated into the EU Sustainable Development
Strategy revised in 2005. The long-term key priorities and targets identified by this new Strategy
as revised in 2005 are: addressing climate change; promoting good health; combating social
exclusion and addressing demographic change; better management of natural resources;
making transport more sustainable; and fighting global poverty and promoting development.
The final set of indicators published in 2005 is organised within 10 themes around the ten
priority areas above. In fact, seven themes correspond to the priority areas identified in 2001,
while Production and Consumption Patterns and Good Governance arise from the WSSD’s PoI
(Bosch, 2002; EC, 2002; EC, 2003; Hass et al, 2003; Wolff, 2004; EC, 2005).
The OECD work on the indicators involves several categories of environmental
indicators mainly classified following the above-mentioned PSR framework. The categories
Core Environmental Indicators designed to track environmental progress and

analyse environmental policies;
Key Environmental Indicators which are a reduced set of core indicators;
Sectoral Environmental Indicators designed to integrate environmental

concerns into sectoral policies;
Environmental Accounting Indicators for integration of environmental

concerns into economic and resource management policies; and
sustainability related Decoupling Environmental Indicators which measure

decoupling of environmental pressure from economic growth.


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All are interlinked and are regularly used in OECD work, particularly in environmental
performance reviews. The OECD work on sustainability indicators has greatly influenced the
indicator development process by a number of countries and international organisations,
including the UNCSD, UNEP, the World Bank, etc. (Linster, 2004).
Since recently, in 2003, the Nordic Council of Ministers completed its task on developing

a set of the Nordic sustainability indicators. This is analysed in more detail in section 2.2.3
In 1999, the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD)

established a common set of 130 environment and development indicators for the
Mediterranean Region countries (the Blue Plan indicators) based on the UNCSD set. The
indicators are arranged according to themes and the PSR framework. The six major categories
population and society;
lands and areas;
economic activity and sustainability;
sustainable development: actors and policies; and
exchanges and co-operation in the Mediterranean (Bosch, 2002; EC, 2003;

Bell and Morse, 2003).
A number of indicator initiatives exist in the World Bank’s activities. The World Bank

publishes more than 800 indicators in its World Development Indicators every year for more
than 150 countries and regions (World Bank, 2005). Within the family of composite indices of
sustainability, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index Family can be also mentioned which is
published daily and refers to individual corporations (Hass et al, 2003). The United Nations
Commission on Human Settlement has developed a set of key urban indicators for monitoring
the progress of the objectives of the Habitat Agenda (UN-Habitat, 2002).
2.1.5 National Actors
Since the emergence of a sustainability indicator concept, the UK was on the forefront of
establishing national and local indicator sets. The important feature of the UK’s indicators is that
they are linked with the national sustainable development strategy. The country’s sustainability
indicators framework rests on “quality of life” as the organising concept. Two sets of “Quality of
Life” indicators have been developed: the headline indicators and a more extensive set of
national indicators. Regional and local quality of life indicators are also used, e.g. in Scotland
and Wales. The framework underlying the indicators has four broad aims for sustainable
a healthy economy should be maintained to promote quality of life while at

the same time protecting human health and the environment in the UK and


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overseas, with all participants in all sectors paying the full social and

environmental costs of their decisions;
non-renewable resources should be used optimally;
renewable resources should be used sustainably; and
damage to the carrying capacity of the environment and the risk to human

health and biodiversity from the effects of economic activity should be
For each of these aims, issues and key objectives are identified in the UK Sustainable
Development Strategy, and 15 ‘headline’ indicators that make up a quality of life barometer
have been developed. The themes covered include: Economic Output, Investment,
Employment, Poverty, Education, Health, Housing, Crime, Climate Change, Air Quality, Road,
River Water Quality, Wildlife, Land Use, and Waste (Custance, 2002; EC, 2003).
The United States indicator framework has three major categories: long-term
endowments and liabilities; processes; and current results. These are further divided into
subcategories for the economy, the environment and society. The “current results” indicators
highlight the progress or shortcomings in improving current conditions and human well-being.
Indicators for “long-term endowments/liabilities” provide insights into possible future challenges:
they measure the status of resources, as well as the capacities and liabilities that are passed on
to future generations. The “process” indicators focus on the driving forces that affect the longterm
endowments and liabilities or current results: they include both earth systems and human
activities (Guy and Kilbert, 1998; EC, 2003).
The Netherlands relies on a three-by-three matrix to develop and present their
indicators. The matrix has columns for socio-cultural, financial-economic and ecologicalenvironmental
factors; and rows referring to “here and now”, “here and later”, and “elsewhere,
now and later”. This matrix shows explicitly how each country is affecting global sustainability
and the sustainability of other countries, both now and in the future (EC, 2003).
In Belgium, there is the Federal Plan for Sustainable Development 2000-2004 which
includes priority themes such as changing consumption patterns, combating poverty and social
exclusion, environmental health, sustainable development of agriculture, protection and
managing of the marine environment, and sustainable development of energy, and the second
Plan for Sustainable Development 2004-2008 has just been prepared focused more on the six
themes of the EU’s SDS (Hass et al, 2003). The Belgian federal set of sustainability indicators
(Federaal Planbureau, 2005) comprising 44 indicators was finally established in 2005 under the
work led by Federal Science Policy Department and is based on the themes of the two federal
plans for sustainable development.
More detailed overview of the sustainability indicator development process in Finland,
Sweden, Canada and Norway in the context of their relevance to the Arctic is presented in the
next chapter.


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In most of the OECD countries, the national statistical institutions played the key role in
the development and evaluation of sustainability indicators. In several cases, other government
agencies, business and non-governmental organisations were involved in the development
phase. A consensus building process was used to reach agreement on a set of indicators
encompassing all the different perspectives of various actors in society. A number of countries
have referred to the Bellagio Principles as guidelines for the choice of indicators, their design,
interpretation and communication (Hass et al, 2003).
2.1.6 Community Level Actors
There are different kinds of sustainable community indicators: quality of life, healthy
community, urban environment and so on. In general, sustainable community indicators
“attempt to create the most balanced approach to environment, economics, and social factors,
whereas quality of life and healthy community indicators focus more on human health and
socio-economic factors” (Guy and Kibert, 1998).
The most famous example of community sustainability indicators is The Sustainable
Seattle project started at a Global Tomorrow Coalition Conference on sustainability which was
held in Seattle in November 1990. At the end of the conference, the core of the future project,
around 10 people, gathered around the speakers and decided to establish goals. The process
quickly broadened: the Board of Trustees was appointed to review publications and activities
and many consultants, businessmen, public officials, and researchers offered their services.
The first agenda was to develop an indicator model that could be used in initiating community
debate on sustainability. The indicators emerged from a stakeholder participation involving
around 50 local citizens. Suggested indicators were divided into categories and levels
representing: Resource Consumption, Economy, Natural Environment, Population, Social
Environment, Education, Transportation, Public Safety, Health, Culture and Recreation, and
Community Participation and Involvement. Out of a list of 99 indicators selected during the three
open civic forums, 40 indicators were eventually identified of which around 20 were considered
suitable for the first publication (AtKisson, 1996; Hatcher, 1996). Other thriving community
sustainability indicator initiatives in the USA include Boulder, Colorado (Boulder County’s Report
Card); Jacksonville, Florida (Quality of Life in Jacksonville); Boston, Massachusetts (Boston
Indicators Project); Lansing, Michigan (Sustainable Lansing); New Jersey Sustainable State
Project; Cincinnati, Ohio (Sustainable Cincinnati Project); Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Sustainable
Pittsburgh); Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Milwaukee Neighbourhood Indicators), etc.
The United Nations Sustainable Cities Programme (SCP) builds upon the Habitat
Agenda and Agenda 21 to deal with urban environmental problems, promote better urban
governance and implement sustainable development at a city level, including developing
community sustainability indicators. Currently, there are about 45 communities worldwide
participating in the SCP’s activities (UN-Habitat, 2002). The EU Local Sustainability Indicators


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applied a common set of indicators to evaluate Local Sustainability in 91 European cities
(Pastille Consortium, 2002b).
2.1.7 Need for Public Participation
There is no doubt that public participation in any decision-making process relevant to
sustainability is not just desirable, it is essential. The need for public participation is emphasised
in Agenda 21, and in some countries stakeholder participation is provided for by legislation, e.g.
New Zealand’s 1991 Resource Management Act. Stakeholders can be defined as “those groups
or individuals with a significant interest in, or who could affect or be affected by, the activities of
an organisation” (Jackson, 2001).
Numerous authors writing about sustainable development in general and about
sustainability indicator development in particular specifically stress the issue of getting the public
involved in the process of developing sustainability indicators. In doing so, the relationship
between lay and expert, between community representatives and policy officers, between
consultants and academics is very important. Indicator development is no longer just a technical
issue and it cannot be left to experts. But expertise is still required to specify the indicators,
collect data and monitor it (Rydin et al, 2003). McCool and Stankey (2004) point out that
scientists can act as examiners in a policy development process, challenging policy-makers and
the public about goals, preferences and the system of interest for sustainability, help policymakers
and the wider society with system measurement and broader understanding of what the
indicators display, and interpret what the indicator means in terms of potential actions or
responses to changes.
There are two types of public participation. The traditional expert-driven approach is that
where an initial framework is created by experts. The non-traditional, public-driven approach is a
capacity building based on public-initiated and managed participation supported by experts
(Smith and Taylor, 2000). Most indicator frameworks including those developed by the UN,
OECD, the EU and others, are characterised by the traditional “top-down” approach where a
team of external experts thrust their indicators on stakeholders. It is much easier, quicker and
cheaper to “tell” (Bell and Morse, 2003).
There is also the problem of fair participation. Having a committee member with whom
prior agreement has been reached to express “necessary” opinion is not what public
participation means. In this situation, the policy might become dominated by a few stakeholders
who have more power (Kasemir et al, 1999). The issues of “pseudo-participation” where a
representative is included with no real power (Bell and Morse, 2004) as well as selective
participation by vocal and well organised interest groups have established the problem of
actually achieving effective participation by all sections of the public (Rydin and Pennington,
2000). Another problem may be posed by the so-called “latent public”, the stakeholder group


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that is left out, forgotten or considered unimportant, but that is sure to raise its head and
possibly undermine a successful planning process (Jackson, 2001).
Dhakal and Imura (2003) argue that with the relevant purpose of the indicator, an
ensured stakeholder participation, and the indicators not imposed upon the potential users, any
indicator system is useful. The purpose, after all, is not monitoring for its own sake, but the
informing of difficult and contentious social choices (Stirling, 1999).
Chapter 26 of Agenda 21 also stresses the importance of indigenous participation in
environmental and resource management decision-making so as indigenous people and their
communities be involved at the national and local levels in all programmes established to
support and review sustainable development strategies. Involvement of indigenous communities
in the sustainability decision-making process, particularly in the Arctic where a considerable
portion of lands is occupied by the small indigenous peoples is becoming crucial.
The issues of public involvement in the Russian context are further discussed in section


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2.2 Sustainable Development in the Arctic
2.2.1 Defining the Arctic
Geographically, the Arctic can be defined as the area north of the treeline (the northern
limit of upright tree growth), or the locations in high latitudes where the average daily summer
temperature does not rise above 10°C. It consists of the Arctic Ocean which is covered with ice
all year round and surrounded by continental land masses and islands where snow and ice are
present for most of the year. The Arctic climate includes both polar maritime (influenced by the
ocean) and continental (influenced by large land masses) climate subtypes. The main constant
is that the climate in all arctic areas is affected by the extreme solar radiation conditions of high

Figure 2.2. Map of the Arctic

Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIC):

It is much more complex task to define the Arctic in political and cultural terms as the
region is split between nation states whose political centres of gravity lie far to the south:

“Even more troublesome is the fact that this effort requires the application of different
geopolitical conventions in individual sectors of the region. In the Canadian Arctic, for


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instance, it seems reasonable to adopt 60°N as the southern boundary of the region,
a convention that separates the three northern territories from the southern
provinces... Yet applying the same convention to Fennoscandia would demarcate a
region running as far south as Oslo and Helsinki, an outcome that makes little sense
to those who think about Arctic issues in the Nordic countries.” (Young and
Einarsson, 2004a)

Consequently, for the purposes of this study, the definition of the Arctic by Young and
Einarsson (2004a) is used:

“The A[rctic] H[uman] D[evelopment] R[eport] Arctic encompasses all of Alaska,
Canada North of 60°N together with northern Quebec and Labrador, all of
Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland, and the northernmost counties of
Norway, Sweden and Finland...”

The specific features of the Russian Arctic are given in section 2.3.4.

2.2.2 Agenda 21 Process in the Arctic
As a result of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) initiated by Finland to

address the Arctic-wide environmental problems, the Arctic Council was established in 1996
after seven years of organisational preparations when the ministers of the eight Arctic countries
had gathered in Rovaniemi, Finland, in June 1991 to approve the AEPS and the Declaration on
the Protection of the Arctic Environment (the Rovaniemi Declaration). In the framework of the
AEPS, four working groups have been established by the participating states:
the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) monitoring levels and

assessing the effects of anthropogenic pollutants in the Arctic;
the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) working group facilitating the

exchange of information and coordination of research on species and habitats of
flora and fauna in the Arctic;
the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR) working group

providing a framework for co-operation in responding to the threat of
environmental emergencies; and
the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working group taking

preventive and other measures directly or through competent international
organisations regarding marine pollution in the Arctic irrespective of origin
(Bloom, 1999).
Since 1995, Canada has been making efforts to transform the AEPS into a new

international organisation to address broader issues of sustainable development, and as a


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