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Four Capitals evaluation framework to assess sustainability of EU Structural Fund programmes.


An EU-funded evaluation programme is making use of the Four Capitals concept to assess various programmes that benefit from the EU Structural Funds to ensure their sustainability.

SRDTOOLS, a project funded under the EU Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), is using a Four Capitals based evaluation programme to assess Structurally Funded programmes from a sustainable development point of view to achieve the objective of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy to create sustainable communities that use resources efficiently. The analysis of these programmes will ensure that economic developments resulting from EU Structural Funds are not to the detriment of a region’s future.

The evaluation framework will assess the development that results from the services and outputs provided by four different types of capital:

  1. Manufactured capital – infrastructure;
  2. Natural capital – natural resources;
  3. Human capital – health, well-being and productivity potential; and
  4. Social capital – human well-being at a social level. 

By employing sustainable development indicators (SDIs) to monitor any changes in these four capitals, this new system can evaluate the real impact of all EU Structural Fund programmes. As well as measuring the socio-economic and environmental impacts of these funds, this evaluation framework will also indicate whether or not a programme is in harmony with the wider goal of the Sustainable Development Strategy.

This tool will enable policymakers to judge the effectiveness of the programmes that have benefited from the EU Structural Fund, and allow them to evaluate if they are in the best interests of sustainable development. The results of this analysis will indicate how Structural Funds can be best directed to change patterns of development, production, and consumption that impact negatively on the four distinct capitals.

More information:

The Four-Capital Method of Sustainable Development Evaluation ; P.Ekins, S.Dresner and K.Dahlström; European Environment 18 (2008); Contact: paul.ekins@kcl.ac.uk

Sustainable development indicators (EUROSTAT): http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page?_pageid=1998,66119021,1998_66292168&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

Structural Funds

There are four different Structural Funds by which the European Union provides financial assistance to resolve structural economic or social problems. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is used to promote economic and social cohesion within the Union, and does so by reducing existing imbalances between regions or social groups. The European Social Fund (ESF) is the main financial tool that enables the realisation of the strategic goals in the various EU employment policies. The European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) assists in the reform of agricultural sectors and ensures the development of rural areas. Finally, the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) is a fund specifically aimed at reforms in the fisheries sector.

More information: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/funds/prord/sf_en.htm

SRDTOOLS, sustainable development Indicators and the Sustainable Development Strategy

The SRDTOOLS programme was funded under FP6, with the intention of directly informing the design of evaluation methods of prospective cohesion policies and programmes, so that sustainable regional development would be ensured. Sustainable Development Indicators (SDIs) are divided into ten themes and cover a range of issues from economic, social, environmental and institutional dimensions. The ten SDI themes used by EUROSTAT are: socio-economic development; sustainable consumption and production; social inclusion; demographic changes; public health; climate change and energy; sustainable transport; natural resources; global partnerships; and good governance. The Sustainable Development Strategy, which was instituted in 2001 and renewed in 2006, outlines a coherent approach to enable the EU to fulfil its commitment to the ensure sustainable development of the regions.

More information: http://www.srdtools.info/