Similarly to other countries, Hungary prepared its national report for the year 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. It summarized and evaluated the economic, social and environmental trends characterizing the period between the Environment and Development Conference and the Johannesburg Summit. As a preparation of the report as well as the forthcoming national SD strategy, the project "Towards sustainability ..." sponsored by the UNDP analysed economic and social development, sustainability of sectoral policies, achievements in legislation and institutional development as well as national and local sustainability projects. Within this, seven case studies were prepared on sustainability projects of local governments and NGOs addressing both environmental, economic and societal issues (such as poverty, unemployment).

The projects presented by the case studies, have different objectives, motivation and target groups. Some of the 30 projects focus on economic and rural development; one of them is a typical Local Agenda 21 project with important environmental targets. The sample also includes various social projects dealing with community development, employment issues, SME development or social services. Projects are delivered both in urban and rural areas, initiated either by the communities themselves or organizations coming from outside. Their common feature is, however, that they are part of long-term, ongoing programmes.

The cases were prepared by experts coming from various professional backgrounds. With one exception (a journalist), all of them were involved in the implementation of the projects. As a result, they identify themselves with the goals as well as the methods, and have a deep insight; therefore they provide a lot of valuable information on personal ideas and motivations of the participants in addition to the activities and achievements of the projects. Despite following the same outline, the cases are not stereotyped. They present individual stories, individual personal philosophies and sets of values.

Due to their long-term horizon, holistic approach, and complexity of activities, projects represented by the cases are different from usual investment, research, and educational or demonstrational projects. They follow a new development model and involve significant changes. Leaders of such projects face more difficulties than others. They need a devoted and accepting target group as well as an accepting social environment. The latter is all the more important as these disadvantaged communities lack both financial, human and capital resources hence they have to rely on their economic and social environment. Also, they need this environment as a market for their product and services.

Due to their different dimension, lower complexity, the possibility to directly adapt project goals to the target audience as well as the possibility of direct contacts among different participants, local sustainability projects are still easier to implement than national sustainability programmes. These local projects, however, do need national/regional sustainability programmes and policies that may create an endorsing social and economic environment, provide a framework for orientation for local projects. By adapting to national strategies, local projects can set objectives that complement national goals, which will facilitate implementation of the national strategy on the one hand and make financing of local projects easier, on the other.

Even without the support from a national sustainable development strategy, the projects presented by the cases yielded important results. They proved to be workshops for experiments, and provided lessons for both the participants and similar sustainability projects.

The seven case studies are: