Environment in emerging and transition economies

Strategic Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment


Policy background and challenges

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) effectively promote sustainable development by mainstreaming the environment into economic development and integrating green economy targets into strategic and project-related decision-making.

SEA and EIA are procedures that ensure that the environmental implications of decisions are taken into account before the decisions are made. In the pan-European region, UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) and/or the EU Directive 2011/92/EU (EU EIA Directive) provide for obligations to undertake EIA for planned activities  such as a dam, power plant or motorway, with likely significant adverse environmental, including health, impacts. The Espoo Convention applies specifically to impacts across national frontiers, and is therefore a key instrument for transboundary cooperation on environmental matters. SEA is applied earlier in the decision making to government plans, programmes and policy documents in accordance with requirements of the UNECE Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment to the Espoo Convention (Protocol on SEA) and/or the Directive 2001/42/EC (EU SEA Directive) Wide consultation of relevant authorities and the public are key features of both EIA and SEA procedures.

In the framework of the EaP GREEN, UNECE will support the participating countries in developing and applying SEA legislation and systems in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol on SEA (and the EU SEA Directive). Despite its benefits SEA is still a rarely used tool in the countries due to a number of obstacles, including low level of awareness of SEA and its benefits among public authorities; weak legislative and institutional framework for its application; lack of understanding of the roles and responsibilities of various authorities in the SEA process; and the absence of specific guidelines and practical experience in  the application of SEA.

As appropriate, assistance will also be provided for improving the current practices and legal and institutional frameworks on EIA in compliance with the Espoo Convention (and with the EU EIA Directive).

Objectives and activities

The activities to be implemented by UNECE in partnership with each of the six EaP GREEN countries in 2013-2016 include:

  • Legislative reviews of SEA/EIA and legal drafting to promote the integration of EIA and SEA systems into the national legal, regulatory, and administrative frameworks and to improve understanding and acceptance among national stakeholders of the necessary measures for efficient implementation of SEA and EIA systems.
  • Capacity building on practical application of SEA/EIA procedures such as national level training workshops, local level training workshops, development of national guidance documents, and implementation of a pilot SEAs/EIAs. These activities will contribute to the development of national SEA/EIA systems and practice, including public participation, raising awareness and understanding of the benefits of SEA/EIA among various stakeholders and facilitating acceptance among decision-makers, relevant authorities and the public of the effects of plans, programmes and projects implementing SCP policies.
  • Strengthening the administrative capacities of the authorities in charge of the environmental assessments in order to clarify responsibilities and roles of competent authorities for the SEA and EIA procedures, improve inter-institutional cooperation and involve all the relevant actors in the legislative reviews, technical assistance, training on and pilot implementation of SEA/EIA.

In addition, national experts will benefit from participation at a number of sub-regional experience sharing events on EIA and SEA, and information to be gathered and made available through various analytical reports and materials prepared to support the countries in implementation of the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on SEA at the national level.

DID YOU KNOW? ... that SEA can help decision makers:

-    to achieve environmentally sound and sustainable development to improve planning and programming;
-    to save time and money by avoiding costly mistakes and severe effects;
-    to identify new opportunities for development;
-    to ensure efficiency and transparency of decision-making;
-    to strengthen governance and build public trust and confidence in decision making.