Topic Guide: Strategic environmental assessment in practice: Capturing lessons learned over the past 10 years

Abstract

This report provides a synthesis of findings from 8 international studies of Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs), primarily written over the past decade. These studies are themselves based on reviews of a large number of SEAs (well over 100). Typically, they are literature reviews, although some incorporate stakeholder views on SEAs with enough elapsed time to assess the impacts in broad terms. This has allowed a limited discussion of cost effectiveness, although no rigorous assessment of ex post impact has been undertaken. In addition, a small number of Strategic Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference (SEA ToR) and related SEA reports, as well as other SEA reports and synthesis studies, were provided by DFID and development partners working with the OECD-DAC task team on SEA. These were analysed to assess the extent to which SEA reports were responding to those ToR and whether issues of particular concern to DFID reviewers were being addressed. In response to the request to the OECD-DAC task team, follow-up interviews were undertaken with 3 specialists involved in commissioning SEA studies to discuss the findings.

Based on the literature, an outline Theory of Change for SEA has been constructed and this conceptual framework has been used to broadly structure key findings. These are:

  • The context is critical
  • Technical and institutional capacity is important at various levels, but fewer and more focused SEAs would make better use of available capacity
  • Ownership and incentives for change are vital
  • Longer-run support with additional inputs is often required
  • SEAs should be ‘plan shapers’ not ‘fine tuners’
  • The SEA process itself can create valuable coalitions
  • Good practice design improves outcomes, but must reflect local conditions
  • SEAs can be cost-effective, but, in general, the evidence is weak

This Topic Guide has been produced by Evidence on Demand with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by HTSPE Limited and IMC Worldwide Limited.

Citation

Yaron, G.; Nelson, P. Topic Guide: Strategic environmental assessment in practice: Capturing lessons learned over the past 10 years. Evidence on Demand, UK (2014) 43 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_tg.sea.march2014.yaronnelson]

Topic Guide: Strategic environmental assessment in practice: Capturing lessons learned over the past 10 years

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