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Source: Small Island Developing States

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has released guidelines for Pacific island states and territories to conduct strategic environmental assessments (SEAs). Embedded in broader national and sectoral policy, planning, and programmes, SEAs contribute to sustainable development in the region.

The report titled, ‘Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA): Guidelines for Pacific Island Countries and Territories,’ notes that SEAs help decision makers:

  • make informed decisions that are strategically and environmentally sound;
  • achieve environmentally sound and sustainable development through improved planning and programming;
  • save time and money by avoiding costly mistakes and severe environmental effects;
  • identify new opportunities for development that are sustainable;
  • ensure efficiency and transparency of decision making; and
  • strengthen governance and build public trust and confidence in decision making.

The Guidelines provide background information about the SEA method, and explain how to carry out such assessments in practice. It identifies the need to start by considering what “triggers a SEA” by screening policies, plans, and programmes before identifying objectives, key performance criteria, and preparing a stakeholder engagement plan. The report also includes a SEA toolkit with the aim to assist countries with understanding and implementing SEAs.

“Since this is the first SEA Guidelines developed and produced for the Pacific island region, SPREP plans to develop and roll out awareness raising, capacity building and training on the Guidelines as part of SPREP’s on-going capacity building programme on environmental assessment for its Pacific Members”, said Easter Chu Shing, Director of the Environmental Monitoring and Governance Programme, SPREP.

SPREP’s Strategic Plan for 2017-2026 identifies SEAs as a tool for strengthening national sustainable development planning. SEAs “provide a systematic process by which environmental and climate change considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparations of development plans, proposed sector policies and strategies, and development programmes prior to their final adoption,” the plan notes.

In the foreword, SPREP Director General Kosi Latu notes that SEAs are relatively new to the Pacific region, even though the approach “has been around since the late 1960s.” This makes the development of the SEA Guidelines “crucial and timely given the increasing interest to effectively address new emerging issues such as seabed mining and multiple development projects in the region and within countries.”

The SPREP Environmental Monitoring and Governance Programme developed the Guidelines between September 2018 and May 2020 through a “highly consultative process,” which involved input, advice, and guidance from SPREP members, key stakeholders, experts, and partners. The EU ACPMEA2 project and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Swedish Fund provided funding. [Publication: Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA): Guidelines for Pacific Island Countries and Territories] [Pacific Environment Portal]

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This policy brief was authored by Dina Hestad, Ph.D., Thematic Expert for SDGs and Small Island Developing States.

This story was made possible with funding support from the Government of Sweden through the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and was developed with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) using the Pacific Environment Portal, which enables users to find, access, and use regional and national data. The portal has been developed by the regional UNEP-GEF Inform project executed by SPREP, which has established national environment data portals in 14 Pacific island countries to help address the challenges of storing and accessing data. The online database of information and datasets aims to help improve decision making and reporting on the environment. 

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News