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Strategic Environmental Assessment

Strategic environmental assessment is defined by the OECD (Organization for Economic and Cooperation Development) as "Analytical and participatory approaches to strategic decision-making that aim to integrate environmental considerations into policies, plans and programmes and evaluate the inter linkages with economic and social considerations."

These approaches are applied to enable equitable access to information, the participation of stakeholders in the planning process, the implementation and follow up of development projects and, the prevention and anticipation of acts that might affect the environment and social welfare. The assessment process and taking into consideration environmental stakes happen at the highest level of the decision making process within the governmental apparatus.

For each sector where activities are related to environmental issues, an analysis should be first conducted on the extent to which environmental considerations are taken into account in the texts defining the orientations, the programmes and the expected interventions. To this effect, the logical framework of the sector is reviewed with respect to the legislations, the norms and regulations with the help of the major stakeholders. Afterwards, links that interacts or that might affect the environment must be determined before setting up the adequate follow up tools and the necessary corrective measures.

Integrating participative methods through the assessment process is a necessary factor to ensure the follow up and the implementation of solutions and recommendations once the analysis is achieved. The analysis of the integration of the environment in public policies necessitates the use of SEA, for on one hand, it is a means to foster taking into account environmental considerations and, on the other hand, it is a diagnosis and sectorial decision making tool.
SEA has a strong international anchorage and is an essential part of development aid and cooperation policies. SEA is among the tools recommended by the OECD (2006) and confirmed by the major donors and financial institutions (UNDP/UNEP, GTZ, WB, EU, USAID, etc.) Moreover, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg in 2002, highlighted “the importance of strategic frameworks and balanced decision making as fundamental requirements for advancing the sustainable development agenda”.

Thus, SEA is an important step in the decision making and planning process. The planning process is characterized by a level hierarchy: projects, programmes, plans and policies. Policies logically determine the plans; plans guide programmes and projects are elaborated from the programmes. In a more detailed manner, the hierarchisation of the policy, the plan and the programme is defined by their links coordinated to the level of the planning apparatus:

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