UNECE is working closely with the six countries of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine – to promote the use of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Updates on the progress of this work, undertaken in the context of the Greening Economies in the Eastern Neighbourhood (EaP GREEN) programme, were presented at the meetings of the Parties (MoP) to the UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) and its Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) held in Minsk, Belarus (13-16 June 2017).
EaP Green is a large regional programme implemented by UNECE, OECD, UNEP, and UNIDO to assist EaP countries in their transition to green economies by supporting the decoupling of economic growth from environmental degradation and resource depletion. The programme is financed by the European Commission, UNECE and its three counterpart implementing organisations, and other donors.
Since the launch of the programme in 2013, there has been a growing recognition among EaP countries of the value of integrating SEA and EIA as tools for environmentally sustainable economic development, with significant progress made towards the establishing of legislative frameworks for SEA and EIA and building capacities on SEA/EIA application in all countries. By the end of 2017, all EaP countries will have undertaken SEA/EIA pilot activities, providing a basis for the further integration and scaling of environmental assessment initiatives in planning and project development processes.
The Minsk meeting was also an opportunity to highlight developments in the preparation of national SEA guidelines, with the majority of EaP countries set to have finalized guidelines this year. All EaP countries have participated in SEA training and capacity building activities at the sub-regional and national levels, including practical training for government staff, NGOs and experts, and the adaptation of training materials to national contexts.
Looking ahead, UNECE will continue to assist countries in integrating SEA ad EIA tools in their planning and decision-making systems. The emphasis will be given to enhancing the existing capacities and institutional structures for effective and consistent practical application of SEA and EIA.