How to improve EIA system performance in low- and middle-income countries? A stepwise approach for identifying context-specific needs
Berg, M.W.H. van den
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Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has seen a large development since its first implementation in 1969 as a policy instrument for informed decision-making and long-term sustainable development. However, the performance of EIA in low- and middle-income countries (LMCs) is often considered to be lacking due to lacking capacities of the actors. Capacity building intends to develop the actors’ capacities, but often forgets to take the context into account. This results in EIA systems that do not fit the context and thereby do not meet the objectives of EIA. Current literature on EIA emphasises the importance of context on the performance of EIA, but does not describe how EIA systems should be adapted to the context. This research aims to develop an analysing tool for EIA practitioners in LMCs and developing organisations working in LMCs to identify context-specific EIA capacities and mechanisms to secure these. A stepwise approach has been developed from the literature that should lead to the identification of context-specific capacities and securing mechanisms. The approach consists of nine steps that include: 1. Identification of EIA system performance; 2. Identification of the main actors in the EIA system; 3. Identification of the level of ownership of the main actors; 4. Identification of the relative influence of the main actors; 5. Identification of the actors’ capacities that can be developed; 6. Identification of the actors’ capacities that should be developed or secured; 7. Developing a strategy for capacity building; 8. Initiating capacity building; and 9. Evaluating capacity building. These steps have been evaluated and refined using two focus discussions with representatives of EIA authorities from LMCs and experts in capacity building in LMCs from the Netherlands. The first discussion focussed on strengthening the reliability of the approach, while the second discussion provided for the practical applicability of the approach. Although the primary aim of the stepwise approach is to enhance system development in LMCs, it is thought that it can be used for all EIA systems. The context matters for the outcome of the approach, but does not influence the steps in the approach. Moreover, the stepwise approach is thought to include all aspects of system development, as identified by Kolhoff et al. (2009; 2013; 2014), Lawrence (2013), and the UNDP (2009). Furthermore, in this research it has been suggested that securing mechanisms also determine system performance, as they ensure that capacities remain even when actors drop out of the system.