Leveraging Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment Tools in Development

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A consultative meeting on strategic environmental and social assessment co-sponsored by the African Development Bank (AfDB) opened on Monday, 21 March 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia. The discussions focused on the evolution of assessment tools in international organizations and use of such tools at the AfDB. The meeting marks an important milestone in the Bank’s commitment to the Paris Declaration and the Accra Action Agenda as it brings together experts in the field to identify leading trends and practices in the field.

Several themes emerged from the opening session. These include the importance of the social element in strategic environmental and social assessments (SESA), the role of active civil society, donor coordination, and emphasis on SESA as a tool for decision-making. In a presentation, Remy Paris of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) explained that “the goal of SESA is not producing a beautiful strategic environmental assessment (SEA) report but to ensure better decisions that contribute to better development outcomes.” He cited specific examples of how SESA’s cumulative view of environmental and social impacts contributed to better decisions in projects in Southeast Asia.

Meeting participants include leading experts in SESA mainstreaming, representing the OECD, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) and the AfDB. Civil society representatives from Tunisia and sub-Saharan Africa also made active contributions to the discussions. The AfDB team was led by Mr. Anthony Nyong, Division Manager for Compliance and Safeguards, who launched the discussions.

The meeting will on Tuesday focus on climate change adaptation and the role SESA could play in more effective development financing. Suggestions were put forward for the AfDB to deliver joint training sessions on SESA with the OECD-DAC (Development Assistance committee) Network on Environment and Development Cooperation in Regional Member Countries.

The workshop is co-sponsored by the AfDB and Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), formerly known as GTZ.