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The Republic of Azerbaijan is not yet a Party to the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (Protocol on SEA) to the Convention on the Environmental Impact Assessment in the Transboundary Context (the Espoo Convention). Despite the increasing recognition of the SEA as a tool for sustainable development in the region, SEA is rarely used in the country. This is due to a number of reasons, including:

  • Weak legislative and institutional framework for its application;
  • Low level of awareness of SEA and its benefits among public authorities responsible for preparation of the plans and programmes;
  • Lack of understanding of the roles and responsibilities of various authorities in the SEA process.

In responses to these challenges and to better prepare for accession to the Convention and its Protocol the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources (MENR) is undertaking a number of steps to develop a national EIA and SEA systems in accordance with the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on SEA, including:

  • Improving its legislative and institutional framework to fully comply with the Protocol and relevant EU legislation;
  • Defining roles and responsibilities of various authorities in the SEA process;
  • Building national and local capacities, developing practical experience and national guidelines in application of the SEA procedures in line with the Protocol and relevant EU legislation;
  • Raising awareness and common understanding of the benefits of the SEA at national and local levels and in different sectors, including the benefits of public participation and the consultation of relevant authorities.

Since May 2014, the UNECE Secretariat to the Espoo Convention assists the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan (hereinafter also the ‘Ministry’) in developing a national environmental assessment system in line with the Convention and its Protocol on SEA. The activities have been implemented in the framework of the EU funded programme ‘Greening Economies in the Eastern Neighbourhood’ (EaP GREEN) in several phases.

The first phase of the programme was carried out from May to October 2014 and included review of legislative and institutional frameworks for the application of SEA. In addition, based on the request of the Espoo Convention Implementation Committee, UNECE experts reviewed legislative framework for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The legislative reviews outlined that to comply with the provisions of the Espoo Convention and the Protocol on SEA and the relevant EU legislation, several changes and amendments to the existing legislation are required. During the drafting meeting that took place on the 28 October 2014, UNECE experts assisted the MENR of Azerbaijan in developing its legislation in Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment, also in developing specific amendments to the draft law on EIA and Environmental expertise, which were supposed to be submitted to the Parliament at the end of 2014.

The second phase aimed to build national capacities in practical application of SEA at the national level. The fact-finding missions to Azerbaijan was organized in June 2014 aimed at identification of the plan or programme to be a subject of pilot SEA application. Following the findings from the mission and further discussions with the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the National Strategy on use of alternative and renewable energy sources in the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2015 – 2020 (also the ‘Strategy’) was selected for SEA pilot application.

The objectives of the pilot SEA is to assist the Government of Azerbaijan in:

  • Testing and demonstrating opportunities of practical application of the draft law on SEA;
  • Building national institutional capacities and expertise to conduct SEA;
  • Providing recommendations for environmental optimisation and modifications of the selected plan/programme, and
  • Developing recommendations for improvement of national legislative and institutional frameworks on SEA in the country.

For more information about the SEA please see the dedicated web page here. The results of the pilot project were disseminated during the 7th International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development (Baku, 21 October 2016), where the sub-session 'The role of SEA in renewable energy development' was organized by the UNECE.

The third phase of EaP GREEN support was initiated in June 2016 and includes:

  • Preparing recommendations on practical application of SEA (June 2016 – December 2017)
  • Organizing SEA Training and the final awareness raising event to further increase understanding of SEA application and its benefits (December 2017)

The recommendations on SEA aim to support implementation of the Law on EIA and SEA by providing practical recommendations on how to apply the SEA procedure set out in the legislation. The working group for developing the recommendations on SEA has been established by the Ministry inviting representatives of the key planning institutions. The initial concept note was developed in August 2016, and the first meeting of the working group was organized in September 2016. The work shall continue until December 2017.

Besides national activities, representatives of Azerbaijan had an opportunity to participate in the regional events. In December 2014 five national experts took part in the in the Study Tour on Sharing Best Practices of the Czech Republic in the field of applying SEA. National experts learned about the Czech SEA system by discussing challenges and success factors.

In addition, in November 2015, five national experts attended the regional conference to share experience in drafting the SEA legislation and to take part at the SEA train-the-trainers workshop. The participants of the training are supposed to take further lead in SEA development in the country – mainly to provide training to the national stakeholders and to carry out SEAs with the minimum involvement of the international experts.

Representatives of Azerbaijan also participated at the second sub-regional workshop 'Sharing experience with introducing SEA and EIA in selected countries of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus', organized in Ukraine, 31 October - 2 November 2017.

Should you have any question, please contact Mr. Martin Smutny, Project Coordinator, Espoo Secretariat, at martin.smutny@un.org, or Ms Aysel Babayeva, the National focal point of the Espoo Convention, Senior adviser of State Expertise Department on EIA sector, Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, aysel_babasoy@yahoo.com.

The EaP GREEN programme aims to help the Government of Azerbaijan establish an integrated policy framework for the transition to a green economy through: reforming policy instruments, adopting new analytical tools, improving access to finance, supporting capacity development, and rolling out pilot projects in the public and private sectors.