United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
A summary of the Protocol's provisions
The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in a Transboundary Context has been supplemented by a Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
- The Protocol is an initiative of the Second meeting of the Parties to the Convention, which in February 2001 created an Ad hoc Working Group to develop the Protocol.
- That group completed its work in January 2003 with finalization of the draft Protocol text.
- The Protocol was adopted and be opened for signature at the Ministerial ‘Environment for Europe’ Conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 21 May 2003.
- It entered into force on 11 July 2010.
- Although negotiated under UNECE, the Protocol is open to all UN members.
What it requires:
- The Protocol requires its Parties to evaluate the environmental consequences of their official draft plans and programmes.
- The Protocol also addresses policies and legislation, though the application of SEA to these is not mandatory.
- SEA is undertaken much earlier in the decision-making process than EIA, and it is therefore seen as a key tool for sustainable development.
- SEA allows the identification and prevention of possible environmental impact right from the start in decision-making — developing a more sustainable transport policy rather than just minimizing the environmental impact of building a road, for example — and it enables environmental objectives to be considered on a par with socio-economic ones, bringing sustainable development closer.
- The Protocol provides for extensive public participation in government decision-making in numerous development sectors, from land-use planning to transport and from agriculture to industry, covering everything from oil refineries to ski-lifts.
- The public not only has the right to know about plans and programmes, but also the right to comment, have their comments taken into account, and be told of the final decision and why it was taken.
- The participation of the public in strategic decision-making builds on the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (the Espoo Convention) and the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention).
- Besides considering the typical environmental effects of plans and programmes, the Protocol places a special emphasis on the consideration of human health, going beyond existing legislation in the region.
- This reflects the involvement of the World Health Organization in the negotiations as well as the political commitments made at the 1999 London Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health.