Resource Manual to Support Application of the Protocol on SEA
A1. Brief introduction to SEA
A3. Determining whether plans and programmes
require SEA under the Protocol
Chapter as printable file
Chpater A2: Integration of SEA into plan and programme making
The Protocol refers throughout to ‘the environment, including health’. To avoid repetition, the Manual refers only to ‘the environment’, but this should always be understood to include health. For more information on health issues, please see [Annex] [Chapter] [XX].
1. This Chapter looks at how the SEA of a plan or programme may be integrated into, or otherwise linked to, the plan- or programme-making process.
2. This Chapter therefore examines key issues for the application of the Protocol within the specific plan- or programme-making context. It comprises three parts:
- Section A2.2 provides a general description of a typical plan- or programme-making process. It then turns to the key elements of SEA in the Protocol, including an examination of why integration of SEA into plan and programme making is needed for the effective application of the Protocol. (The benefits of integration are discussed further in Chapter A6 on policies and legislation.) The section ends by highlighting the logical links between plan- or programme-making processes and SEA. These links are seen as opportunities for coordinating the two processes and, ultimately, for integration of SEA into plan and programme making.
- Section A2.3 looks at how these links may be identified in a practical, rather than a theoretical, plan- or programme-making process. It also looks at some practical reasons for seeking to integrate SEA into plan or programme making.
- Finally, section A2.4 discusses three options for integration: no integration, partial integration and full integration.
A2.2 PLAN AND PROGRAMME MAKING, SEA AND THE LINKS BETWEEN THEM
3. This section looks first at the usual tasks in plan and programme making, then at the key elements of the SEA of plans and programmes. The section concludes by examining the logical links between the plan- and programme-making tasks, on the one hand, and the SEA elements, on the other. Section A2.3 and section A2.4 examine these links further, looking at how the SEA may be integrated into plan and programme making.
A2.2.1 Usual tasks of plan and programme making
4. Plan and programme making is usually an iterative process involving the following tasks (see Figure A2.1):
- The scope of the plan or programmeis normally clarified during initiation when the expected nature of the respective plan or programme, its broad objectives and the issues to be addressed are determined
- The analysis of the context and baseline usually includes the review of current development trends that should be taken into account, constraints and opportunities for future development, and other specific issues to be addressed in the plan or programme
- The development and comparison of alternatives of the plan or programme often takes place through consideration of optional objectives of the plan or programme, optional priorities proposed in the plan or programme, options for activities proposed to implement these objectives or options for implementation arrangements (i.e. criteria for support to eligible actions, terms of reference for subsequent assessments, etc.)
- Documentation , which may include defining the roles and responsibilities for implementation of the plan or programme and designing monitoring arrangements
- Consultation with relevant authorities and the public
- The draft plan or programme is then finalized for decision-making
5. These tasks are only illustrative and may not occur as distinct steps. Indeed they may be merged or further split based on the logic of the specific plan- or programme-making process and its formal procedural stages. The specific logic, tasks and formal stages in the plan- or programme-making process can be determined through an analysis of the plan- or programme-making process, as outlined in subsection A2.3.1 below.
Figure A2.1: Usual tasks in plan and programme making
A2.2.2 Elements in the SEA of plans and programmes
6. The Protocol sets out a process for carrying out the SEA of plans and programmes in its articles 6 to 12:
- Scoping to determine the content of the environmental report (art. 6)
- Environmental report (art. 7)
- Public participation (art. 8)
- Consultation with environmental and health authorities (art. 9)
- Transboundary consultations (art. 10)
- Decision on the adoption of the plan or programme (art. 11)
- Monitoring of effects (art. 12)
7. Though the description in this Manual is sometimes in terms of a process, in practical terms the above will be elements integrated within a plan- or programme-making process (as described later in this Chapter), rather than a separate, parallel process.
8. This integration is necessary if SEA is to be a proactive instrument that influences the development of the plan or programme, as required by the Protocol:
- The preamble of the Protocol declares that ‘strategic environmental assessment should have an important role in the preparation and adoption of plans, programmes, and, to the extent appropriate, policies and legislation …’.
- Article 1 states that the objective of the Protocol is ‘to provide for a high level of protection of the environment, including health, by … ensuring that environmental, including health, considerations are thoroughly taken into account in the development of plans and programmes; …’
- Article 2.6 defines SEA as a process that stretches beyond evaluation of the likely environmental effects to include the ‘taking into account of the environmental report and the results of the public participation and consultations in a plan or programme’.
- Article 11 requires each Party to ensure that, when a plan or programme is adopted, due account is taken of the conclusions of the environmental report. However, the term ‘conclusions of the environmental report’ is not defined. The environmental report is likely to include a number of conclusions, for example: on the environmental baseline relevant to the plan or programme; on the environmental objectives in the plan or programme; on measures to prevent, reduce or mitigate negative effects; on reasons for selecting alternatives of the plan or programme; and on monitoring. It is difficult to see how all these various conclusions can be taken into account in a single decision at the end of the plan- or programme-making process, that is in the formal decision-making that concludes the development of the plan or programme. Therefore, it is suggested that the various conclusions of the environmental report be considered during the development of the plan or programme, as and when they become available, as well as due account being taken when adopting the plan or programme. The provisions of the SEA Directive are clearer in this respect, as its Article 8 requires that the environmental report and the results of consultations must be taken into account ‘during the preparation of the plan or programme and before its adoption or submission to the legislative procedure’.
9. The elements in the SEA are summarized in Table A2.1 [below] and illustrated in Figure A2.2 that follows. These elements are described in greater detail in Chapter A4, which looks at the SEA of plans and programmes. This Chapter examines how these elements may be integrated into plan and programme making.
|Table A2.1: SEA elements
click on arrow to see table
Elements in the SEA of plans and programmes
A2.2.3 Logical links between plan and programme making and the requirements of the Protocol
10. The simplified and idealized scheme below (Figure A2.3) shows potential logical links between SEA and tasks that are often performed within the plan- or programme-making process. However, this scheme is only illustrative since many plan- and programme-making processes do not employ such a clear sequence of tasks – indeed they may skip some tasks or may include additional tasks not included in this scheme. In addition, the scheme does not present consultations and public participation since these may occur as an integral part of the plan or programme formulation or may be carried out as distinct procedural stages within the SEA process.
11. Even though the drawing up of a plan or programme and the SEA naturally differ in purpose – i.e. the purpose of the plan- or programme-making is to develop the plan or programme whereas the aim of the SEA is to analyze the plan or programme and recommend its improvement – both processes often employ similar analytical thinking. In essence, both the development of the plan or programme and the carrying out of the SEA should:
- Determine the key issues that should be considered during plan- or programme-making
- Analyze the context of the plan or programme and likely future trends if the plan or programme is not implemented
- Propose optimal alternatives
- Propose optimal monitoring and management systems
- Inform the relevant authorities, the public and decision-makers about the plan or programme and its likely impacts
Figure A2.3: Logical links between plan- and programme-making tasks and SEA elements
12. Table A2.2 [below] outlines the main logical links that may exist between plan or programme making and undertaking SEA.
13. Plan- and programme-making and assessment systems have evolved differently in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. An examination of the relationship between SEA according to the Protocol, on the one hand, and plan- and programme-making and assessment systems in that subregion, on the other, is presented in a publication by UNDP, the REC and UNECE. (The plan- and programme-making systems in Western Europe are also highly diverse.)
14. Section A2.2 looks at theoretical situations. This section turns to practical plan- and programme-making processes, and to some practical reasons for seeking to integrate SEA into plan or programme making.
A2.3.1 Determining effective links between SEA and plan and programme making
Review of the plan- or programme-making process
15. As pointed out in the section A2.2, each plan- or programme-making process is different – some of these processes operate on the basis of clearly defined procedures (e.g. spatial planning, river-basin management, coastal zone management), but other plan- and programme-making processes (e.g. waste management, energy planning) may operate on the basis of less structured approaches.
16. Optimal points for entry of SEA into plan- and programme-making processes cannot be effectively established, therefore, without detailed knowledge of the very specific plan- and programme-making systems within which SEA needs to operate. This knowledge can be gained through review of the plan- or programme-making process, which may be done on two levels:
- The review of procedures (e.g. procedural and methodological requirements for a specific plan- or programme-making discipline) can provide useful insights on the level of specific plan- and programme-making regimes. This may be useful for design of, for example, specific SEA guidelines for a particular plan- or programme-making procedure.
- The review of a process used to draw up a specific plan or programme (e.g. a forestry plan) can provide useful insights for the design of a specific SEA approach in drawing up a range of other plans and programmes.
Suggested focus of the review
17. In order to determine the entry points for SEA into a specific plan- or programme-making process, it may be useful to review:
- The formal or informal plan- or programme-making logic and the sequence of the key plan- or programme-making tasks
- Any environmental analyses that are normally performed within the specific plan- or programme-making process
- Consultation with environmental and health authorities within the plan or programme making
- Access to information and any provisions for public participation during the plan or programme making
18. Such a review may offer useful insights for the design of customized SEA processes that build effectively on the existing plan- or programme-making tasks rather than replacing or duplicating them.
A2.3.2 Practical reasons for integrating SEA into plan and programme making
19. Integration of SEA into the development of plans and programmes is based on practical reasons, which extend beyond the legal obligations for early and effective use of SEA in the plan or programme making described in Chapter A4.
20. The complexity of decision-making calls for the use of effective instruments that assist rather than complicate the development of plans and programmes. Generally speaking, SEA processes will be regarded as effective and efficient if they:
- Enable effective consideration of environmental issues in the development of plans and programmes. The capacity of SEA to facilitate the integration of environmental issues into plan or programme making largely depends of the timelines and form of SEA inputs into the plan or programme making. SEAs that provide early and operative inputs in the relevant stages of the plan or programme making are naturally going to be more efficient than ex-post  or separate assessments.
- Assist in the identification of conflicting views and interests and thus increase the credibility of decision-making. This tends to facilitate rational debate and problem solving, as well as building trust between stakeholders.
- Do not unnecessarily prolong plan or programme making. Application of the Protocol requirements poses certain time demands, which can be minimized by careful organization of the SEA during the plan- or programme-making process.
- Are not unreasonably costly. The preparation of environmental reports and consultations with authorities and with the public defined by the Protocol will incur additional costs. Additional costs may be limited if SEA is carried out in conjunction with the plan or programme making and builds on data gathering, analyses and consultation that may already occur within the plan- or programme-making process.
21. The above overview indicates how important it is to coordinate SEA properly with the development of the plan or programme. The goal is to ensure that SEA provides early and effective inputs into plan or programme making and to ensure that environmental considerations are thoroughly taken into account in the development of plans and programmes (see art. 1(a) of the Protocol).
22. In reality, SEA practitioners may be confronted with numerous challenges in achieving effective coordination, and ultimately integration, of SEA and plan or programme making.
A2.3.3 Issues for consideration
23. The proper use of logical links between plan- or programme-making tasks, on the one hand, and SEA tasks, on the other, can help to achieve one of the objectives of the Protocol: ‘to ensure that environmental, including health, considerations are thoroughly taken into account in the development of plans and programmes’ (art. 1(a)).
24. Apparent logical links between the development of the plan or programme and SEA will only be realized if practical links occur on the following levels:
- Development of the plan or programme and the preparation of the environmental report
- Consultation with the authorities
- Public participation
25. Links between the development of the plan or programme and the preparation of the environmental report may result practically in:
- Joint use of data
- Joint inputs into the development of relevant alternatives
- Addressing plan- and programme-making and environmental issues during comparisons of alternatives, in modelling (if any), etc.
26. Links in consultation with the authorities may result practically in:
- Joint consultative processes for public authorities
- Joint evaluation of comments obtained, etc.
27. Links in public participation may result practically in:
- A single system to facilitate public access to documentation
- A single system for consultations with the public
- A single system for the evaluation of comments obtained, etc.
A2.4 OPTIONS FOR APPLYING THE PROTOCOL DURING PLAN AND PROGRAMME MAKING
28. This section outlines some possible situations that may occur in the practical undertaking of SEA during the development of plans and programmes. It is understood that, in reality, there may be options that combine different elements of these extreme situations. The overview below is thus illustrative – its purpose is to outline the strengths and weaknesses of each option and its contribution to meeting obligations under the Protocol.
A2.4.1 Problematic application: SEA that is ex-post and separated from the plan or programme making
29. It sometimes occurs that SEA is ex-post and separated from the plan or programme making; this will occur if SEA begins only after formulation of the draft plan or programme (see Figure A2.4). This situation might be caused by several factors:
- Case-by-case determination of whether SEA is required for a given plan or programme requires a too-detailed description of the proposed plan or programme. Very detailed demands for the description of the nature of the proposed plan or programme for determining the significance of its likely environmental effects may lead the responsible authority to submit only an advanced (or completed) draft of the plan or programme for case-by-case determination of whether SEA is required. In practice, the determination of likely significant effects of the plan or programme should be possible during its initiation, which normally defines the nature of the plan or programme and its broad objectives.
- Responsible authorities or developers of the plan or programme do not wish to undertake SEA early, because they may be unaware of the numerous benefits of early application of SEA. In practice, there may be political reasons for this or a simple lack of appreciation of the value of SEA. However, such instances tend to be very limited and may be prevented by awareness raising about the benefits of SEA in preventing conflicts and in cost and time savings.
- Persons in charge of SEA do not wish or are not ready to assess incomplete plans and programmes. This situation may occur in countries or institutions with limited practice in SEA. Cases have been observed of persons in charge of SEA intentionally postponing beginning SEA with the argument that it is impossible to assess impacts of non-existent or vaguely defined proposals. This may be caused by attempts to apply rigidly approaches used in project-level EIA, without their necessary adjustment to the scale of issues that are normally addressed in a plan or programme and to the nature of the plan- or programme-making process.
30. Such SEA may be perceived as a final quality check that aims to provide information to the decision-making on the draft plan or programme.
Figure A2.4: SEA that is ex-post and separated from the plan or programme making: overall approach
31. However, SEA separated from the plan- or programme-making process has several widely perceived weaknesses:
- Separated and ex-post SEA does not influence the development of the plan or programme. Such SEA examines only the end product of plan or programme making and does not influence important choices that are made in plan or programme making. The responsible authority is less likely to adopt any of the SEA recommendations as the plan or programme making may be more advanced. Such SEA will likely produce the least environmental benefit.
- SEA that starts after completion of the draft plan or programme may duplicate effort in the development of alternatives, their analyses and comparison.
- The separation of consultations within SEA from consultations within the plan- or programme-making process may lead to duplication in the commenting process and may also confuse participating authorities and the public.
- Such SEA usually significantly delays the plan- or programme-making process. Determination of whether SEA is needed, scoping the assessment, preparing the environmental report, carrying out consultations with authorities and public participation may also require considerable time, which may prolong the plan- or programme-making process.
- Lastly – and most importantly – this approach may conflict with several provisions of the Protocol (see preamble, objective and definition of SEA) and there is a risk that it will not provide SEA in accordance with the Protocol and the SEA Directive.
A2.4.2 SEA partially integrated into plan or programme making
32. SEA partially integrated into plan or programme making (see Figure A2.5) is based on the assumption that initiation of the specific plan or programme normally provides sufficient basis for the determination of whether SEA is needed and for scoping.
Figure A2.5: SEA partially integrated into plan or programme making: overall approach
33. Initiation of the plan or programme usually clarifies legal, administrative or regulatory requirements for the development of the plan or programme and outlines its nature and the intended focus of its objectives. This information should normally provide a sufficient basis for the determination of whether SEA is required for the given plan or programme and for scoping of the key issues that should be analyzed within the SEA. Determination of whether SEA is required and early scoping during initiation of the plan or programme making create favourable conditions for undertaking SEA during the plan or programme making.
34. SEA partially integrated into plan or programme making runs in parallel to the development of the plan or programme. The SEA team and the plan- or programme-making team work separately while maintaining close links in order to ensure due account of the SEA in the plan or programme making.
35. This approach utilizes logical links between the development of plans and programmes and SEA and enables the SEA team to:
- Address the same issues at the same time as the plan- or programme-making team
- Generate, analyze and compare alternative viewpoints and options
- Create favourable conditions for taking due account of SEA at each step of the plan or programme making
36. Draft versions of the plan or programme and of the environmental report can also be made available for comments by the authorities and by the public (concerned) through a single commenting or review system that combines requirements for consultation within the plan- or programme-making process and within SEA.
37. The SEA team may also explain within the final environmental report how the conclusions of the SEA were reflected in the draft plan or programme and may indicate any outstanding issues, thus helping authorities to meet their obligations under article 11.2: Parties are required to provide the public, the relevant environmental authorities and any consulted Parties ‘with a statement summarizing how the environmental, including health, considerations have been integrated into it, how the comments received in accordance with articles 8 to 10 have been taken into account and the reasons for adopting it in the light of the reasonable alternatives considered’. Such an overview may also be helpful in the review of the environmental report and of the draft plan or programme by the authorities and the public.
38. Partial integration of SEA into plan or programme making results in several benefits:
- Significantly reduces delays, since SEA is undertaken in parallel with the development of the plan or programme.
- Saves resources required to undertake SEA since the SEA team is able to participate in data gathering and to contribute to analyses that are normally performed within the plan- or programme-making process. (See section A1.3 for a more detailed discussion of the costs and benefits of SEA.)
- Frequent consultations between the SEA team and the plan- or programme-making team facilitate early consideration of different viewpoints and minimize the risk of late surprises and conflicts. This debate helps not only the plan- or programme-making team (which may consider inputs from the SEA) but also the SEA team (which can get immediate feedback on its proposals).
- Consultations between teams that prepare the plan or programme and the SEA may, as deemed appropriate, also extend to relevant environmental and health authorities and to the public (concerned). Such consultations, once organized, enable periodic scoping and review of key issues that are relevant for each respective stage of the plan- or programme-making process. Such consultations may also become more effective in gathering and addressing inputs from relevant authorities and the public than initial scoping consultations, or than concluding reviews of the draft plan or programme and of the environmental report at the end of the plan- or programme-making process.
- Lastly – and most importantly – this application supports several provisions of the Protocol (see preamble, objective and definition of SEA) and may provide SEA in accordance with the Protocol and the SEA Directive.
39. At the same time, it is useful to note possible weaknesses of such an application of SEA. This approach generally increases demands on the SEA team since experts preparing the environmental report have to follow the entire plan- or programme-making process, which, in reality, may not proceed as a linear process and may not always proceed according to the original schedule but instead become quite lengthy. If the SEA team intends to provide inputs into all major stages in the drawing up the plan or programme, it needs to be ready to adapt its workplan to any changes in the plan- or programme-making process. (This may pose difficulties if SEA tasks are subcontracted to external bodies.)
A2.4.3 SEA fully integrated into plan and programme making
40. SEA that is fully integrated into plan or programme making (Figure A2.6) is based on the notion that SEA experts and plan- or programme-making experts can work together as part of one team that develops the plan or programme. This approach to plan or programme making and SEA is typically carried out through joint working groups or plan- or programme-making roundtables, which may include representatives of relevant authorities and the public concerned. Such joint work enables the free flow of information between all concerned parties (plan- or programme-making experts, SEA experts and representatives of relevant authorities and the public concerned) who receive the same information at the same time, share their knowledge and concerns, develop and analyze key options and thus jointly draw-up the draft plan or programme. The preparation of the environmental report and consultations with the relevant authorities and public concerned thus become inseparable parts of the plan- or programme-making process.
41. Interim documents that reflect outcomes of these consultations can be provided for wider public review as they become available. However, the wider public is not allowed to participate directly in the core plan- or programme-making and assessment process, because of management and logistical reasons.
42. This mode of work enables ongoing consultations and review of interim documents produced within the plan- or programme-making process. The information produced within the environmental report can be integrated fully into the respective plan or programme. The final environmental report explains how various analyses were carried out within the integrated plan or programme making and SEA and can provide supplementary information that would not otherwise have been directly included in the plan or programme.
Figure A2.6: SEA fully integrated into plan or programme making: overall approach
43. Full integration of SEA into the plan or programme making typically brings about the same benefits as partial integration of SEA into plan or programme making. This mode of work reduces delays since analyses performed within SEA become an integral part of the plan- or programme-making process. It may also reduce costs for the SEA, since the plan- or programme-making experts and SEA experts jointly gather data for and contribute their inputs to the development of the plan or programme. Their joint work allows them to share immediately their concerns and thus by definition prevents any late surprises. Lastly, it creates favourable conditions for meeting the obligations of the Protocol and the SEA Directive.
44. An additional benefit of such an approach lies in the fact that joint work by all parties in the plan- or programme-making process creates an optimal environment for cooperation, and it helps build trust between stakeholders that may normally have different attitudes and values. This may be an important factor for fostering a participatory nature of plan- or programme-making process.
45. Possible concerns with full integration of SEA into plan or programme making derive from a fear that SEA experts in the overall plan- or programme-making team may become fully co-opted in the plan- or programme-making process, or may be marginalized (have only limited influence) or may make trade-offs that will not be publicly disclosed. The rationale behind these concerns is:
- Outcomes of any collective work are normally heavily influenced by the composition of the team. This approach will work only if SEA experts and plan- or programme-making experts are willing to cooperate.
- If SEA experts, together with representatives of relevant environmental and health authorities and the public concerned, form a minor part of the entire team or working group that draws up the plan or programme, there might be a risk that their views will not be duly respected in the internal debates. This approach will function only if the teamwork is properly facilitated to ensure that the plan- or programme-making process is not dominated by any particular interest group within this integrated plan- or programme-making team.
- The last concern relates to the fact that such teamwork may result in internal agreements and trade-offs that are not transparent to outside stakeholders. SEA experts may also be expected to defend the conclusions of the entire team. In this regard, it is important to emphasize that the SEA experts are required to produce an environmental report that must outline all significant issues (impacts, proposals for consideration of alternatives, etc.) that were addressed in the SEA process. This report can be produced as a separate document or a clearly distinguishable part of the plan or programme. It should, irrespective of final internal agreements reached within integrated teams, record all significant issues and trade-offs that were discussed within the SEA.
46. While these concerns may not be relevant for well-governed and transparent plan- or programme-making processes, they may be valid for other some less developed plan- or programme-making regimes.
A2.4.4 Conclusion on integration of SEA into plan or programme making
47. There is no single best approach to conducting SEA in relation to plan or programme making. However, it appears that SEA that is ex-post and separated from plan or programme making tends to be least effective and is unlikely to provide a sufficient basis for meeting the obligations of the Protocol.
48. Partial or full integration of SEA into plan or programme making seem to offer suitable frameworks for application of the Protocol. The choice of approach depends on the specific conditions in each plan- or programme-making process. Sometimes partial integration would be more effective then full integration, on other occasions the reverse may be true.
 In this Manual, the term article X.Y (or art. X.Y) is used to reference article X, paragraph Y.
 Dusik J., Cherp A., Jurkeviciute A., Martonakova H., and N. Bonvoisin (2006), Capacity Development for Implementing the UNECE SEA Protocol in the Former Soviet Union Countries in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, UNDP, the REC and UNECE, available at http://www.unece.org/env/eia/documents/SEA_CBNA/UNDP-REC-UNECE_SEAbulletin_no.2_en.pdf .
 ‘Ex-post’ means ‘Based on or determined by actual results, rather than expectations; calculated retrospectively’. It is the opposite of ‘ex-ante’, which means ‘Based on predicted or expected results; forecast, anticipated’. Source: Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press.
A1. Brief introduction to SEA
A3. Determining whether plans and programmes
require SEA under the Protocol