Under a major new international environmental treaty countries will assess
the environmental consequences of their official draft plans, programmes,
policies and legislation. Negotiators from Europe, North America and Central
Asia have worked for two years to finalize the Protocol on Strategic Environmental
Assessment (SEA) under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission
for Europe (UNECE).
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 will not only have 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 practice of the UNECE Convention
on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context and the UNECE
Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making
and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters.
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.
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
The Protocol is expected to be formally adopted and signed at the forthcoming
Ministerial ‘Environment for Europe’ Conference’ in Kiev, Ukraine, on 21-23
May 2003. Although negotiated under UNECE, the Protocol will be open to all
members of the United Nations, which means it will have a worldwide effect
when it comes into force.
For more information, please contact:
Environment and Human Settlements Division
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
Palais des Nations, Office 407
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Phone: +41 (0) 22 917 24 48
Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 01 07 or 917 06 13
Web site: http://www.unece.org/env/eia/