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Kazakhstan discusses application of strategic environmental assessment

Kazakhstan is assessing the prospects for developing a strategic environmental assessment system. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) helps to evaluate the likely environmental (including health) and social consequences related to implementing strategic decisions (national plans and programs in various economic sectors prepared by governmental authorities at the national, regional or local levels).

Experts on the environment and on environmental assessment, representatives from international organizations, industry associations and non-governmental organizations discussed this important issue at a dedicated seminar on 14 November.

"Introduction of a national SEA system is a key element of Kazakhstan's transition to a green economy", - said Deputy Director of the Department of International Cooperation and European Integration of the Kazakh Ministry of Energy Bekbergen Kerey, when opening the seminar. "In Kazakhstan, SEA can be applied to plans and programs in areas such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry including mining, transport, regional development, waste management, water management, telecommunications, tourism, urban and rural areas development, land use,"- said Kerey.

Internationally, SEA is implemented according to the UNECE Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment, which was signed in 2003 and entered into force in 2010. The Protocol requires the Parties to integrate environmental assessment into their plans and programmes at the earliest stages – so helping to lay the groundwork for sustainable development. The Protocol also provides for extensive public participation in the governmental decision-making. By applying SEA, the country are able to ensure a high level of environmental protection, avoid costly mistakes, improve the quality of plans and programs for strategic development, improve the efficiency of decision-making, promote cross-border cooperation etc.

"Current legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan is based on the principles of green economy as reflected in the corresponding Concept, approved at the highest political level in 2013. SEA is one of the most important mechanisms for the greening of the economy. Setting up a legal and institutional framework for the national SEA systems as well as developing national SEA practice will contribute to achieving the goals of sustainable development of the country "- said the international legal UNECE expert Elena Laevskaya.

Discussions on application of SEA in Kazakhstan are carried out in the framework of the joint EU/UNDP/UNECE Project "Supporting Kazakhstan's transition to a green economy model." At the first stage of the project a review existing national legislation on planning, environmental protection and other relevant issues will be implemented. Review recommendations will discuss possibilities and ways to implement SEA principles and procedures in the country. In February 2017 a draft review will be presented for discussion to all stakeholders. Further, provided there is political will, UNECE legal experts will assist Kazakhstan in developing a draft legal act on SEA or amending the existing legal framework to support application of SEA in full compliance with the provisions of the UNECE SEA Protocol and other international standards.