Theory of Change


Formal policy of the Dutch government is that its activities in developing countries should contribute to the sustainable development of these countries. Currently, this development is often hampered by governments and private sector taking unsustainable decisions, either because they lack the right information, do not sufficiently consult with those affected or cannot be held accountable for their actions.

Final outcome

ESIA and SEA aim at removing these obstacles for sustainable development by making the processes underlying decisions better informed, more inclusive, more transparent and more accountable. This results in better quality projects, policies and plans.

Direct outcome

For this outcome to materialise ESIAs and SEAs need to be "good practice" and in many developing countries this is not yet the case. Several factors contribute:

  1. The design and execution of individual assessment processes is flawed;
  2. Stakeholders lack the capabilities to play their role in the process;
  3. Necessary enabling conditions such as sufficient funding or commitment for ESIA and SEA, are not in place.

NCEA activities intervene in each of these three components, that together make up the ‘ESIA/SEA system’ in a country, resulting in better ESIA/SEAs, more EA capacity and improved enabling conditions (the so called ‘system functions’). 


This outcome is achieved through three key NCEA products:

  1. Independent advice on scope, process design, or quality of ESIAs and SEAs;
  2. Capacity development of stakeholders in ESIAs and SEAs;
  3. Provision of knowledge products, technical guidance and learning processes to strengthen system functions. 


Output is delivered through two kinds of input: on the one hand the experts that make up the NCEAs expert groups (ad hoc contracted), on the other hand the expertise of the NCEA secretariat staff. This input has two unique features. Firstly, knowledge is always based on practice experience, never theory alone. Secondly, both experts and staff are strictly independent towards the object of input. For example, the NCEA never has a stake in the project or plan for which the ESIA/SEA is done, or a financial relationship with the stakeholders it advises, coaches or trains. Input is strictly technical assistance, never budget.