Executive summary NCEA /IUCN presentation IGG days
How to enhance inclusiveness in Dutch interventions?
Any investment or spatial intervention creates impact on people and may create vulnerable groups. On the other hand, it can also be an opportunity for inclusiveness. Chances of successful inclusiveness are enhanced if the receiving communities feel that responsibility themselves: ownership. Practice shows that Dutch fundings can build-in environmental and social assessment as a tool that can stimulate such ownership and such dialogue. In a recent session during the IGG Terugkomdagen, this was illustrated with examples from Ethiopia, Mali, and Benin, with different focus (concrete investments, strategic planning, gender or broader inclusiveness) and different levels of success (see boxes 1-3).
Why Environmental Assessment?
There are many ways to include all concerned groups in a project design or strategic planning process. The governance of planning, however, is usually far from inclusive. In an ideal situation, someone who has a clear mandate coordinates a cocreation by all stakeholders, and this authority does it transparently, so that any stakeholder unintentionally forgotten by authority can join, and so that the democratic representation of the people (e.g. city council, parliament) can intervene at any moment. However, this ideal usually is far from reality, and even far from realistic. Authorities are often part of a “political economy” having no interest in such ideals.
Public planning procedures, especially when combined with environmental assessment, might oblige authorities to open up to other stakeholders at least a bit. But if the general context is not favourable, such procedures are nothing more than just another hoop to jump through, and a possible source of corruption. On the other hand, contexts may vary in time, space and sector. The political economy doesn’t always dominate. Individuals on crucial positions may be willing to lead change. If governance is weak, this may leave room for innovative planning processes. In such more favourable contexts, environmental assessment (ESIA for projects and SEA for plans) may be a straw to grasp to, as it exists as a technocratic procedure in virtually each country. If there is a window, and with the right external support, environmental assessment can make planning more inclusive as it gives a legal base to the achieved result. In the Sourou case, for example, this legal base enabled the first ever successfully decentralized planning process in Mali.
Enabling contexts are hard to predict. If there are no obvious reasons to suspect an impossible context, proposed interventions can be taken as an opportunity to at least try to make the process more inclusive by means of ESIA or SEA. Sometimes, it is possible to influence the context.
Yes, IGG is working on enhancing inclusiveness in its interventions. The examples shown indeed apply environmental assessment, providing opportunities to enhance inclusiveness. The key observation is that while in most, if not all, interventions, (gender) inclusiveness is an issue, it is easily overlooked. This can be overcome by investing in ownership and dialogue. Tools (content and process) exist to facilitate this. Most countries have legal requirements for ESIA and SEA, tools with a strong link to decision making and in which transparency, accountability and participation are strongly embedded.
DGIS funds the NCEA to provide independent advice and technical support on ESIA and SEA in focus countries and regions. If the Netherlands Embassy or a government partner is interested to make use of the opportunity to use environmental assessment to enhance inclusiveness in interventions, contact us to discuss possibilities for support.