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Conclusions and Recommendations
(the Regional Expert Group Meeting on Integrating Environmental Considerations into Economic Policy Making Processes. Bangkok, 20-24 July 1998)
The Group of Experts meeting at the regional level, after a series of three subregional expert group meetings on the same topic, adopted unanimously the following set of conclusions and recommendations.
- The need and benefits of integrating environmental considerations into economic policy making processes:
- Both economic development and protection of the environment are critical for sustainable development. The environment is not an isolated concern but cuts across all sectors. Also economic policies impact at multiple levels and across sectors. Therefore there is a strong need to merge/integrate environmental concerns into economic decision making processes in order to provide a more rational basis for decisions.
- Such integration facilitates a holistic view on critical issues. It enables analysis of complementary and conflicting issues across a number of sectors, providing, in the process, for a better understanding by all parties. It can help prevent the cross-sectoral impacts of policies and programmes which are detrimental to the environment.
- Integration enlarges the choices for policy makers by bringing into the matrix of decision making a wider mix of likely scenarios. Integration is a process/pathway towards meeting the objectives of both economic development and environmental protection.
- A conceptual approach to integration
- The institutional arrangements and modalities for environmental assessment need to be developed and integrated. There is a need for a clear-cut national vision to be enunciated. For this, policy makers have to recognize and be aware of the need for a holistic approach to sustainable development and the holistic approach has to replace horizontal segmentation. Subnational and local level decision making processes also need to be integrated with the national process. To assist with the above, there is a need to create a high level advisory body involving all parts of the society; government, private sector, civil society, NGOs, etc. and there is a need for a high-level government body to plan and devise the required policy measures.
- To integrate environmental considerations into economic policy decisions, which basically induce producers and consumers to behave in a certain manner, implies arriving at decisions that affect the price structure, the rules and regulations and the legal and administrative structure governing an economy. Therefore those making the policy decisions in an integrated manner need to be able to influence these three dimensions.
- Implementing integration
- A strategic management approach is called for which provides for identification of the problems (both environmental and economic) with prioritisation; identification and quantification of bio-physical, social and economic indicators and their translation into forms which are useable by decision makers; identification of the jurisdictional domains of different institutions connected to the problem and to the indicators; an identification and delineation of policy options (command and control, market-based instruments, EIA, etc.); identification of the likely impacts of the policies; a selection of options; and an integration of the policies with the appropriate institutions based on the options selected.
- Policy makers need to be equipped with the necessary tools and instruments to operationalize this approach. They must know how to use these tools; they must also be convinced of the merits of the instruments in addressing the problems identified, and be able to advocate their use in the economic decision making debates, and justify them within their budgetary parameters.
- Policy analysts providing technical support to decision makers need to be properly equipped. They must be able to relate the results of environmental assessments to policy issues and vice versa. They must be able to articulate the environmental costs and benefits of a policy decision.
- There is also a need for collection and dissemination of a great deal of environment-related information in the clearest, most transparent, usable forms possible.
- Mechanisms for co-ordination within the government is also required for policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and adaptation. This can take various forms including have environment cells/units in all ministries, using inter-ministerial committees, having advisory groups of environmental specialists, etc.
- Providing assistance to governments on the integration process
- In recognition of the efforts of many governments to address the need to integrate environmental concerns into economic policy decisions and in recognition of the fact that there is no one unique model or approach, the Group of Experts recommends the development of material to facilitate the exchange of positive experiences on a number of related topics. There is a growing body of such good practices available, including from the case studies and synthesis reports prepared for the ESCAP project on Integrating environmental considerations into economic policy making processes, the three subregional expert group meeting discussions, the discussions at this expert group meeting (see Annex VI for a listing of these), ESCAP State of Environment Reports, and from various other organisations including ADB, APCEL, IUCN, MRC, SACEP, SPREP, UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank. All of these materials need to be made available in an easily accessible and organised format.
- The Group of Experts welcomes the contribution of other UN and related organisations, particularly APCEL, IUCN, MRC, SACEP, SPREP and UNEP, to the current project and notes that they have expressed their interest in co-operating in further stages with ESCAP. It recommends that ESCAP pursue this co-operation with these and any other interested governmental, intergovernmental or non-governmental organisation including for provision of material, the development of modules, validation of the modules and dissemination of the material.
- The Group of Experts recommends that the primary audience for this material be policy makers in both the executive and legislative branches of government at national and subnational levels as well as policy and programme analysts. Whereas emphasis should be placed on such persons in the planning, finance and environment ministries, the material should also be made available to those in other sectoral ministries at all levels and be accessible by NGOs, the private sector, the civil society, etc. Access to a well organised and presented package of success cases should provide these persons with increased awareness, the advantages of new approaches and more understanding of what is possible and how it can be done.
- The Group of Experts recommends that the material collected should be organised into modules along the lines of the structure given in Annex II. This is a logical structure flowing from the concept of integration given in B above. The success cases to be included should be evaluated against the criteria outlined in Annex III. Each module should present the identified problem, the alternative strategies used to solve it, the actions taken and the review/feedback to these.
- The Group of Experts recommends that the exchange of experience modules be developed through the format of a website on the internet and be also made available on CD-ROM and diskettes, and supplemented by hard copy and video as required. Using a website, they can be developed in an iterative and interactive mode, assembling first the material outlined above and then soliciting contributions, comments, feedback from those accessing the site. The Group suggests that its members could form the core of an initial user(news) group. It also recommends that links be established with other environment-related websites and with organisations/networks having material which can be cross- referenced. To facilitate use in countries where internet use is limited or expensive, the website could be available on CD-ROM. The Group recognises that such an approach would require the services of a webmaster, but suggests that after an initial phase, if it is successful, the site would become at least partially self-supporting. The concept of using a website based approach would contribute to the development of a lasting, dynamic and self-regenerating product and give visibility to ESCAP's contribution in this field.