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D. Policy Roles
a. Decision making units and their policy roles
Transferring environmental policy decisions and enforcement to local governments will allow local governments to play a more active role in environmental policy.
(Source: The Ohio State University, Conference: Environmental Policy in an Era of Devolution, 2001)
It is often argued that decentralization can contribute to improved governance by ensuring that decisions are made closer to those who are affected by them. It is possible that economic and environmental policies "tailored" to specific provinces or states are more effective and efficient compared with nationwide uniform policies (of course, this is not always the case). Since state or provincial authorities are closer to environmental problems and their consequences, they can provide useful inputs into policy-making and its implementation.
Sub-national units may be divided into various types:
|1. Government "administrative units"
Provincial level: At the provincial level, environmental agencies have been set up with the aim of determining critical resources, assessing current resource use, implementing national goals and coordinating the functions of sectoral agencies and local authorities.
Sub-provincial level: Sub-provincial structures can be in the form of a municipal council/commission in urban areas or village councils in rural areas. These sub-provincial institutions are directly in touch with the problem, therefore is likely to have useful insights into appropriate solutions.
2. Project/Sectoral level: While urban environmental problems are cross-sectoral in nature, most of the planning and investment work is still carried out on a sector basis (industry, water supply, sanitation, etc)
3. Environment region: (watershed, flood plain, growth zone, etc): environmental management unit divided by geographical condition
Thailand: Management Action Plan
Due to the Act any province which has its territory designated as an environmentally protected area or pollution control area or any other province which desires to enhance and conserve the environmental quality are eligible to formulate an action plan and submit it to the National Environment Board for approval. (More...)
4. Economic units: (e.g. trade zone)
|Overall possible policy weaknesses
- Inability to implement any of its policies effectively - sometimes because centralization of power at the national level
- Absence of information structure for decision making
- Lack of enforcement
- Lack of transparent system of governance and monitoring mechanisms
- Limited capability or too narrowed vision to participate effectively in national policy-making.
Counter actions to resolve problem in the area of concern
- Empowerment of local authorities through institutional and decision-making decentralization.
- Institutionalize at national and sub-national government, environmental information assessment mechanisms
- Strengthen policy enforcement.
- Develop auditing mechanism to monitor government activities at all levels. (Auditing can be done within the government itself, or externally i.e. government auditing by local communities, social groups, NGOs.
- Rationalization of policies and programmes with regard to government priorities
Sri Lanka: Environmental provincial councils and local authorities (Empowerment of local authorities through institutional and decision-making decentralization)
Under the present system of decentralized administration, a Provincial Council can enact its own environmental Act and create its own Provincial Environmental Authority and other institutional structures, with approval of Parliament. (More...)
b. Use of 'Tools' for integrated policy making
Prevailing systems for decision-making in many countries tend to separate economic, social and environmental factors at the policy, planning and management levels. This influences the actions of all groups in society, including Governments, industry and individuals, and has important implications for the efficiency and sustainability of development. An adjustment or even a fundamental reshaping of decision-making, in the light of country-specific conditions, may be necessary if environment and development is to be put at the centre of economic and political decision-making, in effect achieving a full integration of these factors. (Source: Agenda 21, Chapter 8 - Integrating Environment And Development In Decision-making)
It is important for countries to restructure their decision-making processes in a more integrated manner. A number of tools can be used to facilitate integrated policy-making approach. Two of them are introduced below.
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
"SEA is a systematic process for evaluating the environmental consequences of proposed policy, plan or programme initiatives in order to ensure they are fully included and appropriately addressed at the earliest appropriate stage of decision-making on par with economic and social considerations". (Source: Sadler and Verheem (1996))
The SEA may not necessarily have to be conducted at the sub-national/local level. But it can assist local governments in communicating their concerns on social, environmental and economic considerations to the national government. The benefit is that the national government would have a better understanding and idea of the opportunities and limitations which national policies can put effect on the local level conditions.
Hence, the SEA is a tool that helps bring national and local governments together and reinsures that local environmental and economic aspects are being integrated into the national level policies.
Benefits and Constraints of SEA
- Promote integrated decision-making
- Facilitate design of sustainable policies and plans
- Provide consideration for larger range of alternatives
- Take account of cumulative effects
- Enhance institutional efficiency
- Strengthen and streamline project EA
- Provide mechanism for public engagement in discussions
|For SEA to function effectively
- a level of institutional maturity is necessary
- appropriate skills are needed, within government
- a need for adequate human and financial capacity
See more tools introduced in other modules..
Source: Adapted from Dalal-Clayton and Sadler (1995) and Sadler and Baxter (1997)
Bangladesh: Strategic flood control and water management
In order to formulate flood management and control policies, a thorough understanding of flood problems and how it can be solved is required. This can be done through data collection and analysis along with flood impact assessment. (More...)
Cost benefit analysis;
Qualitative, quantitative and checklist approaches; Multi-criteria analysis;
Sectoral Environmental Analysis; (Module V)
of Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (Module VII)
Impact Assessment (Module VIII)