National level inter-ministerial coordination committees: environment and economic and their links.
Constraints of coordinating the integration of environmental considerations into economic decision-making processes
Lack of formal mechanisms for interaction among government agencies and between public and private sector
In many countries in the region, there is little or no formal mechanisms for encouraging interaction with and participation by the private sector, NGOs and the general public in the process of integrating environmental considerations into economic decision making. Successful implementation of environmental objectives requires the support of the public, NGOs, academics, as well as the commercial and industrial sectors. Some countries are in the process of introducing new environmental legislation which allows for public inputs into and participation on environmental issues.
For example, Tonga's proposed Environmental Assessment Planning Bill empowers the Minster of the Environment to "generally advise Cabinet on all aspects of environmental administration, including ways of ensuring that appropriate provision is made for public participation in environmental assessment processes in order to assist decision-making".
Lack of legislative authority for inter-agency coordination committees
In most countries in the region, inter-agency coordination committees or councils are constrained in their coordination of policy formulation and implementation activities due to the fact that they tend to be advisory in nature. They often lack the legal and administrative authority to oversee the functions and responsibilities of the line ministries. This has resulted in a situation where every department literally does its own thing and does not coordinate activities with other departments.
Gaps and duplication in environmental coverage
Gaps and duplication in environmental coverage occur when there are poorly defined lines of authority, jurisdictional boundaries and coordination tasks among government agencies responsible for the environment. The duplication of effort and gaps in coverage result in wastage of scarce resources. There are also three possible adverse effects: (a) loss of public confidence in the agencies concerned; (b) poor public accountability, as citizens are unable to voice their concern about the quality and accessibility of services; and (c) wrong or conflicting signals could be sent to the public about environmental issues
Excessive competition between agencies with environmental responsibilities may arise when jurisdictional boundaries are poorly defined. This problem is quite common because environmental problems are complex and cut across several sectors. Excessive competition between agencies impedes the efficient implementation of sustainable development policies.
An example of excessive competition between two agencies can be found in Nigeria. There are two agencies responsible for the environment: one is under the Ministry of Works and Housing and the other is in the Office of the Presidency. One agency is responsible for "environmental" issues, whereas the other is responsible for "conservation" issues. Potential areas of dispute arise in the reporting and monitoring of natural resources, water resources and coastal zone management, and in the competition for grants for environmental activities.
Inadequate skills and personnel
Inadequate skills and personnel are major constraints in the integration of environmental considerations into economic decision-making processes. This particular problem is related to the fact that inter-agency coordination committees or councils tend to receive limited funds from the national budget. As such, they are unable to recruit, motivate and retain capable staff. For example, in 1998, the budget allocated to the Department of the Environment in Fiji was $774,000, which was a mere 0.10 percent of the 1998 budget. In some countries, the problem has deteriorated as a result of the move towards reducing the size of the public sector.
Lack of feedback on monitoring and enforcement activities
The monitoring and enforcement activities are closely linked. Monitoring provides the information for necessary for enforcement and for evaluating the progress of sustainable development plans and strategies. However, due to lack of resources, data on monitoring and enforcement are often not made available to the decision makers. The lack of information, in turn, prevents them from making the necessary adjustments in their environmental/economic policies.