E. Roles of other (sectoral) ministries
As indicated earlier, in most countries a government agency is responsible for the environment. In some cases, this agency forms part of multifunctional Ministry, or there is Ministry devoted to the environment. In the case where the environmental agency is part of a multifunctional Ministry, policy formulation may be dominated by the key economic ministries.
Since the environment cuts across sectoral lines and interests, there is a need for inputs into policy making from other ministries and sectors in order to achieve sustainable development. When there is a single Ministry devoted to the environment, environmental issues can be isolated if there are weak links with the other sectors or ministries.
A few examples include the following:
The key issue here is that the 'national vision' needs to be articulated in some kind of formal statement of the country's development strategy. This statement could be in the form of a government policy, laws or development plan. Once the national vision is clarified to decision-makers and policy analysts, a tool or vehicle is required to integrate it with sectoral policies and strategic plans so as to achieve the national goals.
Some of the tools for integrating sectoral policies with the national vision include:
The main purpose of environmental assessment (EA) information is to assist decision-making regarding evaluation of alternative policies and programmes from an environmental perspective. The EA allows policymakers to design mitigation or management plans to eliminate, offset or minimise adverse environmental impacts of the proposed policies and programmes. Many countries have initiated EIAs as part of the planning and decision-making process.
The main issues arising from utilization of EA information relate to the availability and suitability of such information for incorporation into the decision-making process.
In spite of the establishment of government agencies responsible specifically for the environment, EA information tends not to be widely used by other government agencies for policy formulation. Some of the reasons include the following:
EA information must be undertaken on a regular basis to, among other things, provide decision makers and analysts with feedback that will then be incorporated into economic-environmental decisions. The key issue here is the extent to which such assessments are carried out and utilised and/or evaluated in decision-making.
In many countries in the region an EIA is required for any development project, whether public or private.
In many small countries such as Pacific island countries, local expertise to carry out these tasks is lacking and therefore the funding agencies have to rely on foreign consultants who are paid from the investment funds. The good news here is that, despite the lack of expertise, an EIA 'culture' is starting to develop in project planning and considering environmental impacts of development is now seen as the norm.
Usually the setting of standards and the formulation of guidelines are the responsibility of the Environment Ministry, if one exists. The standards and guidelines are the basis for monitoring and enforcement activities. Given the cross-sectoral nature of environmental issues, there is need for inputs from other line ministries in setting standards and formulating guidelines. The key issue here pertains to the extent to which such input is sought and incorporated into the decision-making process.
In Papua New Guinea, the Department of Mining and Petroleum (DMP) takes the lead role in setting standards ... (More)
Once standards and guidelines have been established they must be monitored and enforced. In countries where there is an Environment Ministry, this ministry takes the lead role in monitoring and enforcement. An important issue is whether one ministry (e.g. the Environment ministry) should have responsibility for all monitoring and enforcement. In view of the limited resources available to most government agencies, it may be the case that monitoring and enforcement is more effectively carried out by the Environment ministry. However, there is the need for feedback to flow between the environmental agency and the other line ministries. Can cause conflicts, misunderstandings etc.
In countries with decentralised systems of governments, there has been a tendency to devolve these responsibilities to lower levels of government.
Several countries have established environmental cells in other ministries as a way of trying to get these ministries to pay more attention to environmental issues. The key issue here is whether such structures are necessary in efforts to integrate environmental concerns into economic decision-making or whether it is merely a dissipation of scarce resources.
We briefly discuss below the advantages and disadvantages of having environmental cells or units in line ministries.
Environmental units embedded in ministries tend to become isolated from the rest of the work of the ministry and are not effective in their assigned roles. It would appear preferable to add environmental dimensions to the work of the line staff. i.e., to really mainstream environment.
Copyright 1999- © United Nations, All rights reserved.