Making informed decisions for a healthy and resilient Pacific was at the heart of a virtual event held in April. A webinar hosted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) - through the Pacific Network for Environmental Assessment (PNEA) aimed to equip our Pacific Islands with the tools to make the best decisions possible.
Known as a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), this has emerged as a critical way forward to help evaluate the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of proposed policies, plans, and programs.
The SEA process involves the systematic identification and assessment of the environmental impacts of proposed actions, to integrate these findings into decision-making processes.
Despite its importance, the use of SEA in the Pacific region faces significant challenges, including limited institutional capacity, a lack of political commitment, and inadequate technical expertise.
Unpacking the SEA process and empowering our Pacific Islands to apply this process was shared in the webinar that brought together a wide range of stakeholders involved in environmental decision-making in the Pacific region.
“We are starting the implementation arrangements for the 2050 Blue Pacific Strategy, and we all have a role in its implementation to achieve its lofty goals,” said Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, Director General of SPREP.
“I encourage this community of Practice to continue sharing experiences and learning from each other to support the implementation of the SEA Guidelines for robust decision-making in the Pacific. Together, we can work towards a sustainable and resilient Pacific region.”
The webinar session built upon the Regional SEA Guidelines for Pacific Island Countries and Territories developed by SPREP in 2020. It provided an in-depth overview of the principles and practices of SEA and discussed the unique challenges and opportunities in the Pacific region.
Participants gained valuable insights into the technical and institutional challenges and best practices for strengthening SEA in the Pacific.
“The Pacific region faces complex environmental challenges, including those related to climate change, land use change, management of waste, and the conservation of biodiversity,” said Mr Jope Davetanivalu Director of Environmental Monitoring and Governance at SPREP.
“While planning tools such as Environmental Impact assessments operate at the project level, robust and high-level decision-making tools are required to address these complex and existential environmental challenges. The Strategic Environmental Assessment is another way forward.”
In light of SPREP’s 30th anniversary, the webinar was also an opportunity to reflect on SPREP’s sustained efforts on environmental governance and to recommit advancing environmental and social sustainability in the Pacific. The role of partnerships in empowering the Pacific in the strive for environmental governance is a valuable one.
The webinar event featured presentations by Professor Richard Morgan, Professor Emeritus at the University of Otago and former chair of the New Zealand Association for Impact Assessment (NZAIA), and Prof Nick Taylor, Professor Emeritus at the University of Auckland and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) Specialist.
Key outcomes from the webinar event included:
- Enhanced understanding of SEA principles and practices: The expert presentations and discussions provided participants with a deeper understanding of the importance and benefits of SEA in environmental decision-making, particularly in the context of the Pacific region.
- Sharing of best practices: The expert speakers and participants shared their experiences, knowledge, and best practices related to SEA implementation. The webinar explored various opportunities to enhance SEA in the Pacific region, such as through stakeholder engagement, institutional strengthening, and capacity building.
- Networking and collaboration: The webinar facilitated networking and collaboration among participants, fostering a sense of community among key stakeholders involved in environmental decision-making in the Pacific region.
The Strengthening Strategic Environmental Assessments in the Pacific Webinar brought together seasoned professionals, policymakers, environmental regulators, practitioners, civil society organisations, academics, and other stakeholders involved in environmental decision-making in the Pacific region. It was held on 5 April 2023.
The webinar was organised by SPREP through the PNEA portal, under the Environmental Monitoring Governance (EMG) programme and made possible with financial support through the Capacity Building Related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA) In African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries - Phase III (ACPMEAs III) programme.
For more information about the Strategic Environmental Assessment Guidelines and the ACPMEAs III program, please contact the Director for the Environmental and Governance Program, Jope Davetanivalu, [email protected], or Ms Anastacia Amoa-Stowers, [email protected].