In international cooperation, the work of NCEA consists of the following activities:
- advice on Terms of Reference for and reviews of environmental assessments of plans, programmes and projects;
- capacity development of systems and institutions to improve the environmental assessment practice;
- knowledge and learning resources on the subject of environmental assessment.
Furthermore, we also supports Dutch embassies and a number of departments at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in securing that environment and climate issues are fully mainstreamed in their support programmes. To this end, the Dutch Sustainability Unit (DSU) was established in September 2012.
The NCEA advises on ToR for EIA or SEA reports or reviews their quality, with calling in experts if relevant.
Advisory Reports by a working group
Advisory reports, generally prepared by a working group of experts, relate to:
- Terms of Reference (ToR) and review of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for controversial and complex projects;
- Terms of Reference (ToR), review and process of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEAs) for policies, plans and programmes.
A working group consists of international experts, each one specialised in one or more aspects of the study, and is headed by a chairperson. The working group is installed for a short period of time to visit the location, talk with local experts and draft the report. A technical secretary of the NCEA (see staff) organises this process and compiles the final report.
Advisory Reports by a technical secretary
Advisory reports, prepared by a technical secretary (when necessary, experts can be called upon) relate to:
- the development or improvement of legislation, regulations and institutional setting for EIA;
- the introduction of SEA;manuals;
- training activities;
- the review of small project proposals or development plans (usually requested by the DGIS or the Netherlands Embassies).
The establishment and strengthening of environmental assessment systems are long processes. Therefore, the NCEA prefers to establish long term collaboration with environment ministries, regional umbrella organisations and institutions in various countries. The collaboration will be confirmed in a memorandum of understanding. The start of the collaboration will usually be an EIA mapping workshop, to analyse strengths, weaknesses and potential of the current national EIA system or an EA system analyses, if the programme focuses on SEA introduction. In the case of EIA mapping, activities and priorities are identified and put down in a project plan. At the end of each year of collaboration, the past activities will be evaluated and a new annual plan will be developed. Often training activities are part of the collaboration.
Within existing programmes or separately requested by eligible partners, the NCEA provides training sessions and workshops. We may provide training in collaboration with other institutes and/or consultants. The focus of our input is the link to EA components. For example:
- EIA/SEA procedure: screening, scoping, public participation, review
- SEA introduction
- SEA system development
- EIA/SEA related to sector/themes such as oil and gas.
The inclusion of members of local ministries or local experts in working groups is part of the on-the-job training. Furthermore, we also provide training-of-trainers.
The NCEA has developed a tool that provide insight into the status of a country’s EIA system. This tool, known as EIA mapping, assesses the quality of a regulatory framework for EIA in a country, and the level of compliance with this framework in practice. At the heart of the tool is a questionnaire of approximately 800 questions, which is completed by a group of representatives of all stakeholders in EIA, in a two day workshop.
The results of this workshop form the basis for setting priorities for EIA system improvement and for NCEA’s capacity development initiatives in a specific country. EIA mapping can also function as a reference for monitoring and evaluation purposes, or to assess compliance of a countries regulatory system with other regulatory frameworks, such as that of the EU.
Knowledge and Learning
The Knowledge and Learning Platform (KLP) facilitates sharing of information and knowledge of EA practice, gained by our staff or colleagues in the field. To this purpose, we developed several products and services, such as:
- a country profile database with EIA and SEA regulatory framework per countries (especially developing countries);
- key sheets containing EA information and related themes as well as information about our work;
- articles and other publications based on (joint) research and field experience;
- training and presentations on EA (in relation to sectors or themes);
- distant learning course on SEA;
- impact evaluations of our work;
- a helpdesk for questions on EA.
We find it very important to improve our practice and learn as an organisation from experience. Therefore we organise in-house team weeks to reflect on our work. We look back and forward, discuss current themes and innovations applicable to our work and look at improvement of our approach and process.
In order to to harmonise topics and renew approaches, cooperation and combining forces are important to us. Therefore we work in close cooperation with several organisations. We also contribute to and are part of several platforms where we discuss environmental assessment with other interested parties.