Regional collaboration West Africa
Launching regional collaborations in West-Africa
The NCEA is active in many countries in West-Africa. For this reason, it makes sense to also work at a regional level with the Regional Economic Communities active in the field of Environmental Assessment (EA) such as the Economic Community of West-African States (ECOWAS) and the West-African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).
In 2008, the WAEMU adopted its common policy to improve the environment. In it, one of the expressed goals is to harmonize EA legislation and practice amongst its eight member states. Currently, differences in project approval, consultant accreditation, and EA-procedures lead to delays in implementation, higher project costs, and limits the possibilities for regional exchange by EA professionals. In addition, by harmonizing, member states can avoid a race to the bottom and adopt high environmental and social standards instead.
Initially, efforts to develop a regional directive on EA failed because of the top-down approach applied. Also, in 2014 ECOWAS took over the attempts to ensure legal harmonisation, while it was agreed that the WAEMU would continue work on harmonisation in practice.
New steps and the role of the NCEA
Since 2017, the NCEA and the WAEMU have been working together on this dossier. An important event was a meeting organized by the NCEA at the Dutch embassy en marge of the SIFEE conference on EA in 2019. During this meeting, the heads of EA agencies reaffirmed their support to the WAEMU’s initiative. A new, bottom-up approach was kickstarted, taking into account member states’ priorities.
Next, the NCEA and WAEMU worked on assessing the member states’ needs and concerns for harmonization through questionnaires and interviews. In addition, an analysis of existing EA legislation and practice was carried out. Based on this, a coherent capacity development plan aiming at harmonising EA practice amongst states was developed. This plan was discussed and approved by the member states in an online regional meeting, facilitated by the NCEA, in November 2020.
The way forward
The plan aims to improve and harmonise EA at a regional level through activities on three components: professional exchange, capacity development, and development of tools. Activities are closely aligned with other partners of the UEMOA and the NCEA, such as IUCN, IGF, and SIFEE. During the pandemic, the first activities took place online, including a workshop on the impacts of Corona on EA practice, and on the link between Corporate Social Responsibility and EA.
In the end, the program with the WAEMU aims to position their Department of Environment to take the lead in harmonising EA practice in the region, in consultation with the individual member states and taking into account their needs and concerns. On a broader level, this will result in higher EA standards, practice, and coordination amongst the eight UEMOA member states.