Taking stock of SEA effectiveness: A digest of expert views
The Sadler & Verheem 1996 report on ‘SEA – Status, Challenges and Future Directions’ documented the state of affairs at an early stage. To mark the 25th anniversary of the report, a process was initiated to review the development of SEA theory and practice, and to identify the changes that have occurred since then. This reflection on SEA progress and effectiveness is intended to contribute to a discussion among the SEA community.

A paper - published in IAPA in 2022 - was the kick-off for a three step process that includes:
1. a survey of a group of internationally recognised SEA experts to seek their views on the trends and issues discussed,
2. opportunities for further debate during a session at IAIA 2023 and
3. an online questionnaire to all IAIA members in the beginning of 2024

All of these views have been gathered in this Digest of expert views.


Gender in SEA and ESIA 
Checklist for a gender inclusive approach to SEA and ESIA
The integration of gender into impact assessment is recognised as good practice. It is a prerequisite in international benchmarks such as the IFC Performance Standards. These benchmarks include detailed requirements for inclusive impact assessment. This means that processes should incorporate gender analysis, differentiated between effects on men and on women and define appropriate measures to avoid and mitigate adverse effects.

To promote the inclusion of gender aspects in SEA and ESIA, the NCEA has developed this checklist with entry points for gender considerations in diverse stages of the EIA/SEA process and examples of gender issues for themes that can be relevant in EIA/SEA.


Strategic Environmental Assessment for Sustainable Development of the Hydropower Sector
Five Influential Cases - India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Rwanda, Viet Nam
Ed. Arend Kolhoff (NCEA), R. Slootweg (SevS)
Finally a publication (100 pages) - substantiated with 5 cases - on how to work towards a more sustainable hydropower sector. By using SEA as a strategic decision support tool, negative impacts in relation to building and exploiting hydropower dams can be mitigated. Starting early in the process at a strategic level, environmental and social considerations - using (academic) information, data and stakeholder participation - are integrated in (energy)plans and programmes. This ensures mitigation of negative impacts but also simplifies the ESIA's for individual dams for example. 

The publication includes:

  • separate summaries for decision-makers and dam owners
  • list of all SEA's carried out for hydropower developments
  • list of SEA's carried out for multi sector plans and policies
  • overview and relation between current decision support tools in addition to SEA


How to strengthen the independence of IA reviewers and practitioners? 
This article is also published as letter to the editor in the journal Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal- 21-12-2020
Rob Verheem - director of the NCEA - started a discussion on the role of independence of IA practitioners. He suggests to consider the establishment of a professional IAIA standard. Not necessarily to be used as a benchmark, but to inspire and support IA reviewers and practitioners to achieve the highest level of independence, feasible within their context.

Environmental Assessment in Landscape Management

Improving governance, collaboration, transparency & inclusiveness
In a new publication, the NCEA together with SRJS presents an overview of ten cases on ESIA and SEA in landscape management, from ten countries across three continents.
Shared Resources, Joint Solutions (SRJS) is a strategic partnership between IUCN NL, WWF NL and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs that ran from 2016 till 2020. After four years of practice and experience in different forms and settings, the cases in this booklet demonstrate that environmental assessment complements the landscape approach in important ways. The countries include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mali, The Philipinnes, Suriname, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

You may also view the publication in the flipbook version
This publication is also available in French and Spanish

How SEA contributed to conflict prevention
The case of the Sourou river plain in Mali
By Fransje Molenaar (Clingendael) & Sibout Nooteboom (NCEA)
The Clingendael Institute - a Dutch think tank on geopolitical issues - and the NCEA published a policy brief on governance and the role of SEA in the Sourou area, a fragile zone in central Mali. The SEA played an important role in preventing conflict over scarce resources by strengthening local participatory governance structures. As the policy brief concludes: "The case of the Sourou river plain is an excellent example of the use of a technical governance instrument, the SEA, to instigate a process of bottom-up governance and administrative reform. It also showcases the importance of process considerations when designing local governance interventions." 


A Strategic Approach to Hydropower Development

Applying Hydropower by Design within the context of Strategic Environmental Assessment to achieve hydropower goals in a sustainable and equitable manner
Advocacy Paper by the NCEA & The Nature Conservancy
A tailor made SEA approach is to support government authorities with strategic planning of the hydropower sector. In general, the SEA supports river basin plans or national energy plans. This specific SEA approach makes use of SEA good practice principles and a method developed by TNC known as hydropower by design which develops and compares a number of different hydropower options in a river basin.


The NCEA's Views and Experiences 2018

A compilation of cases and experiences, (inter)views and infographics of the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) on their work in the Netherlands and abroad. In the 2018 edition attention is paid to energy transition, landscape approach, independent quality control, ESIA mapping, port development and an interview with Prof. dr. Rudy Rabbinge on the his time as vice-chair with the NCEA. 

A systems approach to ESIA / SEA effectiveness

This publication introduces the reader to an ambitious endeavour the NCEA has embarked on since 2012: the translation of its practice experience into a so-called systems approach. This approach is intended to be used both for analysing existing EIA and SEA systems in the countries with whom the NCEA cooperates, as well as for measuring the results of the contribution that the NCEA makes to improving these systems.

The system approach has been developed for both ESIA and SEA, and both the approach and its indicators are largely the same. However, ESIA and SEA are quite different instruments in terms of their character and the actors that play a role in their implementation. Therefore, the systems approach can be used by different target groups and in different ways for each of the instruments. For this reason, separate publications have been made.


Overcoming low EIA performance

A diagnostic tool for the deliberate development of EIA system capacities in low and middle income countries
Kolhoff, Arend J.; Driessen, Peter P.J.; Runhaar, Hens A.C.. In: Environmental Impact Assessment Review, volume 68, pp. 98 - 108

A contribution to the conceptualisation of quality in impact assessment

Alan James Bond; Francois Retief; Ben Cave; Monica Fundingsland; Peter N Duinker; Rob Verheem; A.L. Brown. In Environmental Impact Assessment Review, volume 68, pages 49-58


Environmental Assessment for Climate-Smart Decision Making

Good practice cases
The NCEA gathered case examples where impact assessment has contributed to climate -smart development. This means that E(S)IA or SEA has influenced a project or plan to such an extent, that it is contributing to climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation and adaptive management or capacity.
Members of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) were asked for good practice cases. This resulted in the selection of the 12 cases assembled in a publication titled: Environmental Assessment for Climate-Smart Decision Making: Good practice cases.
The twelve cases can also be downloaded separately:

  • Case 1: SEA for a land use plan in Denmark
  • Case 2: ESIA for an infrastructure project in Belize
  • Case 3: SEA for a hydropower plan in Vietnam
  • Case 4: ESIA for port development in South Africa
  • Case 5: SEA for a water plan in the Netherlands
  • Case 6: EIA for a waste incinerator in Denmark
  • Case 7: SEA for an energy land use plan in Germany
  • Case 8: SEA for touristic and urban planning in Mexico
  • Case 9: SEA for land use planning in Kenya
  • Case 10: ESIA for a housing project in England
  • Case 11: ESIA for infrastructure design in the Philippines
  • Case 12: SEA and ESIA for a spatial plan in the Netherlands


Supporting Governance of Economic Development

The PAANEEAC Experience in Central Africa
Geske Dijkstra, Dieudonné Bitondo, Sibout Nooteboom, Reinoud Post, Gwen van Boven. In: Journal of Developing Societies, Volume: 33 issue: 1, page(s): 51-74


EIA accreditation: what and how? 

This publication provides a number of examples of accreditation mechanisms for EIA, and sets out a range of considerations that will aid a discussion on introducing or improving an accreditation system. Also, this document presents some guidance on the design and management of an accreditation system. It offers references to more detailed resources on this topic. This publication is part of the NCEA's building block series.


The influence of actor capacities on EIA system performance in low and middle income countries

Cases from Georgia and Ghana
Kolhoff, Arend J.; Runhaar, Hens A C; Gugushvili, Tamar; Sonderegger, Gabi; Van der Leest, Bart; Driessen, Peter (2016) Environmental Impact Assessment Review, volume 57, pp. 167 - 177.

2015 and older

The NCEA's Views and Experiences 2015

A compilation of cases and experiences, (inter)views and infographics of the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) on their work in the Netherlands and abroad. In the 2015 edition attention is paid to SEA and ESIA for airport planning, strengthening EIA in Burundi, financing of the EIA system and six more inspiring cases!

Financing EIA (2015)

The NCEA issued a publication titled ‘Financing EIA: Funding Governmental Tasks in Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and Environmental Approval’.

Attention for financial arrangements to fund governmental tasks in Environmental (and Social) Impact Assessment (EIA/ESIA) in developing countries is often limited. Yet such arrangements are essential for ensuring a viable and effective EIA system. The NCEA has therefore assembled ‘lessons learnt’ from its experiences around the world, which are combined in this publication. It contains numerous country cases to serve as inspiration to readers.

SEA effectiveness in China and the Netherlands (2014)

In the past three years there has been an ongoing exchange on SEA between China and the Netherlands. One of the products of this cooperation was presented in Beijing on the 4th of December 2014: a joint publication on SEA effectiveness in both countries. The book documents the Chinese experience with SEA for mega-region planning, and lessons learnt from 25 years of SEA research and practice in the Netherlands.

Biodiversity in Environmental Assessment: Enhancing Ecosystem Services for Human Well-Being (2014)
This book, with contributions from NCEA's Arend Kolhoff, Bobbi Schijf and Rob Verheem, integrates the objectives of the CBD convention into a comprehensive approach to biodiversity in EA. Powerful examples show that biodiversity must be considered to ensure that projects, programmes and policies are environmentally and socially acceptable. The publication can be purchased via the (online) bookshop. ISBN:978-0-521-71655-0.

EIA in Central Africa (2013)

In 2013, after 6 years of fruitful collaboration between Central African associations for EIA professionals, its regional umbrella SEEAC and the NCEA come to an end. To celebrate this mile stone, a jointly-developed book was published entitled ‘Evolution of systems of Environmental Impact Assessment in Central Africa – the role of national associations of professionals’. This publication is available in French and English. Hard copies can be ordered via SEEAC by sending an email to seeac

Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment. Why, who and how? (2013)

The aim of this article (EIAR vol. 43) is to provide a comprehensive overview of the academic debate on public participation in EIA concerning its meaning, objectives and adequate level of inclusiveness. Even a cursory glance at the literature on environmental impact assessment (EIA) reveals that public participation is considered an integral part of the assessment procedure. Public participation in EIA is commonly deemed to foster democratic policy making and to render EIA more effectively. Yet, a closer look at the literature unveils that, beyond this general assertion, opinions of the precise meaning, objectives and adequate representation of public participation in EIA considerably diverge. Co-authors are Arend Kolfhoff, technical secretary and Anne Glucker, intern at the NCEA.

Strategic Environmental Assessment in Development Practice. A review of recent practice (2012)

Ms Bobbi Schijf en Ms Gwen van Boven have contributed to two cases (case studies) in Montenegro and Benin in a new OECD DAC SEA publication. 
Many countries are already making good progress in applying SEA. This publication presents nine interesting case studies of SEA in progress, carried out by countries in cooperation with development organisations. The cases highlight that SEA can:

  • safeguard environmental assets for sustainable poverty reduction and development;
  • build public engagement in decision making;
  • prevent costly mistakes by alerting decision makers to potentially unsustainable development options at an early stage in the decision-making process;
  • speed up implementation of projects and programmes;
  • facilitate cooperation around shared environmental resources and contribute to conflict prevention.

Manual on Landfill Site Assessment and Selection in Georgia (2011)

In Georgia, a number of existing landfills will, when assessed according to international standards, have to be closed in the coming years. Subsequently, new locations have to be selected. Other landfills could be optimised at their current location, by taking appropriate measures. This manual describes the steps to be taken in these processes.

Strategic Environmental Assessment in Policy and Sector Reform (2011)

This report presents the results, findings and recommendations of the evaluation of the World Bank's SEA Pilot Program that was undertaken between October 2008 and June 2010. The lessons drawn from the pilots suggest that SEA can, under conducive conditions, contribute to improved formulation and implementation of sector reform.

From Public Debate to Public Dialogue: A Guideline on Public Consultation in SEA and EIA Procedures in Romania (2010)

This Guideline covers a great number of do’s and don'ts regarding public consultation in EIA and SEA procedures, both in theory and in practice. It is targeted at a wide audience of Romanian stakeholders, i.e. national, regional and local authorities and organisations concerned with effective consultation of the general public. Participation of the general public (for example by means of public debate), is a key element in EIA and SEA procedures. The information included in this publication offers plenty of tools for organising such public debates, in order to raise the chances of establishing a constructive dialogue between the government and the broader public.

Climate Change in Water Management (2010)

This report summarises an inventory of methods and tools for assessing climate change impacts, vulnerability assessment and adaptation options focusing on the water sector. Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is one of the tools addressed. The tool kit can also be used for SEA practitioners to integrate climate change in SEA for policies, plans and programmes in the water sector.

Effective EIA Systems in Developing Countries

The aim of this article by Arend Kolhoff (et al.) is to identify factors influencing EIA system performance in developing countries. To this end, a conceptual model was developed to provide insight into those factors, building on a review of the current approaches and insights. 
This article can be obtained at IngentaConnect.

Integrated Water Resources Management and SEA: joining forces for climate proofing

This paper served as an input for the thematic, regional and political processes of the 5th World Water Forum and focuses on the challenges related to water, climate change and food security. It highlights key drivers and presents possible responses, emphasising that the scope of policy response will need to be broad if water institutions are to be effective in coping with climate change. Author is Roel Slootweg and the publication was initiated by the Cooperative Programme on Water and Climate (CPWC) and the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) Also available in French and Spanish. The publication can be downloaded as pdf.

Strategic Environmental Assessment and Biofuels: Establishing Linkages

This publication deals with the following issues:

• What are biofuels
• What are the costs and benefits of biofuels
• Biofuel sustainability criteria
• Why SEA for biofuel policies, plans or programmes (PPP)
• Principles of SEA applied to biofuel PPP

Views and Experiences from the NCEA 2009
This publication, no. 10 in the NCEA series, contains 9 articles with our experiences and views on environmental assessment in the Netherlands and in the context of internationalcooperation. To name a few: the modernisation of dutch EA law and its consequences, the effect of climate changes and its role within EA, strategic environmental assessment with regard to international trade negotiations.

Valuation of Ecosystem Services and SEA (2008)

Roel Slootweg and Pieter van Beukering have analysed cases in which the valuation of ecosystem services has significantly influenced strategic decision making. The linkages with Strategic Environmental Assessment are highlighted. This report contains a background document with influential cases: Valuation of Ecosystem Services and SEA: Influential Case Studies.
Also available in French and Spanish.

Strategic Environmental Assessment. Status, Challenges and Future directions (1996)

By B. Sadler and R. Verheem

This report documents and compares SEA trends, issues and directions in selected countries and international organisations. It describes the 'state of the art' of process and practice in this emerging field. A key feature of the report is the extensive use of institutional profìles and case studies of SEA applications which draws on the collective experience of participating agencies.

SEA is identified as a "core process" for the initial study of EA effectiveness. The study is preparatory to further analysis of the quality of SEA practice. But it is also intended to be of wider use to practitioners and administrators. The work described here has been led by the Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment in collaboration with the Dutch EIA Commission and other study partners.