3. Understanding the strategic action

Some basic information about a strategic action is needed before it can be subject to SEA:

  • What is the level (policy, plan, programme) and scale (international, national, national, regional, local) of the strategic action? Remember that something can be called 'policy' but act like a plan etc.; use the definitions from the Background section. The higher the level and larger the scale, the more broad-brush and qualitative the SEA is likely to be.
  • What is the time period of the strategic action? This affects the time period over which SEA predictions are made: most SEAs make predictions that go to, or beyond, the lifetime of the strategic action.
  • Is the strategic action one-off or cyclical? Cyclical strategic actions are those that get updated regularly: typically every 3-10 years. For cyclical strategic actions, there will often already be an existing strategic action which would act as the 'do minimum' scenario in SEA. One-off strategic actions are more likely to have an indefinite timespan, and typically won't be replacing an existing strategic action.
  • Is the strategic action for a sector (e.g. waste, energy); or a land use plan for an area (e.g. region, local authority); or something different still? Sectoral strategic actions often lend themselves to modelling, and to more detailed, quantitative SEA predictions. Land use plans are often more complex, with more interacting factors - for instance they could discuss building densities, public transport and the balance of employment v. housing land, which together form a complex system that is very difficult to assess in a quantitative manner.
  • Who is the competent authority, and what other stakeholders are involved in developing the strategic action? This is the SEA audience. Depending on who the audience are, they could be fully involved in the SEA process, or could simply read and respond to SEA reports, or something in between.
  • Is the competent authority a public or a private agency? This will determine who it is accountable to, what issues it must consider, and what constraints it works under. This will be discussed further in the next few pages.

Below is an example of a strategic action. Try to answer the questions above for the example; where the information does not exist, imagine whom you might want to ask for what additional information.

(You can see the answers to the questions by clicking on the link below the excerpts)

Exceprts adapted from: South Africa Ministry of Water Affairs and Forestry (1997) 'Sustainable Forest Development in South Africa'

The new forest policy of the Department has several elements.
  • a set of nine guiding principles which determine the kind of policy chosen, and how it is to be applied*
  • the objective to be pursued in the next five years*
  • overall policy to govern the place of forestry in the management of land, water, and other natural resources
  • policy for industrial forestry*
  • policy for community forestry
  • policy for the conservation of our natural forests and woodlands
  • policy that determines South Africa's response to global concerns about forests
  • policy for research, education and training
  • policy that governs South Africa's relationships with states in the Southern African Development Community and bilateral relations with countries beyond SADC. (* excerpts shown below)
  • forests and forest resources to be treated as a national asset
  • policy to be formulated and implemented so as to promote democratisation
  • gender equity
  • people­driven development
  • consultation in formulating and implementing policy
  • sustainable forest development
  • recognition of the scarcity of water resources
  • a competitive and value-adding forest sector
  • decent employment conditions.

Overall objective

To promote a thriving forest sector, to be utilised for the lasting benefit of the nation, and developed and managed to protect the environment.

The policy for industrial forestry

The Government recognises the important role of the industrial forest sector in South Africa, including the wood processing industries. It currently has a major stakeholding in industrial forestry, as the owner of SAFCOL and the former homeland forests. Restructuring or privatisation of these holdings will be treated in line with overall Government policy, in consultation with all interested parties.

There is great concern as to the present structure of the forest and forest products industry. Whilst a healthy number of smaller farmers and firms exist, the industry is dominated by four large corporations. Generally, a lack of adequate competition between rival firms puts both consumers and suppliers to firms at a disadvantage, through unfavourable prices for example. Government favours a greater diversity of firms in any sector, and prefers conditions which promote rivalry between firms. However, Government recognises also that there are benefits in economies of scale.

In terms of its forest policy, Government undertakes to:

  • foster the continued competitiveness of the forestry sector locally and internationally within bounds of acceptable environmental and social costs
  • promote equitable access to the opportunities and benefits arising from industrial forestry such as through equity ­sharing arrangements, or facilitating land reform
  • counter and limit adverse effects of industrial forestry on water resources and biodiversity
  • ensure that afforestation permit allocations and integrated catchment management will be directed at equitable, efficient and sustainable allocation of resources, linked with local economic development and resource­use plans
  • promote an industrial policy that will continually improve value­addition to forest products within South Africa
  • encourage further investment in the forest industry, including overseas interest
  • facilitate the entry of small farmers and entrepreneurs by introducing incentives and by minimising barriers
  • address all options to increase timber yields and improve efficiency through research, technological and managerial innovation, recycling and waste minimisation, and development of alternative fibre sources...

Stages in development of the strategic action

The development and implementation of a strategic action typically involves the following stages.  They were first described by Simon (1945) and Laswell (1956), and elaborated by Hogwood and Dunn (1984), but have not really changed since then:

Stages where SEA fits in strategic decision making
Stage in development of strategic action Steps SEA input
Simon (1945), Laswell (1956), and elaborated by Hogwood and Dunn (1984)
Intelligence Decision that a strategic action is needed
Broad idea of the key issues that the strategic actions should cover
Idea about how the strategic action will be developed and key decisions made
Ensure that decision-makers are clear about what SEA requirements exist
Identify SEA techniques and timescale to ensure that SEA provides the right information to the right people at the right time

Data collection, forecasting
Setting objectives and priorities
Data should include data on environmental/ sustainability baseline and trends
Assess environmental impacts of objectives
Design and implementation Option development and analysis (possibly several rounds)
Draft strategic action, consultation
Final strategic action
Assess environmental impacts of options, compare options
Assess environmental impacts of draft strategic action; suggest mitigation measures

Implementation and monitoring Propose environmental monitoring programme
Evaluation and review Review of effectiveness of strategic action
Consideration of succession or termination
Monitor environmental impacts of strategic action; compare against predicted impacts
Recommend modifications to strategic action

This table shows that several rounds of assessment may be necessary: of the strategic action objectives, alternatives and draft strategic action. It also suggests that the timing of the SEA is vital.  This is discussed further on the next page.

September 4, 2006 Uncategorized — riki @ 2:58 pm

1 Comment »

  1. One question. Is this stage the time to do the screening or preeliminar analyisis to determine if EAE is neccesary? Also whic are the best methods and where I can find them to do the screening?

    Comment by Gerardo Linares — April 19, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

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