2. Policy and Institutional Context

The reason for describing the policy and institutional context first in SEA is that it defines the purpose of the strategic action, and helps to define what the strategic action can and cannot do.  This stage involves identifying:

  • Why the strategic action is being prepared: what other strategic actions require it, under what legislation (if any) it is being prepared, what the history of its development has been
  • Other strategic actions which are likely to support or constrain the strategic action: higher-level requirements that must be met at the level of the strategic action (e.g. 'authority X must provide Y new houses by year Z') as well as lower-level actions that could help or hinder its implementation (e.g. local-level energy efficiency standards, or plans that will not be updated for 10 years which are vital for the implementation of the action). 
  • Current environmental management practices and capabilities. For instance, is the county chief executive very pro-business? does the authority have an Environmental Management System in place?
  • Current approaches to social issues. How (and how well) are gender and poverty issues considered? How important are traditional cultural and religious practices? How will they affect any decision-making about the strategic action?
  • Other institutional factors, e.g. have economists traditionally made all the key decisions in that topic area? Does implementation of the strategic action depend on funding that has not yet been agreed, or on the cooperation of other organisations that are not (yet) on board? (Partidario, 2000).

In particular, it involves identifying standards, thresholds and targets that the strategic action should achieve. These are discussed further in Unit 7.

The policy context can be described as a kind of story in text format, or in a table.  The table below is an extract from a Welsh Parks and Green Spaces Strategy.

Source: Cardiff City Council (2006)
Extract from a Welsh Parks and Green Spaces Strategy
Name of other plan or programme Objectives or requirements of the other plan or programme How objectives and requirements might be taken on board within the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy
Water Act 2003
(November 2003)
Management of water abstraction; and
Focus on water conservation, including the use of water by public bodies.
Ensure that the Parks Service has a sustainable approach to water use, particularly for irrigation.
Working together for Clean Air: The Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
(January 2000)
Reduction in emissions of atmospheric pollutants. Introduction of measures to reduce emissions from vehicle and machinery use within parks
Pesticides and the Environment: A Strategy for the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products and Strategy Action Plans (2006) Protection of natural resources; and
Sustainable consumption and production.
Commitment to reduce use of pesticides;
Adoption of alternative treatments and cultural practises; and
Regular review of pesticide use.
Working together for Clean Air: The Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
(January 2000)
Key themes of AQS:
Reduction in emissions of atmospheric pollutants.
Introduction of measures to reduce emissions from vehicle and machinery use within parks

At the end of this stage, it may be worth summarising the key policy and institutional targets and constraints that affect the strategic action, for instance:

"The plan must
  • provide for 20,000 new homes over 5 years under the National Housing Strategy;
  • provide adequate infrastructure for these homes under the National Housing Strategy;
  • protect special areas designated for habitats and birds under international Legislation X and Y.
The plan should also aim to:
  • improve biodiversity;
  • reduce the need to travel;
  • increase housing densities;
  • site housing on previously developed land where possible..."

June 13, 2006 Uncategorized — brendan @ 2:10 pm

2 Comments »

  1. First of all, great module. Very well presented and with comprehensive information. I'd like to know what question Dr. Bina is answering in the video. Is Dr. Bina making a reference as to why its important to clearly understand the political and institutional background in the context of carrying out in an SEA? Thanks, Dave Rocha

    Comment by Dave Rocha — August 13, 2008 @ 11:16 pm

  2. Hi Dave, Thanks for your positive comments. The question that Dr. Bina is responding to was "What are the main obstacles at the political and institutional level to the adoption and effecticve implementation of SEA?" I can't recall the exact wording of the question. I hope that this is clear. Best regards Brendan Barrett United Nations University

    Comment by brendan — August 15, 2008 @ 10:11 am

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