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Prague Conference acknowledges added value of Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment in fostering sustainable development

Prague Conference acknowledges added value of Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment in fostering sustainable development


To celebrate the first anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment and the tenth anniversary of the European Union Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, some 250 international experts met at a conference in Prague from 21 to 23 September to discuss the role of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) in fostering sustainable development.

Participants recognized the added value and the great potential of the UNECE SEA Protocol in integrating environmental considerations into decision-making, especially at policy and legislative levels that are currently not regulated by the EU Directive.

Although mainstreaming environment into Government policies and legislation was highlighted as a key to changing societal values, and to greening governance and the economy, with a view to delivering on the relevant principles of the Rio Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals, its practice is still rare. In contrast, SEA is already widely applied to lower-level governmental plans and programmes.

The UNECE SEA Protocol, therefore, fills an important gap in encouraging Parties to consider and integrate environmental, including health, concerns, to the extent appropriate, also in the preparation of proposals for policies and legislation and in requesting Parties to regularly report on how this has been done. The Protocol also provides for extensive public participation.

Overall, while acknowledging the progress made in the past decade, the Conference recommended further improving the application of SEA into all Government decision-making that could significantly impact the environment, through enhancing the transparency of and public involvement in the process and through introducing concrete and measurable environmental targets and thresholds.

In addition to preventing and mitigating environmental degradation, the Conference confirmed that SEA has the potential to evolve into a strategic and forward-looking tool that effectively and concretely promotes sustainable development. 

The special conference, “SEA Implementation and Practice: Making an Impact?” was organized by International Association for Impact Assessment in cooperation with UNECE and the European Commission. The conference addressed the progress in implementing SEA — with a view to ensuring the integration of environmental concerns in the preparation of and decision-making on plans, programmes and policies — and assessed the prospects for future work under the Protocol on SEA.
Note to editor:

The Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, signed by 35 Governments and the European Community in May 2003 in Kyiv, Ukraine, entered into force on 11 July 2010. To date, the Protocol has been ratified by 22 States and the European Union. Though negotiated and administered under the auspices of UNECE, the Protocol is open to all United Nations Member States, upon approval by the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol.

More information about the Protocol can be found at
The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) was organized in 1980 to bring together researchers, practitioners, and users of various types of impact assessment from all over the world. IAIA members number over 2,500 and reside in over 100 countries. IAIA activities are carried out locally and regionally through its extensive network of affiliates and branches.

More information about IAIA can be found at,

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are social and economic targets, including on environmental stability, agreed upon at the United Nations General Assembly Summit in 2000. The Governments made commitments to meeting the MDGs by 2015. MDG 7A calls for: “Integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reversing the loss of environmental resources”.

The Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) declared that: “In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it” (Principle 4 of the Rio Declaration). In 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as the Rio+20 Conference, will take stock of the achievement of the principles formulated 20 years ago.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

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