Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is currently developing a new Environmental Strategy and Action Plan (BiH ESAP 2030+). Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is an essential part of this process as it ensures that the proposed strategy and action plan integrates all relevant environmental, socio-economic, and sustainability considerations. We organized the webinar “Thinking of Sustainability: The Role of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)” to hear from several experts from BiH, Western Balkans and the European Union about their experiences with conducting SEA. They explained why and how the public needs to get actively involved, and why the government’s role is crucial for completing the SEA process. Also, they illustrated the opportunities and challenges of the SEA process. We were happy to see more that 130 people participating and contributing to a fruitful discussion.

Learning from others’ experiences

Milija Čabarkapa from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Adria brought in regional knowledge while describing practical experiences of the application of SEA in Montenegro. According to Mr Čabarkapa, more than one decade of implementing the SEA Law recorded improvements of the legislation and development of capacities across the levels of government. Also, it has enhanced the quality of impact assessments and reports. However, some significant improvements are still needed in the procedures, particularly regarding the outcomes of the assessments and, more specifically, their application.

Spain, similar to BiH, has a very complex administrative structure. Enrique Cifres, from eWATER, explained how the SEA process functions on state, regional, and municipal levels in Spain. Based on different experiences on encountered challenges and solutions, the presentation offered important learning points on how the complexity in the governance structure can be considered in processes such as SEA.  Mr. Cifres said that involving all the relevant actors for better decision-making is crucial because more participation often leads to better decision-making.

The power of public participation

The participation of civil society organizations in the SEA process is crucial for its success. Đorđe Stefanović from WWF Adria elaborated on the role of civil society organizations in BiH and described different stages in SEA processes where participation has an important role. In BiH, civil society organizations have tended to express interest in developing different plans and programmes and examining their impact on the environment. However, Mr Stefanović emphasized that participation is not only a privilege and an opportunity but also a high-level responsibility for the NGOs.

The final presentation by Vedad Suljić and João Pedro Silva from the Center for Economic, Technological and Environmental Development Sarajevo (CETEOR) provided an overview of the ESAP  SEA process and outlined the opportunities for different actors to participate. CETEOR experts highlighted that the SEA of the ESAP must assure that the proposed environmental strategy and action plan integrates all relevant environmental, socio-economic and sustainability considerations at the early stage of their development. Also, the SEA report shall identify any potentially significant effects on the environment and socio-economics arising from ESAP  as well as suggest alternative solutions and measures for mitigating the adverse effects.

To conclude, SEA helps to fully consider environmental and health issues in preparing plans and programmes and ensuring sustainable development. Moreover, it’s a way to ensure that all stakeholders and the general public feel included in the processes that concern everyone. SEA has the power to enhance public participation and help to create more sustainable solutions for all.

Find the recording of the webinar “Thinking for Sustainability: The role of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)” HERE

Presentations are available HERE