Because the goals of IEAs are broad and ambitious, they require a learning approach at both the individual and the organizational level. Learning emerges in the process of interaction with others who are designing the assessment, gathering and interpreting data, and considering complex environment-human well-being interactions from an integrated perspective. Interaction is critical because individuals representing different disciplines, organizations, or social interests will have different views on the environment and economy. Through the IEA process, they make important contributions, strengthen their understanding of issues, and build ownership of results, all of which are key preconditions for subsequent action.
The objectives of the process are the following:
- bring together relevant organizations and individuals with interests in IEA and potential for significant contribution, some of whom may not otherwise have a history of collaboration;
- involve policy-makers in order to secure their support for the process and its key findings; and
- facilitate the process of interaction based on a common methodology, fostering the dialogue between science and policy.
The IEA process is important because it provides an opportunity for policy-makers to have close contact with various experts and stakeholders to discuss key environmental issues from an integrated perspective, to develop a better understanding of their points of view and define together an agenda for action. The IEA promotes learning from experts and organizations based on their interaction as they proceed with the assessment (Box 1).
The IEA also provides an opportunity to discuss possible environmental futures, identifying emerging issues and analysing scenarios.
The principal output of the process is the main IEA report. As explained in Modules 3 and 7, its audience is typically broad, including decision makers in the private and public sectors, scientists and resource managers, the general public, youth and community groups, and the education community. Therefore, the IEA main reports need to be non-academic, but sub-products may be needed to target specific audiences.
Box 1: Three major reasons to produce a National Integrated
Environmental Assessment Report
- To improve knowledge on the state of its environment and how that state changes over time, in order to better assess results of past actions and to contribute to the development and harmonization of environmental and other related policies.
- To more fully integrate environmental considerations in to decision making about sustainable development.
- To improve public information on the state of the country’s environment through wider stakeholder participation.
Source: UNEP (2004). Guidelines for National Integrated Environmental Assessment Report in Africa. Final draft.
Box 2: AGENDA 21: Information for decision making
“In sustainable development, everyone is a user and provider of information considered in the broad sense. That includes data, information, appropriately packaged experience and knowledge. The need for information arises at all levels, from that of senior decision-makers at the national and international levels to the grass-roots and individual levels”.
Source: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Division for Sustainable Development. Agenda 21. Chapter 40.