Stakeholder involvement in the environmental reporting process

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Contents

Summary

This lesson learned relates to the importance of planned and systematic inclusion of a wide variety of stakeholders when carrying out a state of environment reporting (SoER) process, that has the potential to affect multiple sectors and institutions. By consciously approaching, and ensuring the voices of different stakeholders are included through planned and inclusive methods, this can help to improve commitment to the SoER process both during and after official program closure.

In the framework of the Joint Programme, Bosnia and Herzegovina was offered an opportunity to comprehensively assess the state of its environment for the first time ever. In order to increase public access to environmental information, the Joint Programme work plan envisioned a State of Environment Reporting (SoER) Process to involve a wide set of stakeholders from different levels of government, UN partners, civil society and academia.

The approach of the Joint Programme partners was first to do an overview of existing environmental assessments and reports , identify gaps in environmental monitoring and information systems and form a quality database of environmental experts and government officials dealing with the environmental issues in the country. Considering the overwhelmingly complex administrative and political structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina, this preparatory phase of SoER proved to be an extremely important step for the successful implementation of the SoER process.

The most important learning experience in the process was the willingness of major stakeholders to participate in such an important state process if they are approached in a right manner and if their voices can be heard. This necessary condition was achieved through a round of stakeholder workshops, preceded and followed by e-consultations about the format and content of the report itself and the SoER process flow in general.

As a result, the report’s current final draft reflects the inclusion and involvement of over fifty institutions which were able to provide the JP partners with quality inputs about each environmental sector in the country. As a spill-over effect of the broad stakeholder process, the wider public sector was found to have anticipated the report with great interest, as reported on stakeholder meetings and informal consultations during the process, and the whole process helped the responsible government agencies pay more attention to environmental data, information and reporting.

The process is replicable; indeed, there is hope that state of environment reporting will become a governmental obligation after the closure of the JP, which would greatly enhance the country’s prospects for future integration into the European Union. Moreover, the established network of environmental experts and database of institutions and other important resources remain a useful tool for future state and UN activities on accessing environmental information.

Purpose of the activity

The purpose of the activity was to improve public access to environmental information through a state of environment reporting process and to address and overcome barriers to improved environmental decision-making and access to relevant information at the state and entity levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Original issue addressed by the activity

The initial issue that presented itself as a challenge during the development of the activity (and the learning of the lesson itself) was the complicated government structure of the country, which resulted in a large number of environmental officials over different administration levels, difficult access to many of them and a common practice of not involving the majority of them into state processes.

Operating principles identified for this activity primarily involved setting a comprehensive, consistent and efficient consultation and information sharing system with relevant stakeholders, applying foreign experience to local conditions and ensuring public participation throughout the process.

Strategy / approach chosen to address the issue

The strategy chosen to overcome this initial barrier consisted of undertaking a deep analyses of the legal and institutional framework for environmental protection and information in Bosnia and Herzegovina, getting in touch with all the stakeholders on all levels of governance and setting up a consultation system to ensure that everyone’s voice would be heard and that all relevant data would be properly evaluated.

Implementation of the strategy / chosen approach

I. Preparatory phase

The chosen strategy included several different steps to be taken over the same period of time (mostly the initial phase of the SoER process). First, consultation among UN partners on the Joint Programme and with the government provided a baseline for assessing the legal and institutional framework, which was necessary for identification of key actors and institutions for the reporting process.

II. Involvement phase

The official nominations of participants by their host institutions in the SoE reporting process helped the JP to establish a strong and competent network of experts. The most important tool for the implementation of the strategy were stakeholder workshops. The first one was held in October 2010 and gathered over 50 officially nominated experts to discuss main pillars of the process, such as the methodology, indicators and dynamics of work.

III. Implementation phase

The kick-off meeting was followed by a series of e-discussions among stakeholders and, after the SoER contents were defined, a questionnaire was sent to virtually all institutions dealing with the environment in the country (including private companies, state professional agencies, academia, NGOs etc) about availability, quality and range of data each of them collects, analyses and/or distributes.

Data Gap Analysis for the Environmental Information System: survey and the resulting report on the future EIS – document produced as an outcome of the initial assessment of environmental data available. Also, the Database of local and international experts was developed at this stage based on existing experts databases and recommendations obtained from relevant institutions.

The second National Stakeholder Workshop was held in September 2011 with even more participants who discussed the 1st draft of the Report.

Information on the SoER process and Database of experts uploaded online (http://unep.ba).

The third National Stakeholder Workshop was held in April 2012 was focused on assessing the process up to that stage and discussing the 2nd draft of the Report by chapters and subjects. All gaps identified on the meeting were fixed, followed by another round of online consultations with all main stakeholders in the process.

IV. Finalization phase

Final text of the State of Environment Report distributed to 65 institutions for final comments and additions. The closing National Stakeholder Workshop was held in the Parliamentarian Assembly of BiH in Sarajevo in September 2012, where the stakeholders could provide final inputs for the Report. The joint statement about the findings and importance of the Report was adopted, as an act of political will for the process to be continued.

Results and Impacts

The most important result of the chosen strategy was the quality consultative process supported the JP partners in the groundbreaking task of assessing the state of the environment of this country for the first time in its history. The achievement of activating governmental officials at each of the multiple administrative levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina to participate together in a consultative exercise has given hope for future all-state processes and has shown that such comprehensive activities as the SoER are, while challenging, clearly feasible and highly valuable in a complex country like this.

Evidence

A number of sources support the lessons learned are available. The dozens of questionnaires, meeting documents, official nominations of institutions’ focal points, and the second draft of the report itself all show that the accomplishment of this challenging task involved not several but ALL important stakeholders in the SoER process.

Next Steps

Moving from a UN-driven process toward a full state ownership:

  • Parliamentarian adoption of the indicator framework and methodology
  • Recognition of the SoER as a policy document by decision makers
  • Framework for a future EIS and a legally based environmental monitoring and reporting system
  • Making the findings and recommendations available to wider public online and in print
  • Seeking collaboration with related (inter)national initiatives, projects and processes.

Potential replication / application

There is a great potential for replication of the strategy that was adopted here, particularly because of the aforementioned state obligations to report regularly to the European Union. The practice of motivating stakeholders to take part in important state processes, the SoE databases created and the information gathered will surely be used nationally (since this is the first and only assessment of the environment in the whole country) and will perhaps help not only the environmental sector development but other state-led processes as well.

For replication in contexts outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we believe that our experience proves that adequate inclusion of a very wide variety of stakeholders is possible even within countries with a very complex administrative and political structure. What is important to note for further replication, is the importance of a well-planned preparatory phase of SoER, necessary for the successful implementation of the entire SoER process. It is not enough to first of all engage major stakeholders, but there must be methods in place which allow their opinions to be heard and also to effect the final outcome. Similar methodologies can be used to ours, such as having several rounds of stakeholder workshops, preceded and followed by e-consultations. This ensures that all major stakeholders are at least given a chance to input their own opinion, and also throughout the development process can both understand the flow of progress and have the chance to input further opinions if they feel it necessary. Such an open and inclusive process, can be the key difference between mere acceptance for the SoER, and the active participation and commitment to the final outcome.

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