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The Mutualism of Strategic Environmental Assessment and Sustainable Development Goals

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Paola Gazzola



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set a universal agenda intended to stimulate social, economic and environmental action. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has the potential to assist in the implementation of actions supporting the SDGs by providing a systematic framework to incorporate them into policies, plans and programmes; and the SDGs in turn, could substantiate SEA’s contribution to sustainable development. Therefore, the partnering of both policy instruments fosters a mutualistic relationship, benefiting both. In this paper, we review current engagement of SEA with the SDGs both in the academic literature and in practice. The findings reveal a recognisable subtle shift towards the adoption of a new paradigm in plan-making, particularly supported by governments’ growingly proactive embracement of SDGs, albeit through different approaches, initiatives and commitments. This sets a robust foundation for spatial planning and, by extension, a reference framework for SEA. Nevertheless, operationalising the SDGs is difficult. The extent to which SDG objectives and targets are embedded in SEA and, indeed, integrated into plans/programmes seems to be hampered by the broad scope of both sustainability and SEA, and a general lack of awareness and know-how. This suggest a need to clarify SEA’s mandate for engaging with the SDGs, as well as to provide training for a more proactive integration of the objectives and targets. Through initiatives such as these, there are opportunities to optimise mutual gains for both policy instruments.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gonzalez A, Gazzola P, Onyango V

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Impact Assessment Review

Year: 2020

Volume: 82

Online publication date: 13/03/2020

Acceptance date: 03/03/2020

Date deposited: 03/03/2020

ISSN (print): 0195-9255

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2020.106383


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