International Association for Impact Assessment

Strategic Environmental Assessment

Edited By: Bridget

Overview & History

SEA is a process and a tool for evaluating the effects of proposed policies, plans and programmes on natural resources, social, cultural and economic conditions and the institutional environment in which decisions are made. Thus, SEA takes a very broad/wide view, including the three sustainability dimensions as well as institutional issues.The focus is deliberately wide because many of the pressures on both the poor and on the physical environment are a result of custom, tradition, and institutional factors such as the ownership and management of land. It is not possible to analyse the effects of policies on physical resources without understanding the social, cultural, economic and institutional context in which resource exploitation takes place. 


The development of SEA can be categorized into two distinct phases/generations.

  • First generation where SEAs were conducted as extended EIAs, following the same logic and structure but focused on relatively complex (integrated), multi-sectoral programmes which are difficult to conduct a straight-forward EIA. In the absence of formal or developed SEA procedures, first generation SEAs relied on established EIA procedures and methodologies in the conduct of the assessments and reporting. There was emphasis on generating an SEA report than mainstreaming.


  • Second generation SEAs which are more process-oriented and are geared towards mainstreaming sustainability issues as well as capacity development. This approach underlines the process (of involving all relevant stakeholders), as compared to the first generation SEAs which emphasize the ‘technical’ analyses and the resulting report.


Special thanks to Jonathan Allotey for providing initial content for this IAIA Wiki topic.

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