<p>Guest post by IAIA Member and Climate Change Section Co-Coordinator Wes Fisher</p>
How Might IAIA Respond to Our Members' Concerns Raised in the IAIA COVID-19 Surveys?
IAIA recently released the second of a series of surveys on how COVID-19 is affecting the policy and practice of impact assessment. The survey obtained the views of over 700 individuals involved in impact assessment across the globe. A summary of key points from the second survey can be found here, and the first survey can be found here. Based on the surveys, Charles Kelly, a lead author of both surveys, provided an IMPACT/REACT guest blog entitled: "Unless it changes, impact assessment risks becoming irrelevant"; followed by Peter Croal's "The world is pivoting due to COVID-19. Should IA as well?" and Susie Brownlie and Jo Treweek's "Don't blame the bats."
The survey raises a number of issues facing IAIA and our future, including:
How might our Association support impact assessment practitioners who are finding their work more difficult to carry out?
We know IAIA staff will continue to offer support (e.g., through webinars, best practice guidance, forums and special symposia), drawing on membership experiences and insights. An issue before us is whether we might provide greater assistance. Could IAIA launch an initiative that would publicize or ameliorate some of the adverse effects on professionals who find themselves without the catalytic resources needed to keep their work from being curtailed? How would such an initiative be funded? Could alternative strategies for member support be developed, endorsed and fast tracked so response is timely?
How do we address the finding that 45% of respondents indicated that, as a result of COVID-19, impact assessment laws and regulations have been or are proposed to be relaxed?
Peter Croal's blog raises concerns over the growing pressure to bypass or loosen IA regulation and law in the name of COVID-19 economic recovery. Perhaps one response would be to consider establishing a technical IAIA/legal collaboration to examine and develop models for what more effective IA processes might look like.
To what degree do existing or proposed "effective" processes have common features? Might we actively engage top IA and legal talent in efforts to improve IA law and regulatory best practice alternatives for different sectors? What other approaches might we take as an Association?
Seventy-five percent of IAIA's survey respondents considered it very or extremely important to use impact assessment processes to evaluate and provide oversight of proposed COVID-19 recovery programs and projects.
One of the most valuable lessons from experience with the global pandemic is that planning against future emergencies (whether from pandemics, deteriorating environmental systems, or other natural or manmade disasters) requires science and informed leadership. As the world addresses global unemployment and COVID-19 recovery, increased application of IA expertise could minimize environmental and social impacts and save many billions of dollars by applying systematic screening and scoping of potential adverse impacts as well as to select among 'preferred' alternatives.
How then might the use of IA processes and best practice expertise be expanded and made more effective for this purpose?
There are many approaches to answering this question. Out of a sense of professional responsibility and heightened scientific and social concern, the Climate Change Section's response has been to propose an IAIA Resilient Recovery Initiative (RRI) that addresses, partially, planning for expected COVID-19 recovery with emphasis on creating employment opportunities and developing smart (build back better) infrastructure that is aligned with the global goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
While the initial focus of the RR Initiative is on climate change, we encourage our IAIA Sections and members to identify priority actions and budgets, and potential philanthropic support, focusing on IA stewardship in areas such as minimizing environmental and social impacts on natural systems, disasters and conflict, health, resettlement, cultural heritage, indigenous and vulnerable populations, emerging technologies, and persistent novel changes. Implementation of the Climate Change RRI Phase I involved the following steps:
The IAIA Resilient Recovery Initiative
Phase I of this initiative is to implement IAIA's Impact Assessment and Climate Change Action Plan, referenced in the IAIA Board's Climate Change Position Statement as developed by the Climate Section in consultation with our other IAIA Sections, Headquarters and Board members. There are profound IA and oversight needs associated with the climate change emergency. This initiative has now been posted on GlobalGiving's website. Global Giving is a nonprofit that supports other nonprofits by connecting them to donors and companies. The initiative is under the heading Wise Climate Change Action Using Impact Assessment. The first-year goal is $360,000.
We think other Sections may find this a potentially useful approach to developing additional Resilient Recovery phases, however, we also recommend that the Sections consider fast tracking their identification and prioritization of actions and budgetary requirements.
Our role has never been more valuable! We have received very useful responses and suggestions through the two "COVID-19 and IA" surveys. Through IAIAConnect we encourage you to share further thoughts and ideas on what more IAIA should do in response to COVID-19.