Promoting Strategic Environmental Assessments

The Core Environment Program (CEP) has led efforts since 2007 to promote the use of strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) as a key approach for sustainable development planning in the GMS.

Using analytical and participatory tools, SEAs bring together actors from the government and nongovernment and across sectors to assess the environmental, social, and economic effects of proposed government policies and programs. SEAs are particularly useful in identifying the “hidden” costs and benefits that are often overlooked in decision making. By spotting and addressing risks early, investments in infrastructure for instance, are more likely to be sustainable.  An SEA can greatly lessen the costs and other issues associated with project-focused environmental impact assessment.


SEA was a little-known concept in the subregion when the CEP was launched. Although a few SEAs were conducted in the GMS before then, none of the countries had a supporting regulatory framework. The national technical capacity to conduct an SEA was practically non-existent. The CEP first focused on raising awareness of the benefits of SEAs and capacity building activities through regional and national workshops. As interest grew, the program begun pairing international experts with national teams to conduct pilot SEAs. These were mainly for land use and energy planning, where demand was high and had significant impacts on natural capital. As befitting a regional program, the CEP also explored applying SEAs in transboundary planning processes.


Ten SEAs were done from 2007 to 2014 across five sectors, both nationally and regionally. These initiatives generated government support for SEA, greatly enhanced technical and institutional capacity to apply SEAs, and contributed to strengthened regulatory and policy frameworks.  Although most of the SEAs were pilots, some have had impressive sustainable development outcomes.


The CEP’s SEA work in Viet Nam is a good example of the program’s influence in this area. The CEP collaborated closely with various ministries on five SEAs, beginning with one on the national power development plan in 2007. Today, boosted by support from the CEP, Viet Nam has strong capacity to conduct SEAs and have conducted around 40 so far. Meanwhile, the country has put in place supporting regulations for SEA, beginning with the revised Law on Environmental Protection, 2014. Since 2015, Viet Nam has been drafting a new planning law to improve its socioeconomic development planning system, and when enacted, it will greatly enhance SEA requirements. The CEP contributed to this by producing guidelines for a circular on environmental planning during 2016, which will be subsumed in regulations that stem from the new law.


The Lao PDR’s Environmental Protection Law, 2012 provided the country with its first legal basis for an SEA. In early 2017, a ministerial decree was issued requiring SEAs to be applied to policies, programs, and strategic plans. Cambodia and Myanmar have less experience than other GMS countries in applying SEAs, but have nevertheless taken the initial steps for mainstreaming them in planning. Cambodia’s draft environment code, which is awaiting government approval to be enacted as a law, includes provisions for SEAs. Myanmar, meanwhile, has indicated its interest in gradually adopting SEAs for sector planning. SEAs are also gaining traction at the subregional level. Recognizing the value of the CEP’s work, the GMS energy sector has been applying SEAs to regional power planning since 2012.


Since the early 2000s, the SEA approach has slowly but steadily taken root in the GMS. The CEP has been at the forefront of this process and will continue to promote SEAs in its 2018–2022 program. Through the CEP’s proposed regional policy help desk, the focus will be on SEA regulations, institutional arrangements, and implementation mechanisms.

“CEP has provided valuable support to Viet Nam to enhance its capacity for strategic environmental assessment and now we have a very successful SEA system in place.”
--Kim Thi Thuy Ngoc, Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Viet Nam

Publish Date: 31st March 2018

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Consultation Workshop on GMS Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Program (SAFSP)

3 to 4 April 2019

GMS Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Program (SAFSP): The proposed TA will build on accomplishments of the two phases of the Core Agriculture Support Program and support the implementation of Strategy for Promoting Safe and Environment-Friendly Agro-Based Value Chains in the GMS and Siem Reap Action Plan, which was endorsed by the GMS Agriculture Ministers in late 2017. The SAFSP interventions will focus on areas such as (i) climate-smart and gender-conscious agricultural value chains, (ii) food safety and quality, and (iii) water-food-energy nexus in a warming world (through the adoption of climate-friendly agricultural adaptation practices and technologies).


SAFSP will focus on ADB’s value addition in advancing the use of advanced digital technologies, leveraging investments and applying integrated solutions on the safe, environment and climate-friendly agro-based value chains in the GMS. The TA will assist GMS towards becoming a more integrated, prosperous, inclusive, resilient and sustainable subregion, by focusing on principles such as “food safety for all, climate-friendly agriculture, inclusiveness of small farmers, gender empowerment, corporate social responsibility, good governance, benefits for all GMS countries, and integration with ASEAN”.


The SAFSP will have the following themes to be implemented over 5 years:


      1.          Greening of agribusiness supply chains

      2.          Inclusive and gender-conscious food value chains

      3.          Financing climate-friendly agribusinesses

      4.          Food safety and quality standards, certification and traceability

      5.          Cross-border animal health and value chain development

      6.          Water for food security in a changing climate

      7.          Agricultural adaptation in the context of water-food-energy nexus


The Asian Development Bank (ADB) organized a workshop on the GMS SAFSP on 3-4 April 2019in Kunming, People’s Republic of China. The workshop was divided into six sessions, where each session discussed (i) key challenges for each seven themes, (ii)  current status (e.g. policies, building capacities and mobilizing investment for infrastructure), and best practices that could be replicated, (iii)  key priorities for action, and (iv) advantages or disadvantages in adopting a regional approach.

More than 80 participants attended. Delegates included senior government officials from 6ADB developing member countries, senior staff from international and regional development organizations, including ADB, non-government organizations, academia, and the private sector.

The agenda and presentation materials can be downloaded below.


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Cambodia's Road Map for Sustainable Development: The National Environment Strategy and Action Plan

12th December 2018

Cambodia’s National Environment Strategy and Action Plan, 2016–2023 (NESAP) aims to ensure that environmental protection and sustainable natural resource management are pillars of the country’s socioeconomic development.

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