Thoughts from the International Association for Impact Assessment conference

  • By Gil Yaron, BRACED Impact Evaluation Team Leader
  • 13/04/2017

Farmer in Meiktila, central Myanmar, November 17, 2016. TRF/Zoe Tabary

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I attended and presented at the International Association for Impact Assessment conference last week in Montréal, where this year’s theme was “Impact Assessment’s Contribution to the Global Efforts in Addressing Climate Change”. 

Most participants focused on environmental impact assessment (EIA) around extractive industries and infrastructure and, as a development specialist, I was in the minority – alongside donors working on mainstreaming climate change including John Carstensen, DFID’s Head of Profession for the Climate and Environment department.

Here are some reflections on discussions during the conference:

1.       The CBA approach piloted in Myanmar could and should be used more widely but resource implications mean it will be much easier to do so if included at the programme or evaluation design stage.

2.       We need to ensure baseline surveys capture cumulative impacts of climate shocks and stresses even though they are run at a particular point in time. This reinforces the value of using participatory techniques prior to developing household surveys, for example.

3.       Lenders funding infrastructure or extractive industry projects need to do more to encourage learning for adaptive management in SEIA.  Environmental mitigation plans are monitored but national policy makers and infrastructure operators typically don’t evaluate social impacts and share learning on what mitigation plans have or have not worked and why.

4.       Any lessons we can draw from BRACED for urban resilience are going to be particularly worthwhile given rapid urbanisation projected for developing countries. In countries such as Myanmar, we have evidence of changes in resilience in peri-urban sites but perhaps we can say more on this issue for BRACED as a whole.

5.       There is a section of the SEIA community that is very interested in climate resilience but doesn’t necessarily talk to development professionals. We should try and engage them in our community of practice.

The conference was a good opportunity to share emerging learning based on evidence from the BRACED Knowledge Manager. I presented two papers, one on measuring resilience from experience of BRACED Impact Evaluations and one on cost-benefit analysis (CBA) drawing on case studies form the BRACED Myanmar Alliance project. 

There was quite a lot of interest in my cost-benefit analysis (CBA) presentation from USAID and from Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) practitioners in industrialised countries working with communities affected by infrastructure project investments and climate shocks.   

The theme for this panel was “building the business case for climate change adaptation” and participant feedback was that more such CBA case studies were needed to convince decision makers needing to see economic arguments.    

My presentation on measuring resilience was in the session on “livelihoods in social impact assessment (SIA)”, and was the only one to explicitly look at resilience and methods useful for social impact assessment but was not a formal SIA.

It generated some interested questions but there didn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for incorporating resilience measurement into SEIA more generally – something which BRACED can perhaps build a case for through more evidence.

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