Sustainability Assessment in Benin


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Sustainability Assessment in Benin

  1. 1. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 27(1), March 2009, pages 00–00 DOI: 10.3152/146155109X413037; The greening of poverty reduction strategy papers: a process approach to sustainability assessment Jean Hugé and Luc Hens Despite their alleged comprehensiveness and the many linkages between poverty and environment, most poverty reduction strategy papers have until now insufficiently acknowledged the importance of environmental sustainability. To tackle this shortcoming, participative processes were initiated to ‘green’ PRSPs (meaning the integration of environmental sustainability as a cross-cutting issue). This supposes a process approach to decision-making and implies opening up the policy process to a wide range of societal actors. This approach is conceptualised as a sustainability assessment. A descriptive analysis of the Benin PRSP-greening initiative is presented, based on interviews and on literature research. Subsequently, issues of importance in appreciating the wider impact of PRSP-greening are suggested. Besides the quality improvements of the PRSP, greening contributes to a gradual change in the way decision-making is perceived and contributes to social learning. Furthermore, it is a promising approach that contributes to the institutionalisation of environmental sustainability in Africa. Keywords: poverty reduction strategy papers, greening, sustainability assessment, participation, Benin, AfricaS INCE THE 1960S, developing countries all institutions) has recently provided a — more or less over the world have been producing strategic compulsory — common framework for many devel- socio-economic development plans to outline oping countries wishing to receive international aid.development policy orientations and to provide Poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs) aregeneral guidance to the actions of the government prepared by governments in low-income countriesand the administration. The planning traditions of through a participatory process involving domesticdeveloping countries can be very different from stakeholders and external development to country, ranging from the historically They describe the macro-economic, structural andgrown planning traditions of Vietnam and China to social policies and programmes that a country willless state-centred planning. While many national pursue over several years to promote broad-baseddevelopment strategies are clearly country-owned growth and to reduce poverty, as well as externaland fully decided upon by the highest national au- financing needs and the associated sources of financ-thorities, others are more influenced by external ing (IMF, 2007).pressures. The introduction of the poverty reduction While initially developed to ensure that recipientstrategy-approach by the international aid com- countries would make wise use of the money thatmunity (inspired and led by the Bretton Woods became available through debt reduction, the PRSP has now become a mainstream approach and the production of an elaborate poverty reduction strat-Jean Hugé and Luc Hens are at the Human Ecology Department, egy is considered by many multi- and bilateral do-Free University of Brussels, Laarbeeklaan 103, 1090 Brussels,Belgium; Email:; Human.Ecology@vub. nors as a condition for increased aid; Tel: +32 2 4774926 or +32 2 4774281; Fax +32 2 Despite their shortcomings and the many pertinent4774964. criticisms (Hugé and Hens, 2007), the importance ofImpact Assessment and Project Appraisal March 2009 1461-5517/09/0100000-00 US$08.00 © IAIA 2009 1
  2. 2. Poverty reduction strategy papersPRSPs in the current development co-operationlandscape cannot be ignored, as donors have chosenthem as guiding documents for aid allocation. Practice has shown that the vast Given the alleged comprehensiveness of PRSPs, majority of poverty reduction strategyand taking the numerous poverty-related sustainabil-ity issues into account, one might reasonably expect papers have until now insufficientlyenvironmentally sustainable development to be a acknowledged the importance ofguiding principle of the PRSP approach. Indeed, the environmental sustainability forWorld Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy PaperSourcebook, which provides guidance to assist balanced developmentcountries in the development of their poverty reduc-tion strategies, devotes a whole chapter to the envi-ronment. The environmental chapter emphasises thefact that improved environmental conditions can helpto reduce poverty. Better environmental management balanced development. International organisationsis presented as an opportunity to build sustainable such as the World Bank (Bojö and Reddy, 2002,livelihoods, as poor people are highly dependent on 2003; Bojö et al, 2004), the World Wide Fund fornatural resources. The sustainable management of Nature (Tharakan and MacDonald, 2004), the Worldnatural resources is said to strengthen communities Resources Institute (World Resources, 2005) and theby increasing their resilience (Bojö et al, 2002). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP,World Bank thus uses a broad definition of ‘the en- 2004) as well as own research (Hugé and Hens,vironment’ in the PRSP framework. 2007) recognised that PRSPs do not sufficiently ad- In the global aid context, Millennium Develop- dress environmental sustainability issues. A check-ment Goal 7 further contributed to popularise the list-based sustainability assessment performed by theconcept of environmental sustainability. Target 9 of authors assessed the degree to which environmentalMillennium Development Goal 7 explicitly calls for sustainability issues were considered in a selectionthe integration of the principles of sustainable devel- of PRSPs. The following issues were addressed:opment into country policies and programmes andfor the reversal of the loss of environmental • The commitment to sustainable development;resources. • The dependence on natural resources; In this paper, environmental sustainability is de- • The access to services and natural resources;fined as the ability to maintain the socio-economic • The empowerment and participation of the poor;qualities that are valued in the physical environment. • The pressures on the environment;The definition departs from the fact that ecosystem • The vulnerability of the poor;services underpin human life and are essential for • The economic incentive mechanisms forthe socio-economic foundation of society. Sound sustainability;natural resources management strengthens the re- • The policy response; andsource base and decreases the vulnerability of the • The process of PRSP development.poor, enabling them to escape poverty. This concep-tion emphasises the ecological dimension of the Taken together, these issues reflect the multidimen-classical, three-pillar definition of sustainability as sional conception of environmental sustainability.this dimension is often relatively neglected (Bojö et Every issue was translated into questions (85 ques-al, 2002, Hugé and Hens, 2007). tions in total). These were then scored on a 0–2 On the other hand, societal stakeholders can still scale, where 0 stands for ‘no mention of the issue’; 1enrich this open conceptualisation of sustainability for ‘the issue is mentioned but not elaborated’; and 2as it leaves ample space for interpretation. Indeed, for ‘the issue is elaborated’. The sum of all scoresany strict definition of sustainability involves risks subsequently provided an indication of the environ-in concealing the values inherent in sustainability mental sustainability of the PRSP. The general re-principles (Cashmore, 2007). While a detailed over- sults of the assessment revealed an insufficientview of the literature on poverty–environment link- integration of the majority of these issues in PRSPs.ages lies outside the scope of this paper, some Detailed results are discussed in Hugé and Hens,authors have produced particularly valuable analyses 2007. Part of the checklist is presented in Appendixthat have served as a theoretical underpinning of this 1 for illustrative purposes.research and that will introduce the interested reader In conclusion, the lack of integration of environ-to the concept of environmental sustainability from a mental sustainability issues (or at least their verypoverty–environment perspective (Dasgupta et al, uneven consideration) in strategic documents such2005; DFID et al, 2002; Millennium Ecosystem as PRSPs hampers the achievement of sustainableAssessment, 2005). development and undermines the effectiveness of Practice has shown that the vast majority of poverty reduction strategies due to an inadequatePRSPs have until now insufficiently acknowledged consideration of the important linkages betweenthe importance of environmental sustainability for poverty and environment.2 Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal March 2009
  3. 3. Poverty reduction strategy papers Two general approaches can be distinguished to and Pope et al (2004) have analysed this conceptu-respond to this major shortcoming of PRSPs. alisation in more detail, this brief introduction The first approach is to consider the lack of envi- allows the positioning of ‘greening’ in the context ofronmental sustainability integration as a ‘technical’ sustainability assessment.problem, which can largely be solved by targeted The application of ‘greening’ to PRSPs is the re-and clearly defined actions. These include the appli- sult of two reinforcing dynamics: the greening of thecation of conventional or enhanced environmental development policy of international donors and thesustainability assessments on PRSPs, by using im- increased environmental awareness of the Southernpact matrices or checklists (e.g. see Appendix 1). partner countries. Both dynamics are exacerbatedThe assessment exercise is then followed by targeted due to rising global environmental problems andimprovements in the sections of the PRSP that are better knowledge of the linkages between povertyinsufficiently considering environmental sustainabil- and environmental degradation. The Millenniumity issues. Ecosystem Assessment (2005), as well as the reports While useful to identify sustainable development of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changeopportunities, and handy to realise quick adjust- (IPCC, 2007) have been instrumental in strengthen-ments to incomplete PRSPs, this approach does not ing the scientific basis of these assertions. Thus twoactually challenge the process by which PRSPs are driving forces come together: on the one hand, theredrafted. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that these is the donor-driven — some say donor-imposed —cosmetic changes will eventually trigger a shift to- push for sustainable development co-operation; onwards an environmentally sound decision-making the other hand Southern governments themselves areprocess. increasingly aware of the importance of sound envi- The second approach consists in the initiation of a ronmental management for balanced socio-economicparticipative process to gradually ‘green’ the PRSP. development.‘Greening’ refers to the cross-cutting integration of This situation has led to numerous initiatives aim-environmental sustainability principles in policies, ing at the integration of environmental sustainabilityplans or programmes. This process involves the in- in development co-operation activities. These rangeclusion of a range of stakeholders in the PRSP- from increased financing for environmental projects,drafting: the process is opened up to societal actors to the enhanced application of environmental as-outside the state structures to ensure that differing sessments or to the introduction of environmentalperspectives on environmental sustainability are re- management systems in international developmentflected in the strategic policy document represented organisations (e.g. in Belgium’s Technical Co-by the PRSP. Ideally, the final PRSP becomes a syn- operation [BTC, 2006] or in Australia’s AusAIDthesis document. [Keen and Sullivan, 2005]). This strategy supposes a process approach to de- The present paper focuses on a particular way ofcision-making, introducing flexibility and adaptabil- ‘greening’ international development activities: theity, while working within commonly defined greening of poverty reduction strategy papers. Ana-environmental sustainability boundaries. The ap- lysing a particular greening experience in more de-proach will ultimately trigger a change in the way tail will provide insight into its realisation and intostrategies are developed and might contribute to a its side effects. While PRSP-greening is certainlylasting integration of environmental sustainability not a mainstream exercise (yet?), a number of Afri-concerns. The greening also functions as a learning can countries have recently organised PRSP-process, as it might result in changed decision- greening processes from which the internationalmaking behaviour caused by a broadened perception community can learn a lot. In this paper, the case ofon how to tackle complex societal challenges Benin is discussed. A PRSP-greening process was(Siebenhüner, 2005). The analysis of the Benin organised there in 2006–2007. Evidence from otherPRSP-greening process will provide us with new African PRSP-greening experiences is presentedinsights on these learning outcomes. where information was available. The final section Both approaches are to be situated at the opposing of the paper places PRSP-greening within the widerends of a continuum reflecting one’s interpretation context of fostering policy change towards sustain-of sustainability assessment. At one end, a pragmatic able development.and technical sustainability assessment will allow to Before turning to the Benin case, one has toscreen proposals for unwanted sustainability effects, define what is meant by ‘a green(ed) PRSP’. Asimilar to an extended ‘classical’ environmental ‘green’ PRSP reflects a number of environmentalimpact assessment. sustainability issues in a satisfactory way. While the At the other end, the interpretation of sustainabil- categorisation of environmental sustainability ele-ity assessment as an iterative and integrated process ments of a green PRSP involves some subjectiveleading to strategic actions towards environmental judgement (e.g. emphasising the ecosystem servicessustainability presents the assessment exercise as an concept), the presented categories are based on anessential element in a social learning process. PRSP extensive literature study and have already been‘greening’ essentially fits within this second inter- used to assess the environmental sustainability ofpretation. While authors such as Rotmans (2006) PRSPs in Hugé and Hens (2007). Although a ‘green’Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal March 2009 3
  4. 4. Poverty reduction strategy papersTable 1. Key elements of a ‘green’ Poverty Reduction avoid a one-sided lecture of the process. Figure 1 Strategy Paper provides an overview of the interviewees per sector. The interviewed stakeholders were all involved inThe PRSP shows a commitment to sustainable development the PRSP-greening process, albeit to different de-The dependence of the economy on natural resources is grees. Some were directly involved in the PRSP-considered drafting process, such as the civil servants from theThe access to basic social services and natural resources is Ministry of Finance and Development and the staffconsidered of the Benin Environment Agency. The representa-The empowerment and participation of the poor are considered tives from local non-government organisationsThe pressures on the environment are considered (NGOs), the private sector and trade unions, as wellThe vulnerability of the poor is considered as academics, consultants and donors, all partici-Economic incentive mechanisms for sustainability are considered pated in an indirect way. Although the subsequentThe proposed policy response considers environmental discussion shows that many interviewees perceivedsustainability their actual influence on the PRSP process differ-The PRSP is developed in a participatory and open way ently, the organising Beninese authorities stated that the stakeholders had the opportunity to react to the PRSP drafts and to propose amendments during thePRSP cannot be defined in an ‘absolute’ way, as the whole PRSP process. These issues are discussed inquality of a PRSP always stands in comparison to the next section of this paper.other PRSPs (being earlier versions of the assessed The interviews allowed gathering information fromPRSP or international examples of ‘best practice’), a various societal stakeholders. The interviews were‘green’ PRSP should encompass the various ele- performed using a semi-structured questionnairements listed in Table 1. consisting of 31 questions in four separate sections. The first section entailed general questions on the function and role of the interviewees in the greening Analysis of the Benin PRSP-greening process. Subsequently, questions were asked on how experience the interviewees perceived the PRSP-greening pro- cess. Aspects related to the organisation of the processThis section provides insight in the structure of a and to the eventual content of the greened PRSP werespecific PRSP-greening process and in the role of considered. In a third section, particular attention wasthe various actors involved. devoted to the linkages between the PRSP and other The analysis is based on an extensive research of programmes/plans and to the role of the donor com-the literature and of the documents relating to the munity. The fourth section of the questionnairePRSP process in Benin (e.g. ABE, 2006; APBEE, focused on the side effects of the process with regard2007). The membership of the international steering to the long-term anchoring of environmental sustain-committee in support of the PRSP II greening proc- ability in the minds and habits of the involved stake-ess in Benin offered opportunities to access inside holders. Additional specific questions were aimed atinformation, as did the contacts within the Benin particular interviewees.Environment Agency. This context facilitated theselection of relevant actors in the PRSP-greening The PRSP process in Beninprocess. Twenty-one selected actors of the greeningprocess were interviewed in Benin to get an over- The intervention period of the first Benin PRSPview of the various opinions and perspectives, to (2003–2005) ended on 31 December 2005. The Benin Government saw 2006 as a transition year towards the new PRSP for 2007–2009, which is in- tended to be a resource-mobilising instrument and a Academics coordination tool for the Millennium Development Benin Environment 5% Agency Goals. The official name of the second PRSP is Civil servants 23% Stratégie de Croissance pour la Réduction de la 14% Pauvreté (Growth Strategy for Poverty Reduction) and the final version dates from April 2007. In this UN paper, the document is referred to as ‘the Benin 10% PRSP II’. NGOs Consultants 14% The PRSP-greening process in Benin 14% Donors Trade unions 10% The greening process of the Benin PRSP II started 5% Private sector when a range of societal stakeholders recognised 5% that the first Benin PRSP did not take into accountFigure 1. Distribution of the interviewees according to the linkages between environment and poverty and professional sector did not consider environmental sustainability as a4 Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal March 2009
  5. 5. Poverty reduction strategy paperscross-cutting issue. The decision to green the PRSP key steps of a strategic environmental assessmentwas a logical move as it can be interpreted as a con- from the perspective of the Benin Environmentcrete acknowledgement of the concerns for envi- Agency, compared to a selection of sustainabilityronmentally sustainable development as expressed assessment principles according to Gibson et al,by existing institutional arrangements (such as the 2005.1990 Constitution and the 2003 Outline Law on the It is clear that both approaches rest on commonEnvironment). principles. While sustainability assessment is used Tométy et al (2006) provide an analysis that sheds as a generic term, well suited to describe a flexiblelight on the strengths and weaknesses of the first PRSP-greening process, strategic environmentalPRSP. The results of the report were in line with the assessment is a well-known concept in the devel-findings of the authors of this paper, granting Benin’s opment community, both in Benin and within thefirst PRSP a mediocre score for environmental sus- international donor community. SEA is mentionedtainability integration (Hugé and Hens, 2007). in Beninese legislation and in important inter- The greening project was led by the Benin Envi- national documents such as the Paris Declarationronment Agency, in collaboration with a cell of the on Aid Effectiveness (2005) and the Message fromMinistry of Development and Finance. Strategic Paris on the Integration of Biodiversity in Europeanenvironmental assessment (SEA) was chosen as the Development Co-operation (IUCN, 2006).methodology to green the PRSP. The Benin Envi- Furthermore the Organisation for Economic Co-ronment Agency defines SEA as ‘a process that operation and Development’s Development Assis-leads to a policy, plan or program that takes envi- tance Committee has recently drafted guidance onronmental issues into account adequately’. Accord- SEA in development co-operation (OECD, 2006).ing to ABE (2006), SEA does not aim at predicting To facilitate the process, the Benin Environmentprecise impacts, but is instead meant to set out the Agency drafted a customised methodological SEAlimits within which the future activities of the par- guide for Benin.ticular policy, plan or program will be realised. The In practice, the guidance merely provided a gen-proposed SEA methodology contains all necessary eral orientation for the work as it left enough spaceelements of a fully elaborated assessment (see for interpretation. Indeed, the stakeholders did notHugé and Hens, 2007), while leaving scope for stick to the guidance very strictly but instead used itadaptation. as an advisory tool. Ultimately, the greening process Without entering semantic debates about termi- entailed a range of activities that led to tangiblenology, it is argued that the Benin PRSP-greening quality improvements, as shown by the higher scoreprocess can be described as a sustainability assess- obtained by the greened Benin PRSP II using thement process. Even if there is no universally ac- environmental sustainability checklist developed bycepted generic definition, the objectives (quality the authors (Hugé and Hens, 2007; see also Appen-enhancement of a socio-economic strategy towards dix 1). It is argued that ‘sustainability assessment’ issustainable development) and the methodology (a an adequate term to describe the eventual realisationparticipative, structured but flexible approach based of the Benin PRSP-greening process, as it empha-on SEA) of the Benin PRSP-greening process allow sises the flexibility of the to conceptualise the initiative as a sustainability Table 3 provides a schematic overview of theassessment process. Gibson et al (2005) for instance, main activities undertaken as part of the greeningare among the authors advocating a broad interpreta- process during each phase of the drafting of thetion of sustainability assessment. Table 2 lists the Benin PRSP II. Both processes were carried out simultaneously and were very much intertwined,Table 2. Principles of strategic environmental assessment thanks to the collaboration between the responsible versus principles of sustainability assessment authorities (the Ministry of Finance and Develop- ment and the Benin Environment Agency), the thor-Strategic environmental Sustainability assessment ough planning and the adaptability of the processassessment and its main actors alike. The overview is based on the results of both the literature study and the stake-1. Analysis of the problem 1. Integrated analysis aiming at progress towards holder interviews. sustainability2. Strategic diagnosis leading 2. Decision criteria and trade off Lessons learned from the Benin PRSP-greening to an environmental rules are defined process scoreboard3. Design of scenarios 3. Identification of the best This section builds upon the observations of the option(s) Benin PRSP-greening process and on the discussions4. Definition of a vision for the 4. Working towards a culture of with the contacted stakeholders. Given the limited future sustainability number of interviewees and the partly customised5. Definition and formulation of 5. Ensure positive steps towards questionnaires, the choice was made to integrate the strategies sustainability results of the interviews into a synthesising sectionSource: adapted from ABE (2006) and Gibson et al (2005) instead of focusing on individual responses.Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal March 2009 5
  6. 6. Poverty reduction strategy papersTable 3. Overview of the main phases of the Poverty a strategic guiding document. Besides this shortcom- Reduction Strategy Paper drafting procedure and greening ing, the implementation of this innovative initiative was globally successful.Steps in the PRSP drafting Steps in the PRSP greening Major environmental sustainability issues concerned process While the majority of the interviewed stakeholdersResponsible authority: PRSP Responsible authority: Benin list a similar set of environmental problems, such asUnit of the Ministry of Finance Environment Agency in atmospheric pollution, unorganised urbanisation, de-and Development collaboration with the PRSP Unit forestation, lack of access to decent sanitation and of the Ministry of Finance and Development safe water, coastal erosion, waste management, andPreparation phase • Report on the environmental drought, some objected that environmental concerns impacts of the Benin PSRP I as a whole were not adequately presented in the • Drafting of a methodological PRSP. Civil society interviewees stated that the envi- guide on strategic ronmental sustainability narrative of the PRSP is too environmental assessment • Framing workshop and focused on the narrowly ecological, theoretical defi- preliminary meetings nition of environmental problems. The link with sus-Diagnostics and evaluation • Set-up of a cross-cutting tainable livelihoods and with the sustainable use ofphase – proposal of new working group on the natural resources is insufficiently emphasised. Thesectoral development strategies environmentby the thematic working groups • Provision of a thorough narrative is said to be too donor-influenced and does(later transformed into a environmental diagnosis not reflect the priorities of the poor populations livingstrategic axes structure) • National Forum on PRSP in biodiversity-rich areas, nor does it propose practi- greening: major consultation and communication event cal means to solve concrete livelihood problems. When reading the final Benin PRSP II, this viewSet-up of a coherent synthesis • Greening workshop leading toresulting in a first draft of the specific recommendations needs to be nuanced. Environmental governance isBenin PRSP II • Inclusion of the workshop well elaborated, but practical and pragmatic envi- recommendations in the draft ronmental mainstreaming is also advocated through- PRSP II out the document. Climate change is only brieflyConsultation phase • Decentralised workshops to involve local communities mentioned in the greened PRSP. This is at least partly attributable to a timing discrepancy with theFinalisation phase: • Initiation of the greening of the• Presentation of the final Priority Action Plan, being an drafting of the Benin National Adaptation Pro- version of the PRSP operational translation of the gramme of Action.• Elaboration of the Priority PRSP Action Plan • Capitalisation and restitution workshop Linking the PRSP-greening process to other national plans and programmes Even if the PRSP is increasingly used as the main overarching devel-Implementation of the PRSP-greening process The opment framework, this document did not ‘pop up’greening process was originally organised according in an empty institutional environment. A lot ofto the planning of the PRSP II drafting itself. While strategic thinking and vision development was donethe greening process covered each phase of the before. The greening should therefore not be con-PRSP II drafting, the bulk of the actual greening ef- fined to the last version of the PRSP alone, butfort — interpreted as adapting the contents of the should also consider the related initiatives that even-PRSP itself — was realised during and immediately tually guide government action. The idea of green-after a major workshop (referred to as the greening ing the Benin PRSP was influenced by long-standingworkshop in Table 3). This yielded satisfactory re- sectoral environmental programmes that weresults, but the initial plan of working with a transver- drafted in Benin in the wake of the 1992 United Na-sal/sectoral environmental working group supporting tions Conference on Environment and Development.other thematic groups was never truly operational. The Environmental Action Plan, followed by the The Ministry of Development and Finance andthe Benin Environment Agency took the lead in thegreening process. This strong leadership preventedthe process being viewed as a sectoral (environ-mental) initiative, and contributed to its success and Civil society interviewees stated thatto its acceptance by virtually all concerned stake- the environmental sustainabilityholders. Moreover, as the greening process occurredsimultaneously with the PRSP-drafting process, ad- narrative of the poverty reductionaptation and immediate reaction were possible. The strategy paper is too focused on thePRSP-greening process did not succeed in elaborat- narrowly ecological, theoreticaling a hierarchical listing of the environmental ac-tions to be undertaken. This should probably be done definition of environmental problemsat the level of the governmental Priority Action Plan(implementing the PRSP), as the PRSP itself is only6 Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal March 2009
  7. 7. Poverty reduction strategy papersNational Environmental Management Plan, indi- PRSP-greening as a first step towardsrectly influenced the PRSP-greening. However, none environmentally sustainable developmentof these documents was explicitly referred to in thegreened Benin PRSP II. Moreover, the governmental This section analyses PRSP-greening efforts in aPriority Action Plan, while said to be a reflection of broader context. Primarily based on the Beninthe PRSP priorities, is actually also inspired by a PRSP-greening experience, it also draws on similarnumber of other strategic initiatives complementing initiatives in other African countries. A literaturethe PRSP such as the Strategic Development Objec- study illustrated that different approaches are fol-tives and various sectoral plans and programmes. lowed to green PRSPs, even if the ultimate general The majority (62%) of interviewed stakeholders objective is the same: ensuring an increased integra-did not see any explicit complementarity between tion of environmental sustainability in a strategicthe Millennium Development Goals and the PRSP- policy document to achieve sustainable develop-drafting process, even if the United Nations Devel- ment. Lessons learned from Ghana, Mozambique,opment Programme (UNDP) representatives main- Tanzania and Uganda will be presented within thetained that there were operational linkages. relevant sections.However, the final version of the Benin PRSP IIcontains annexes providing information on the The impact of PRSP-greeningfinancial resources needed to attain the MillenniumDevelopment Goals (MDGs), suggesting some form How does one measure the actual impact of a PRSP-of miscommunication about the PRSP–MDG link- greening effort? Only by resorting to a comparisonages. UNDP-Benin worked on this ‘costing’ exer- of the ‘scores’ of an initial non-greened versus acise, but did not involve a representative range of greened PRSP using a checklist approach as pre-stakeholders. But there was a general recognition sented in the authors’ earlier work (Hugé and Hens,among the stakeholders of the (symbolic) impor- 2007; see also Appendix 1 of this paper for a sampletance of the MDGs for sustainable development. of the checklist) would probably be too restrictive in this context. While sustainability checklists are veryFollow-up of the PRSP-greening process The useful tools in quickly highlighting the strengths andBenin Environment Agency is responsible for the fol- weaknesses of a PRSP and allowing focus on spe-low-up of the PRSP-greening in order to ‘keep the cific needs for quality improvements, limiting one-process going’. According to the Ministry of Devel- self to checklists when evaluating the impact ofopment and Finance, the environmental sector is one greening processes would contribute to the strength-of the only sectors that has been allocated substantial ening of a technical and one-sided approach toadditional resources in the Benin PRSP II. This is im- PRSP-greening. It would also ignore the potentialpossible to conclude from the respective Beninese side effects of a sustainability assessment process,PRSPs, as the data are not presented in a standardised which range from individual to social learning.way: allocated resources are presented by ministry in In this section, alternative qualitative ways to ap-2002 and by sector in 2007 (Benin, 2002, 2007). In preciate the impact of a PRSP-greening process areaddition, every sectoral ministry is said to have incor- suggested. A selection of topics of prime importanceporated environmental concerns in its action plan. in considering the success of PRSP-greening isThis last assertion could not, however, be verified as presented.all sectoral plans could not be accessed. A qualitative and descriptive approach might be Many environmental actors warn of a lack of more difficult to standardise or to objectify, but itcommitment towards environmental integration if has the major advantage of pointing to the reality ofdonors do not keep pressuring the government. Civil a non-linear decision-making process while takingsociety organisations are aware of the importance of multiplier effects into account.following up the implementation of the PRSP and PRSP-greening processes contribute to sustain-expressed their interest in post-greening activities to able development by encouraging different types ofthe authorities. Field actors emphasise the lasting learning in various actor categories (Cashmore,discrepancy between the PRSP intentions and the 2007; Fitzpatrick, 2006). The significance of thesereality of natural resources management in the coun- learning outcomes lies in the societal consequencestry. The greened Benin PRSP II is an integrative and beyond the strict boundaries of the greening process.holistic document that aims to link the priorities of PRSP-greening processes may in particular give risedifferent stakeholders into a coherent whole, but the to two forms of learning, being a more effective in-future will tell how this strategy will be translated on tegration of environmental sustainability concerns inthe field. While the Priority Action Plan (PAP) is the the decision-making process on the one hand andtranslation of PRSP intentions into concrete actions, social learning on the other hand.the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) Social learning is understood as being derivedis its budgetary translation. Following up the imple- from social interactions over solutions to sharedmentation of both the PAP and the MTEF will be problems (Cashmore, 2007) and as reflecting changeessential in order to know whether the PRSP- resulting from a new social consensus about funda-greening has really been effective. mental aspects of decision-making (Connor andImpact Assessment and Project Appraisal March 2009 7
  8. 8. Poverty reduction strategy papersDovers, 2004). One particular form of social learningrefers to the understanding by individuals of otherstakeholders’ values, which was apparent in the Benin The ‘greening’ idea is starting tocase. Complex societal problems such as the transi- influence the business sector as thetion towards an environmentally sustainabledevelopment do indeed require various perspectives recruitment of environmental expertsto yield satisfactory solutions. A PRSP-greening in private companies is now a realityprocess hence functions as a negotiation forum con- in Benincretising deliberative governance for sustainability.Ideally, the participants in the process develop anew, common perspective on environmental sustain-ability: a process of re-framing takes place. PRSP-processes are not always granted the same function PRSP-greening will also influence the applicationin the policy process (the function differs from of environmental impact assessments at projectcountry to country, but also depending on stake- level. The exemplary function of PRSP-greening isholders’ points of view), which makes it difficult to an important motivating force, and the Benin PRSPmeasure the impact of greening processes in a II even explicitly calls for improvements in the ap-standardised way. plication of environmental impact assessments. The function of PRSP-greening in the policy PRSP-greening has also influenced other areas ofelaboration process is linked to the way knowledge society. The ‘greening’ idea is starting to influenceis produced and used in participative exercises. In the business sector as the recruitment of environ-‘real’ policy-making, there is no unitary decision- mental experts in private companies is now a realitymaker nor any central steering mechanism. Instead, in Benin. These are some (modest) illustrations ofpolicy decisions are the outcome of complex actor the multiplier effects of the Benin PRSP-greeningand interest interactions (Hertin et al, 2007). PRSP- process.greening processes are prime — yet imperfect — Another promising example is provided by Tanza-examples of non-linear policy-making, and analys- nia’s PRSP-greening process, which was itself part ofing them in this context provides new insights. a general environmental mainstreaming dynamic in Taking the above-mentioned aspects into account, the country. The PRSP-greening process wassuggested points of interest are presented in the next launched by the Tanzanian Vice President’s Office, insections, aiming at a multidimensional appreciation collaboration with the United Nations Developmentof the impact of a PRSP-greening process. Programme, WWF-Tanzania, the UK Department for International Development and the Danish Inter- Greening at various decision-making levels national Development Agency. At the same time, milestone documents were published, such as theThe ‘signal function’ provided by a greened PRSP Guide and Action Plan to Mainstreaming Environ-for lower decision-making levels was repeatedly ment into the Poverty Reduction Strategy Reviewstressed by the Beninese interviewees. The symbolic (URT, 2004) and the Public Expenditure Review of thesignificance of PRSP-greening should thus not be Environment (URT, 2005). The international consor-underestimated. tium supporting the PRSP-greening and the various At ministerial level, the Benin Decree No. Tanzanian initiatives show that environmental main-2001-095 of 20 February 2001 created environ- streaming really penetrated the decision-making cul-mental cells in each sectoral ministry. Among other ture of the country, even if much remains to be done attasks, these are supposed to raise the environmental local level. Tanzanian civil society stakeholders statedawareness of their ministries, to guarantee the re- that the PRSP-greening process was a key elementspect of environmental norms and to control the in triggering the momentum for environmental sus-quality of environmental assessments (APBEE, tainability integration (Waldman, 2005).2007). The environmental cells of the sectoral minis- It might still be a little early to derive generaltries are, however, not operational to this date, not- trends from these promising experiences, but thewithstanding some exceptions. It is expected that Beninese and Tanzanian examples show that PRSP-PRSP-greening process will revive these cells. greening processes have potentially huge impacts on At local level, the municipalities are generally various levels and have an important role to play inaware of the environmental problems and their triggering change towards environmentally sustain-umbrella organisation participated actively in the able development.greening process. Some municipalities have alreadyexpressed their interest in greening their municipal Participation in PRSP-greening as a stepping stonedevelopment plans, following the PRSP example. towards democratic decision-makingThe implementation problems surrounding the de-centralisation process in Benin should, however, One of the features of a PRSP process is the focuslead to realistic expectations. Municipalities are still on participation. In the PRSP-context, donors pressfacing important capacity problems. Southern governments to accept a significant8 Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal March 2009
  9. 9. Poverty reduction strategy papersparticipation of civil society organisations. As a were given the opportunity to reflect on and react toresult, closer relationships between civil society and a strategic policy document. The stakeholders weredonors have been an outgrowth of the PRSP pro- very much aware of the importance of the PRSP andcesses in many countries. Interestingly, the inclusion thus strongly appreciated the fact that they were in-of non-state actors in a PRSP-greening process also volved in the process, even if they realised that theyields secondary effects in the policy-making pro- process still showed some flaws and shortcomings.cess as a whole. All stakeholders believed that this exercise was a The basic claim for participation in sustainability first step, and that participative decision-makingassessment processes (such as PRSP-greening) is that would be strengthened in the future. The experimen-it contributes to the correctness or validity of deci- tal and innovative character of the Benin PRSP-sions, by allowing assertions to be checked against the greening exercise made the non-state stakeholdersviews of the interested parties. More fundamental quite indulgent towards the for participation rest upon a deliberative ideal One of the problems that arose in Benin was thatthat better outcomes may be arrived at and that the the effective participation of the NGO sector wasprocess of deliberation is capable of inculcating envi- hampered by a lack of representative organisations, asronmental values that may encourage an ongoing well as by the limited policy-influencing capacity ofsense of environmental responsibility in those in- local NGOs. The local NGOs are mainly active on thevolved in decision-making (Holder, 2004). Lafferty field and lack the required capacity to perform under-and Meadowcroft (1996) also stress the fact that de- pinned lobby work. To them the PRSP-greening lacksmocratic participation encourages people to view concrete linkages with the urgent improvement of theproblems from a variety of related perspectives. living conditions of the poor. Local NGOs are per- In the Benin PRSP-greening process, these key forming lots of work with respect to raising awarenessadvantages of participation all influenced the posi- of the local populations and they have in-depthtion of the organisers. The interviews revealed that knowledge of the daily living situation of the poor.the organisers of the Benin PRSP-greening process But when it comes to lobbying and monitoring poli-— the Ministry of Finance and the Benin Environ- cies, severe weaknesses arise. The increasing distancement Agency — painted a very positive image of the between NGOs and the poorest population groupsparticipation exercise. The interviews with the ex- that has been witnessed on several occasions shouldternal stakeholders brought some nuances, albeit the not, of course, be encouraged (Bebbington, 2005), butgeneral perception of the participatory process was the sheer complexity of high-level lobbying requiresgenerally positive. The stakeholders’ perception professional skills lacking in most local NGOs.depended on their interpretation of ‘participation’. Mohan (2002) warns that NGOs having a grassrootsWhile the Beninese authorities communicated effec- constituency are at risk of being increasingly alien-tively about the PRSP-greening (via a framing work- ated from the centres of and a large-scale ‘national forum on PRSP- Despite these limitations, the NGO-sector partici-greening’, as well as via the mass media) and while pated actively in the Benin greening process, therebythey encouraged effective participation, the concept concretising the official partnership idea stating thatis subject to interpretation. all actors should negotiate a shared vision of Arnstein’s famous ladder of participation national development. Incorporating local NGOs in(Arnstein, 1969) distinguishes eight different forms strategic policy formation processes such as PRSP-of participation, and some stakeholders would have drafting contributes to the trickling down of theliked to ‘climb the ladder a little higher’ to attain at greening ideas at the local level, while the uptake ofleast a level of ‘partnership’, where power is really local concerns at national level is strengthened. Indi-redistributed through negotiation between citizens cations reinforcing this assertion came out of theand authorities. In the Benin PRSP-greening pro- interviews. Trade unions were also actively involvedcess, stakeholders were given the possibility of re- in the greening process as exemplified by the pres-acting to the drafts of the PRSP and to propose ence of their representatives in various workingamendments to improve its quality. This was en- groups, including the greening team. This led to thesured through regional and national workshops and PRSP acknowledging the linkages between envi-through the composition of the working groups. ronment and health in the industrial sector.Ultimately, the decision to include stakeholder com- A PRSP-greening process can thus be interpretedments in the final PRSP II depended on the Ministry as a forum where the meaning of environmental sus-of Development and Finance and on the Benin Envi- tainability can be debated and where stakeholders’ronment Agency. This resulted in some stakeholder own perspectives come together in a synthesis thatideas being accepted while others were rejected. The should be coherent (or at least consensual). The con-acceptance/rejection process was not transparent, cept of (environmental) sustainability itself variesand that caused some frustrations. Moreover, the over time and space, making it necessary to con-participation did not address power issues and con- stantly readjust societal views on ‘the way forward’.trol of information in a satisfactory way. The iterative PRSP process is suited to this kind of However, the participating stakeholders still per- learning exercises. Encouraging public participationceived the exercise as something positive, as they becomes a key priority under this conception of theImpact Assessment and Project Appraisal March 2009 9
  10. 10. Poverty reduction strategy papersrole of greening processes. One of the most success-ful side effects of the Benin PRSP-greening thus wasthe enhanced participation of a wide range of socie- New processes and ideas in thetal stakeholders, which resulted in a more widely environmental field tend to be adoptedsupported Benin PRSP II. The Benin PRSP-greening process has thus with difficulty in Africa. Pressuretriggered a new interest in favour of civil society from donors can help in fostering aparticipation, even if some claim the communication change in attitude and ultimately aabout the greening process came too late and wasnot comprehensive, and even if the participative ex- change in decision-making cultureercise as such was certainly not free from criticism. In the Ugandan PRSP-greening process, participa-tion from civil society was strong from the onset.The opinions voiced by civil society organisationsclearly impacted on the contents of the PRSP. The was a key factor of success. An interviewee puts theanalysis of environmental sustainability integration problem in a wider perspective by stating that newin the Ugandan PRSP (known locally as the ‘Poverty processes and ideas in the environmental field tend toEradication Action Plan’ or PEAP), done by be adopted with difficulty in Africa. Pressure fromMugyenyi et al (2005), states that the greening can donors can help in fostering a change in attitude andbe mostly explained by anecdotal evidence. The ultimately a change in decision-making culture. Ex-Ugandan PRSP-greening process was driven by the ternal support can act as a lifeline for the local green-evolution of the participative process and the gradual ing team, which could otherwise be subject to therealisation of the importance of the PEAP process whims of changing political leaders and ideas.regarding donor budget allocations. In the Ugandan Mozambique is an interesting example in this re-case, there was no structured greening methodology spect. Even if the first Mozambique PRSP (PARPAsuch as a strategic environmental assessment, but I, 2001–2005) integrated environmental sustainabil-rather a ‘participation triggered’ push towards green- ity in a satisfactory way thanks to the environmentaling. However, Waldman (2005) warns of overenthu- awareness of the government (Hugé and Hens,siastic statements, as the example of the Ghanaian 2007), the preparatory process leading to its succes-PRSP-greening process shows that participation is sor, PARPA II (2006–2009), did not reflect a strongnot always that free: commitment to environmental sustainability. Inputs from both donors and civil society were needed to although there was participation from civil correct the situation and to steer the contents of society, people voicing alternative narratives, PARPA II towards environmental sustainability. In being critical of the state, were generally Mozambique, active follow-up and input from civil excluded. society and donors alike proved necessary to main- tain and further enhance the quality of the PRSP. A facilitating role for Northern donors Generally, civil society organisations stress that donors also have a practical, facilitating role. DonorGiven the position of PRSPs at the donor–recipient presence in discussion forums and workshops en-interface, both parties have worked together on these sures that the opinion of civil society is heard. With-frameworks in numerous countries. In that context, it out donor presence and/or pressure, NGOs andis not always easy to find a balance between justified others feel the risk of being ignored or marginalisedadvice and inappropriate infringement on the princi- by their national authorities. Furthermore, inter-ples of country ownership. nationally backed local NGOs gain access much In Benin, the German International Co-operation more easily to the decision-makers. This points toEnterprise GTZ and the United Nations Develop- the need for donors to invest in capacity-building forment Programme were the main external technical civil society in the South. Donors can also encourageand financial supporters of the PRSP-greening pro- South–South exchanges and they can provide acess. The vast majority of the stakeholders stated forum for sharing PRSP experiences. Donor organi-that this donor support did not jeopardise the country sations themselves need to pave the way for ‘green-ownership of the PRSP-greening process. The ing’ by continuously improving the environmentalBeninese authorities undeniably took the initiative to quality of their own interventions.improve the quality of their second PRSP. Another major issue concerns the wider policy ac- But even the environmental ‘conditionalities’ tions of donor countries towards the developingimposed and/or suggested by donors are generally world. Ultimately, achieving environmentally sus-considered positive by the environmental stake- tainable development also depends on the sustain-holders in the South. External pressure from donors ability of, for instance, trade agreements and themay sometimes be necessary to trigger greening ini- adequate consideration of trade–environment link-tiatives. In Benin, the decision to green the PRSP was ages. International development co-operation is onlytaken by the Beninese themselves but donor support one of the ways in which North and South interact.10 Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal March 2009
  11. 11. Poverty reduction strategy papersEven though this issue lies outside the scope of the sustainability is increasingly recognised as a multi-present paper, the broader context of international dimensional concept. This perspective entails thatrelations needs to be kept in mind. widely differing aspects of sustainable development are provided an entry point into the policy process through PRSP-greening. ‘Greening’ an initially Conclusions donor-imposed framework such as a PRSP can ultimately have positive effects that are more far-The analysis of the Benin experience, as well as of a reaching than enhanced environmental integration.number of examples from other African countries, PRPS greening has the potential to strengthen theallows us to draw a number of conclusions on the decision-making process as a whole. The actual ex-potential of PRSP-greening processes. However, perience of PRSP-greening might be a first step to-given the relative novelty of the PRSP-framework, wards a full embedding of environmentallyand of greening processes in particular, a prudent sustainable development in African countries as itinterpretation is required. allows the concretising of some abstract concepts First of all, ‘greening’ poverty reduction strategies and the popularising of sustainable development to acan be done in a variety of ways. There is no such broader audience, ranging from ministries to localthing as a one-size-fits-all ‘blueprint’ approach. NGOs. The iterative nature of the PRSP processSustainability assessment is presented as a useful supposes the regular actualisation of the strategyconceptualisation, allowing the framing of PRSP- (generally with a five-year periodicity). This actuali-greening as a structured participative exercise foster- sation makes it possible to integrate environmentaling environmental sustainability. sustainability in an already existing framework, A promising finding is that the greening of strate- resulting in a gradual institutionalisation of the prin-gic policy documents has important side effects. ciples of environmental sustainability.Indeed, the participative inclusion of a wide array of With PRSP-greening, the primary objective ofcivil society stakeholders gradually changes the way integrating environmental sustainability in a socio-policy development is perceived: non-state stake- economic strategy is completed by the reinforcementholders’ voices are heard and PRSP-greening can of democratic participation mechanisms, whicheven lead to calls for wider participation at various support the institutional pillar of sustainable devel-decision-making levels if its results are considered opment. This last conclusion might sound idealistic,successful by the involved actors. but the encouraging experiences of some African While the term ‘greening’ itself may at first countries that have embarked on these processessuggest a classical ecological focus, environmental allow this note of optimism. Appendix 1. Part of sustainability assessment checklist to be applied to Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers Issue Score Comment 1. Commitment to sustainable development 1.1 Does the PRSP explicitly mention sustainable development? 1.2 Does the PRSP consider the environment/sustainable development as strategic objectives? 1.3 Does the PRSP recognise environmentally sustainable development as a horizontal, cross-cutting issue? 1.4 Does the PRSP refer to international commitments in the field of sustainable development and poverty reduction? (e.g. UN Conferences in Rio and Johannesburg, Agenda 21, Millennium Development Goals, Multilateral Environmental Agreements)? 1.5 Does the PRSP provide a full definition of poverty? Is there sufficient consideration of the • economic • social • ecological dimensions of poverty?References Professionals 2007. Verdissement de la Stratégie Béninoise de Croissance pour la Réduction de la Pauvreté: Histoire so- ciale, méthodologie, processus et acteurs, leçons (Greening ofABE, Benin Environment Agency 2006. Guide méthodologique the Benin Growth Strategy for Poverty Reduction: Social pour une evaluation environnementale stratégique (Methodo- History, Methodology, Actors and Lessons Learned). Benin: logical Guide for a Strategic Environmental Assessment). APBEE. Benin: ABE, Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection. Arnstein, S R 1969. A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of theAPBEE, Benin Association of Environmental Assessment American Institute of Planners, 35(4), 216–224.Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal March 2009 11
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