The research project is being carried out through five distinct phases of activities:
Phase One: Preparation and In-Country Ground-Work
First, in the ‘ground-work phase’, researchers from each organization will conduct literature searches and initial field research on health and environmental impact assessment (IAs) laws. They will host project planning workshops, and consult with advisors to the project. Small project delegations will participate in the 2005 HEMA and Summit of the Americas meetings, taking advantage of the presence of officials and other actors to identify policy trends in the field, meet with project advisors, and consult with potential users of project results from different countries at little extra expense. The partners will also select potential case studies of IA laws addressing trade liberalisation and economic development policies in each sub-region, each choosing two IAs where health impacts were deliberately taken into consideration and two where they were not (for a total of twenty potential case studies). The case studies will focus on regional geo-climatic zones (eco-regions), with human communities as a significant component, as is appropriate for a holistic approach to human health.
Phase Two: Workshop for Discussion of Project Methods and Planning
Second, in a ‘project workshop phase’, the associate partners and coordinating partner will draft a series of 2 – 3 research papers which discuss ways that IA laws and regulations can seek to incorporate the relationship between all components of an ecosystem, and identify elements of ways that LAC impact assessment laws and policies can better define and assess priority impacts on the health of people and the sustainability of their ecosystem. Then, the core researchers and the associate researchers (each from different disciplines) will participate together in a four day HEIAs planning workshop and review session, to be held in either the National University of Costa Rica in San Jose, or the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute in Saint Lucia. They will agree on a detailed workplan for the project. They jointly review the draft papers of associate partners that discuss current methods and practices for integrated health and environmental IA laws, and how these could be used in a way that is appropriate to conditions in the Americas (SMEs, data gaps, etc). Based on these draft papers, they will jointly develop a draft methodology and identify common aspects of existing IA laws and regulations. Also at this meeting, a common framework will be defined among the partners for the case studies, one which takes into account and emphasises the use of gender-disaggregated data in the IA laws to be studied, and the pressing needs of most vulnerable groups, such as indigenous peoples and the urban poor. From initial options sets, 10 - 15 case studies will also be chosen, 2-3 per sub-region.
Phase Three: Field Research and Engagement with Policy-Making
Third, in the ‘field research phase’, the core partners will compile a joint database of the existing IA laws and policies in the Americas with a focus on the scope and obligations of these laws, the mechanisms for public participation, for integration of health and environmental aspects, the indicators used, and the forms of institutional collaboration. Abstracts or summaries of the laws will be prepared for laws which exist only in English or Spanish. Then, each core sub-regional partner will undertake the 2-3 case studies in their sub-region, examining the methods used in the impact assessments, how health components were integrated (or not), the challenges that were faced, and how the process could be improved, in accordance with frameworks agreed in the previous phase. These case studies will focus on which laws or policies mandated the impact assessment (including their scope, substantive obligations and other aspects), whether health issues were taken into account, which indicators were used, whether institutional collaboration was encouraged, how public participation was ensured, and other aspects. They will use literature reviews and study of documentation, in-depth interviews and discussions with ‘informantes’, and direct observation to carry out the case studies. (A more detailed description of the partners agreed methodology for each case study is provided in Annex Four). The research will be carried out through a qualitative legal pluralist approach, focusing on analysing actual regulatory practices within the context of its legal culture and system, rather than ‘black letter law.’ Each case study will seek to identify ways to ensure more holistic, integrated health and environment IAs policies and laws that take an eco-health perspective into account. Three of the ‘core project partners’ (likely Caribbean / North America, Central America / Andes, and the Mercosur) will also host sub-regional workshops to which other project partners will be invited. Preliminary results of the field research will inform ongoing hemispheric and sub-regional negotiations and events, through the organisation of side events and workshops parallel to these processes, and a series of short legal briefs and presentations, and by sending contributions to diverse calls for civil society input and advice.
Phase Four: Joint Drafting and Peer Review of Research Results
Fourth, in a joint drafting, editing and peer review phase, the partners will finalise the research papers and results from the 15 case studies. They will engage in joint editing and peer review of the proposed health and environment IA law course curriculum for the UNEP and others, and of the final project papers. They will also plan and host a research symposium in Montreal, Canada, where they will compare and contrast the results of their research on the current practices, invite comments from scientific and legal experts, and identify potential elements for improvements. The papers reviewed in the symposium will then be published in a 400 page book focused on lessons for the design and strengthening of eco-health impact assessment methods and laws, for publication in Spanish and English, aimed toward health, environment and trade decision-makers and officers across the Americas, and law, environmental studies, public health, social and political science academics, and for civil society.
Phase Five: Evaluation Dissemination of Research Results & Follow-Up
Finally, in a ‘reality check’ phase, these elements and recommendations will be analyzed and elaborated, and tested through interviews with experienced practitioners. The project will be evaluated by the partners and collaborators. At this point, the team will also consider ways that their recommendations could be drafted in new policy or laws related to integrated health and environmental impact assessment, and disseminate the project results through their hemispheric, sub-regional and national networks. Finally, they will organise a conference call to identify follow-up activities.
Research Project Results
The results of the project, and their dissemination, can be explained in terms of each specific goal:
Outcomes of the project’s multi-disciplinary field research…
The principal outputs of the multi-disciplinary field researchwill be a new database of eco-health impact assessment laws and policies in the Americas, final symposium and a book profiling the discoveries and stories found in the qualitative case studies.
The new database will be made available by internet to health and environment researchers in the Americas, including the new eco-health Community of Practice.
The symposium will discuss and debate the results of the research, and will provide a peer review of the series of project papers.
These symposium results will then be compiled and edited into curriculum materials (in English, French and Spanish), which will be disseminated to all participants in the research, and made available to other researchers, policy-makers and students.
The book, which will be published by a respected commercial or academic press, will summarise the partners’ research on health and environment impact assessment methodologies, and how these are and could further be reflected in laws and policies in the Americas, based on chapters summarising the discoveries in each of the 15 case studies of how health and environment impact assessments are functioning in practice, and several chapters of final recommendations.
Outcomes of the project’s awareness, expertise & capacity-building activities…
The principal outputs of the capacity-building will be improved capacity for eight research institutes, a course curriculum for trade, environment and health ministry officials from across the Americas that will be used by the UNEP Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean and other partners, and a broad network of LAC scientists and other experts, five sub-regional treaty secretariats, and thirty-four government environment, health and trade ministry officials with access to better information and critical analysis of health and environment impact assessment methods. The project will build a collaborative relationship between researchers from different disciplines and regions of the Americas, and a broader network of policy makers, practitioners, scientists and academics, linked by a list-serve.
Outcomes of the project’s hemispheric policy dialogues…
The principal outputs of the hemispheric policy changewill be recommendations for health and environment, and trade, policies and agreements in the Americas. Recommendations will be developed by the project team, and fed into the work of the Health and Environment Ministers of the Americas and sub-regional / regional trade liberalization negotiations, in the context of the Summit of the Americas process. These recommendations might include elements of a new draft national law integrating population health aspects, and an ecosystem approach, or even a well-substantiated proposal to negotiate, as part of the Americas collaboration process, a regional treaty (or a series of sub-regional treaties) similar to the Espoo Convention, but with a balanced consideration of both health and environment impacts.
A Set of Concrete, Deliverable Research Results…
The Americas Eco-Health Assessment Law Project will result in a suite of deliverable, concrete products, including:
An accessible database of Americas health and environment IA laws, policies and treaties,
A series of 20 page case study reports (3 per sub-region, for a total of 15), with 1-2 page executive summaries;
A series of concept papers comparing the case studies, addressing issues such as the health, environment and gender aspects of the assessments, the participation of civil society in the assessment process, and coordination (or lack thereof) between relevant health, environment and other institutions and authorities.
Reports from the sub-regional workshops and the final project symposium.
A coherent set of recommendations for policy-change at international, national and local levels, which will likely include elements of a draft law or model treaty on health and environment impact assessment in the Americas.
Curriculum materials for a training course on health and environment impact assessment laws in the Americas for public officials and others.
Publication of a book summarizing the case studies, cross-cutting concept papers, methodological discoveries and other recommendations.