Exploring experts' views and perspectives on the enhancement of strategic environmental assessment in European small islands

Polido, Alexandra and João, Elsa and Ramos, Tomás B. (2016) Exploring experts' views and perspectives on the enhancement of strategic environmental assessment in European small islands. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 58. pp. 25-33. ISSN 0195-9255 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eiar.2016.02.004)

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Small islands have the attention of the international community because they are territories with unique features, and a pressing need for the enhancement of sustainability. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has characteristics that may promote the development and improvement of sustainability in these territories: (i) changing the mind-set, and the decision-making and institutional paradigm, (ii) facilitating cooperation and coordination between different stakeholders, and (iii) providing a framework for good governance and community empowerment. The scientific literature suggests that there may be a need for context-specific SEA in these territories. However, SEA studies often do not incorporate local contextual information, including intuitive knowledge and sense of place. Therefore, there is a possible gap between what is found in the literature and what local communities think, including different stakeholders and experts. Hence, the main goal of this research was to gain an insight into the views and perspectives of small islands SEA experts about issues related to SEA in European small islands, including context-specific approaches, as well as the contribution of SEA for sustainability in these territories. To achieve the research aim, exploratory research using a questionnaire-based survey was designed, aimed at experts on SEA in European small islands. Findings showed regional cooperation networks may have a fundamental role when developing SEA-specific approaches in these territories. This is because SEA-specific approaches encourage a joint effort among islands within one region to improve SEA capacity-building, develop and share a baseline information system, and to share and exchange resources, overall. Also, guidelines are preferred among experts over more legal frameworks and regulations. Finally, the research showed that experts view SEA as a way to enhance sustainability in small islands. This study highlights the importance of integrating stakeholders, such as territorial experts, to learn and promote the use and improvement of environmental and sustainability tools such as SEA.