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Key Issues

Our Interconnected World: Impact Assessment, Health, and the Environment


Keynote: How can availability of biodiversity data support spatial planning for healthy ecosystems?

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that our own health is inextricably linked to the health of ecosystems. This comes at a time when countries are set to adopt new international goals under the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. However to achieve these goals there is an urgent need for effective spatial planning and regulation of major development, which relies on available, accessible, and reliable biodiversity data. Global initiatives have been developed to improve biodiversity data availability through collating national sources, deriving new data using remote sensing technologies, and encouraging data-sharing among government departments and non-government institutions (e.g. universities, NGOs, operating companies). This session will explore the varying ways through which biodiversity data can inform impact assessment processes and spatial planning, at different scales and by different actors, and the barriers and opportunities for mobilizing data and promoting its use in decision making to preserve and restore healthy ecosystems.

Sylvaine Rols oversees UNEP-WCMC’s work under the Oil for Development programme, strengthening the capacity of government institutions in partner countries to manage the biodiversity impacts of oil and gas development. Within the Business and Biodiversity Programme, Sylvaine supports public and private partners, in particular from the energy and financial sectors, in accessing, interpreting and applying biodiversity data for decision-making. Prior to joining UNEP-WCMC, Sylvaine worked as an environmental specialist with the European Investment Bank. Her role included the appraisal and monitoring of environmental impacts of investment projects in Europe, Africa and Central America. She contributed to the drafting on guidance notes on international biodiversity standards for the energy industry, integrating key requirements from the European environmental policy agenda. Sylvaine graduated from University College London with an MSci in Environmental Biology.

Ragnvald Larsen works with the Norwegian Environment Agency, the executive body of the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment. In his current position as a chief engineer with the Directorate he works with serving, using and developing systems for environmental information data management.  Part of his time is used on the project Oil for Development where he contributes to the development of environmental data management systems in countries partner to Norway's development aid programs. Through his work with environmental administrations and NGOs, Ragnvald has become an experienced partner for analysing and contributing to the further development of national environmental management in the partner countries. He has been actively involved in projects in Zambia Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Lebanon, Timor Leste and others. Ragnvald holds a Master’s Degree in Geography from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Kojo Agbenor-Efunam obtained his Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree in Geological Engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in 1992, an MSc degree in Petroleum Geoscience from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in 1998, Post Graduate Diplomas in Petroleum Policy and Resource Management from PETRAD, Norway, in 2012 and Environmental Management from Galilee International Management Institute, Israel, in 2016. He is also a certified ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management Systems Auditor. He currently heads the Petroleum Department of the Environmental Protection Agency, a position he has occupied for the past decade. In this capacity, his achievements include regulating the environmental aspects of upstream oil and gas projects and installations, developing environmental assessment and enforcement guidelines for the upstream oil and gas sector in Ghana, representing the EPA and Ghana at international forums, serving as a member of national committees mandated on oil and gas policy and management issues, and drafting environmental legislations. Mr. Agbenor-Efunam is currently the focal person for Ghana on oil spill contingency planning at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). He is also a consulting expert for the UNEP/Abidjan Convention on Environmental Standards and Norms for oil and gas development in the West, Central, and Southern Africa Region. He is passionate about the health of the oceans and helped develop the GIS-based Environmental Sensitivity Atlas (ESA) for the coastal areas of Ghana in 2004 and coordinated the environmental baseline and monitoring surveys of Ghana’s coastline and marine environment from 2009-2012 under the Norwegian Oil for Development Programme. He currently leads a team in updating the 2004 ESA and developing a new one for the onshore Voltaian Basin.


PRESENTATION #1: Digital EIA: Linking experts, technologies, and communities (Michèle Laflamme; starts at 00:16)  The dream of Digital ESIA is to leverage technology to take better decisions.  Today a multitude of tools exist to support the EIA/SEA process and help model impacts in ways never done before.  This presentation will show examples of different ways digital technologies can help assess the impact of a project on communities and on the environment.

PRESENTATION #2: VR and serious gaming to improve assessment of critical infrastructure (Birgitta Liljedahl; starts at 19:54)  This presentation will address some lessons identified, regarding the potential of VR and serious gaming to improve assessment of critical infrastructure in crises and conflict.

PRESENTATION #3: The need for digitalisation of impact assessment and monitoring (Louise Kjølholm; starts at 37:14)  The next stage of digital impact assessment and monitoring:  a presentation of EKF’s innovative digital monitoring process and how it is used in practice, and a discussion on benefits and challenges for consultants performing digital impact assessments.

PRESENTATION #4: Digital reporting: Its promises and success factors for implementation (Paul Eijssen; starts at 52:50)  RHDHV has taken the initiative in 2016 to conduct a pilot project to create the first digital interactive EIS. Now, more than 4 years later, a variety of projects examples are available that have started to apply a digital form of reporting. Sometimes only as a website that refers to PDF documents, but also fully digital EISs. A couple of examples will be shown in this presentation. We show the progress that has been made since the pilot project. We will briefly look at what has been achieved over the years regarding digital EIA and we will consider the wishes that still exist and the developments that are going on.

PRESENTATION #5: Digital business activities, rightsholders, and meaningful participation (Emil Lindblad Kernell; starts at 1:02:26) The session will provide the viewer with an overview of a methodology for human rights impact assessment (HRIA) of digital technologies, with a specific focus on the challenges and opportunities around direct rightsholder engagement.

Michèle Laflamme is a senior project manager specialized in client focused web-based business solutions. With WSP, she leads a team dedicated to the deployment of innovative solutions.  She is known to have a strong capacity to bridge business needs, technologies and clients.  Michèle has worked on many projects at an international level mainly in Australia and Africa. She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMI) and has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in geomatics (GIS). Her technical expertise helps project stakeholders & clients communicate through user-friendly solutions, streamlined data processing and multi-platform data access. She worked several years delivering solutions specialized in stakeholder engagement.  With WSP she is a part of a worldwide team working on digital environmental impact assessments deployment.  She also worked several years as a land manager for a large timber land holder.

Birgitta Liljedahl is a senior analyst currently focusing on transforming lessons learned from numerous international missions into a serious gaming concept, with use of VR (virtual reality).

Louise Kjølholm is working with environmental and social risk at a project guaranteed by EKF. She has a master's degree in environmental engineering and more than 20 years years’ experience in performance of due diligence. Louise is Chief Advisor for Environmental and Social Risk at EKF Denmark and specializes in projects involving mining and heavy industry.

Paul Eijssen is a strategic consultant with 30 years of professional experience in impact assessment and a strong focus on innovation. He has been involved in a large number of EA projects in the field of infrastructure and waterways, spatial planning, flood relief, aviation, waste management and industry. As a strategic consultant, he is focused on complex and strategic projects, knowledge exchange and innovation. To make the accessibility of information optimal in the future, he has a strong focus on innovation so that products and services meet the expectations of our time. As Leading Professional information management, he is the initiator of digital interactive reporting, and he implement a program within RHDHV to make reporting more accessible and transparent.

Emil Lindblad Kernell is an Adviser in the Corporate Engagement Programme at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR). At DIHR Emil works directly with companies within the Corporate Engagement Programme’s partnerships as well as on other projects focusing on the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. As part of his role he conducts human rights impact assessments and other bespoke human rights advisory services related to corporate human rights due diligence. Emil leads the programme’s sector priority on digital technologies and human rights, as well as the programme’s projects on strategic capacity-building on business and human rights for management and staff. Emil has a legal background and before joining DIHR in 2018, he worked in the compliance group at a Swedish law firm. He has extensive research experience on business and human rights from his work with the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic and from his work as a research assistant at the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, at Monash University in Melbourne. Emil holds a Law Degree from Uppsala University in Sweden (2016) and a Master of Laws (LL.M.) from Harvard Law School (2017).


PRESENTATION #1: The role of neighbourhood environment on mental health: Strategic assessment (Adriana Loureiro; starts at 00:16)  This presentation aims to contribute to advance knowledge on strategies to be adopted for the development of neighborhood environments that can promote mental health at the local level. Through a case study in four municipalities in the Lisbon Region (Portugal), the main objective is the definition of a strategic assessment framework based on the impact of the neighborhood environments on the mental health of the population.

PRESENTATION #2: From regional planning to local projects: Designing green infrastructures (Mariana Rodrigues Ribeiros dos Santo; starts at 15:07)  This presentation will discuss the opportunity of bringing regional guidelines and factors found in Ecological-Economic Zoning plans, capable of guiding the design of green infrastructures in municipal plans/scale, promoting connectivity and establishing linkages between different levels of planning.

PRESENTATION #3: Local Economic Development and Community Driven Development for Livelihoods (Varalakshmi Vemuru; starts at 43:57)  Supporting inclusive pro-poor job and income generation especially for the vulnerable and marginalized groups requires a robust Community Driven Development (CDD) approach with communities at the core of the process. A Local Economic Development (LED) approach to economic development can support the CDD approach wherein other stakeholders, including governments, public, business, financial institutions, and the non-governmental sector (social enterprises, foundations, and universities), work collectively around shared economic goals, capitalizing upon the strengths of a specific region or area to advance its economic interests and create better conditions for an enabling ecosystem for the vulnerable and marginalized communities.

PRESENTATION #4: Community based governance in informal settlements in Trinidad and Tobago (Wayne Chaman Huggins; starts at 57:02)  Governance and provides us with a framework and clearer understanding of how we can operate more effectively to make impact assessment more relevant.

Adriana Loureiro, Geographer. PhD student in Human Geography at the University of Coimbra (research theme: Strategic assessment of neighbourhood environmental impacts on mental health in Portugal), funded by a doctoral fellowship of the Portuguese national funding agency for science, research and technology. Member of the Health Geography Research Team at the CEGOT (Centre of Studies in Geography and Spatial Planning), University of Coimbra. Consultant of the municipal program "Figueira, Healthy City" developed by the Municipality of Figueira da Foz (Portugal). She has participated in several research projects focusing on geography of health, healthy urban planning and health impact assessment.

Mariana Rodrigues Ribeiros dos Santo is Prof. Dr. at the School of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Urban Design – UNICAMP in Brazil. Her background is in Architecture and Urban Design, with MSc. and PhD degrees in Environmental Engineering Sciences. Her topics of interest, teaching and research are: environmental planning and management; regional, rural and urban spatial planning; planning tools (environmental and urban); impact assessment; environmental policies; nature based solutions; green infrastructure; basic sanitation in urban and rural areas. 

Varalakshmi (Vara) Vemuru is the Practice Manager for the Social Sustainability and Inclusion Global Practice in the Europe and Central Asia region of the World Bank. Till recently she was leading the World Bank’s development response to address impacts of forced displacement in the Horn of Africa region through operations and analytics. She also led operations on women’s economic empowerment in Nigeria and India. Vara has worked extensively in the South Asia and Africa regions on broad ranging social development issues including inclusion, women’s empowerment, disability inclusion including addressing mental health issues, conflict sensitive development and social accountability. Her recent work has focused on Fragile and conflict affected contexts in Africa. Vara has been with the World Bank since 2000. 

Wayne Chaman Huggins is a Ph.D. Student in Urban Planning at the Faculty of Engineering, University of the West Indies, Trinidad.


PRESENTATION #1: Invoking nature-culture linkages to strengthen EIA implementation (Dr. Sonali Ghosh; starts at 00:16)  Human interpretation of nature is fundamental to cultures. The session will focus on conceptual framework on 'multiple values' that form the basis of natural and cultural world heritage sites. It will build on global best-practises and case studies to emphasise on the need to engage and empower local communities as actors for better conservation, and where relevant, recognize the rights communities have in relation to world heritage sites thereby strengthening the tools for  heritage impact assessment.

PRESENTATION #2: How COVID-19 is changing Impact Assessment (C. Kelly; starts at 17:13)  The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected our interconnectedness - how we work, play, and engage as parts of local and global society. The pandemic has profoundly challenged how impact assessment professionals work. This is particularly true with the use of physical distancing to slow the pandemic, leading to significant changes to normal work routines but also, to the core of impact assessment, the work of collecting field data and meeting those who will be impacted by projects, programs or policies. The presentation will review the results of two recent surveys on how impact assessment has been affected by the pandemic and how professionals and the profession are adapting as a result.

PRESENTATION #3: Passing the Baton: Developing E&S skills for Early Careers Profession (Gemma Holdsworth & Pete Gabriel; starts at 34:36)

PRESENTATION #4: Assessing impacts on Indigenous well-being and way of life (Mark Cliffe-Phillips; starts at 54:09)  The resource management system in Northwest Territories (NWT) in Northern Canada is the result of modern land claims processes and reflects the shared values of the Inuit, Dene, and Metis. The land claims and subsequent resource management legislation highlight the importance of understanding how proposed developments may impact on Indigenous well-being and way of life and that it should be a primary focus of any environmental impact assessment.  This approach reflects a more holistic world view and lends itself to better inclusion of Indigenous “knowledge” and “ways of knowing”. Case studies on how well-being was considered in recent environmental impact assessments on resource development projects in the NWT will be presented.

Dr. Sonali Ghosh is an Indian Forest Service officer with more than 20 years of work experience in the field of forest and wildlife conservation in India. As part of her job, she has worked as a field manager in UNESCO designated World natural heritage sites of Kaziranga and Manas. She has traveled extensively and written about forest and people’s livelihood issues in northeast India. She has a dual master's degree in Wildlife Science and Forestry and a PhD degree in Physical Geography from United Kingdom. She has served as a founding faculty at the C2C on World Natural Heritage Management and Training for Asia and the Pacific Region- Wildlife Institute of India (under auspices of UNESCO), where she co-edited 2 books; Cultural Landscapes of Asia and Wild Treasures- reflections on natural heritage in Asia, an Anthology. In the interim she also had a stint of over two years to be part of India’s largest ever behavior change and sanitation program as Director Swachh Bharat Mission-Grameen. She is currently serving as Deputy Inspector General of Forests, Central Zoo Authority.

Charles Kelly has been involved in the recent IAIA surveys of the impact of COVID-19 on impact assessment practice and professionals. Mr. Kelly has over 40 years of field experience in disasters, including compound disasters, droughts, food insecurity, earthquakes, insect infestation, hurricanes, epidemics, floods, war and other emergencies, predominantly in developing countries. In addition to responding to disasters, Mr. Kelly contributed to the Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment process, the Green Relief and Recovery Toolkit, and the Natural and Nature-Based Flood Management: A Green Guide and other tools for bridging the humanitarian-environment nexus.  Mr. Kelly provides environmental support capacities for the Global Shelter Cluster and via the WWF Environment and Disaster Management Help Desk. Mr. Kelly co-chairs the International Association of Impact Assessment Disasters and Conflict Section.

Gemma Holdsworth, Arup, United Kingdom

Pete Gabriel is a Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) with over ten years’ experience in the environment sector, specialising in the management, development and coordination of Environmental and Social Due Diligences (ESDDs), Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) and Environmental and Social Management Systems (ESMSs). Pete has experience in planning and implementing environmental/social national legislation and international guidelines (i.e. IFC Performance Standards, Equator Principles, World Bank Environmental and Social Safeguards (ESSs) and World Bank EHS Guidelines), for energy (wind, hydroelectric, biomass, geothermal, coal fired, gas), major infrastructure (roads, rail and bridges) and climate change resilience developments. He has worked on projects in Africa, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, South-east Asia, the Caribbean, South Pacific Islands, Australia, NZ and the UK.

Mark Cliffe-Phillips is currently the Executive Director of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, which is an independent co-management Board responsible for the environmental impact assessment process in the Northwest Territories. Prior to joining the Review Board, he was the Executive Director of the Wek’èezhì? Land and Water Board in Yellowknife from 2010 to 2014, which conducts preliminary screenings of developments and provides regulatory permits to Canada’s largest diamond mines. Mark has been working in the resource management sector in the Northwest Territories since 2003. He is currently the interim Vice-Chair of the recently formed Indigenous Centre for Cumulative Effects and is an alumnus of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference, where he is a currently a Regional Chair.