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Introduction Conference Topic Target Group and Call for Papers Venue and Bookings Programme Proceedings

EASY-ECO Manchester Conference

Conference Theme: Impact Assessment for a New Europe and Beyond

The expansion of the European Union to embrace its ten new member states, along with new neighbourhood initiatives with other countries to the east and south, and economic partnerships with developing countries, are occurring in parallel with significant new developments in public policy formulation and decision-making. These include greater emphasis on evidence-based decision-making, better governance and governance reform, and the adoption of sustainable development as the overarching objective for public policy.

Impact assessment (or evaluation) is playing an increasingly important role in all these areas. This applies to the European Commission itself, to national governments, local government, NGOs and the private sector, in EU member states and beyond.

What lessons can be learned from experience in each field of application that are relevant to others? What techniques developed in different areas can be applied successfully in others? In what ways do approaches need to be different in different areas, in order to meet specific needs, and to complement each other in their separate contributions to an overall goal? Can common principles be identified which help to achieve this?

All new EC directives and major policy initiatives are now subject to the Commission's recently introduced procedures for preliminary and extended impact assessments. The EU has commissioned sustainability impact assessments of trade policy, both for WTO agreements and for regional trade agreements in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Its directive on strategic environmental assessment is now in force, requiring SEAs of development plans in all member states, as well as the earlier directive for environmental impact assessment of development projects.

Most member state governments have introduced regulatory impact assessment procedures for their own policy-making processes, and candidate countries are being encouraged and helped to do the same. The EC's development assistance programmes and those of member states, as well as the EU's internal structural funds, are also subject to impact assessment or evaluation procedures, including ex-post assessment of the effectiveness of the assistance given. Similar techniques are being used by local governments through Local Agenda 21 initiatives, and by private sector corporations in sustainability reporting and environmental management systems.

This increasing use of impact assessment as a tool for strengthening public policy-making and its integration with corporate responsibility presents many challenges. The need for better evidence in decision-making, for greater civil society involvement in governance, and for closer alignment of policy with the goal of sustainable development, is well understood in principle, but less readily applied in practice. Innovative techniques are required, the accumulating experience needs to be shared, and a greater degree of coherence needs to be developed. In many areas, policy-making processes themselves need to be adapted, to make more effective use of the evolving techniques.

Introduction Conference Topic Target Group and Call for Papers Venue and Bookings Programme Proceedings
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