To further elaborate on the issues related to the assessment of socioeconomic considerations and it potential contribution to decision making, a relevant resource is the “Principles and Guidelines for social Impact Assessment in the USA” IAPA (2003). Some important issues highlighted in these guidelines include:
- Use of experienced experts in the field of impact assessment including economists, sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, and others to conduct such assessments especially for those done before the intervention
- Use of robust science based research methods and concepts that are transparent and replicable
- Ensure quality control including formal peer review after scoping
- Focus on impacts deemed to be significant in terms of context and intensity. This implies a standard of proof and evidence.
- Consideration of not only impact but also mitigation approaches. Makes it consistent with environmental risk assessments
Worthwhile noting that the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) approaches are usually part of a broader assessment process. In the USA, it is known as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970. The NEPA is a procedural stature – does not have the authority to stop an action- is used to inform about environmental consequences of projects by federal agencies in the USA. Note also that the NEPA process is a graduated process that considers initial statements of “Categorical Exclusions”, Environmental Assessment (EA)/Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD).
The Interorganizational Committee on Principles and Guidelines for Social Impact Assessment (2003). “Principles and guidelines for social impact assessment in the USA”, Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, volume 21, number 3, September 2003, pages 231–250, Beech Tree Publishing, 10 Watford Close, Guildford, Surrey GU1 2EP, UK. http://www.iaia.org/publicdocuments/Pubs_Ref_Material/US-principles-final-IAPA-version.pdf
SIA principles in the IAIA guidelines
Principle 1: Achieve extensive understanding of local and regional populations and settings to be affected by the proposed action, program or policy
Principle 2: Focus on the key elements of the human environment related to the proposed action, program or policy
Principle 3: The SIA is based upon sound and replicable scientific research concepts and methods
Principle 4: Provide quality information for use in decision-making
Principle 5: Ensure that any environmental justice issues are fully described and analyzed
Principle 6: Undertake project, program or policy monitoring and evaluation and propose mitigation measures if needed