TOWARDS A FRAMEWORK FOR SEA FOLLOW-UP: THEORETICAL ISSUES AND LESSONS FROM POLICY EVALUATION
Most SEA practice and research has focused on the pre-decision stages, whereas post-decision follow-up stages such as monitoring, evaluation, and management have been given far less attention. These stages, referred to as SEA follow-up, are integral to making SEA effective and learning-oriented. This paper takes the first step towards a framework for conducting SEA follow-up, by analysing the requirements for ex post activities according to the European SEA Directive (2001/42/EC), reviewing existing experiences and literature on how to perform SEA follow-up, and exploring lessons to be learnt from the adjacent fields of EIA follow-up and policy evaluation. The directive, along with most mainstream applications of SEA, is based on EIA follow-up concepts. However, SEA follow-up displays a number of critical differences, including: an enhanced risk of implementation gaps; a focus on performance rather than compliance; and less direct linkages between decisions and impacts. The paper argues that the SEA Directive is seriously constrained and that a more ambitious interpretation of SEA follow-up is necessary to enable strategic decision making and learning. Lessons from the policy/programme evaluation literature could strengthen SEA follow-up by giving it analytical rigour in relation to establishing causality and providing insights into the use and acceptance of SEA follow-up among decision makers and stakeholders. Further explorations into policy evaluation toolkits, and practical experiences in applying them, are needed to enhance the potential of SEA follow-up in supporting strategic decision making.
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