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Special Issue "Fostering Sustainability through Strategic Environmental Assessment"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2018

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Maria Rosário Partidário

1. Instituto Superior Técnico–Universidade de Lisboa, CEG-IST, Departamento de Engenharia Civil, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal 2. Department of Planning, University of Aalborg, Fredrik Bajers Vej 5, 9100 Aalborg, Denmark
Website | E-Mail
Interests: strategic thinking for sustainability; strategic thinking approaches in SEA; transitions to sustainability; harmonizing sustainability assessment and strategic environmental assessment; governance in SEA; social innovation; community-based development approaches; participatory research; biodiversity, ecosystem services and climate change, integrating environmental and sustainability issues in development processes

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Over the past couple of decades scholarly debates in the literature on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) have consistently advocated the important role SEA can play in promoting sustainable development, making it one of the objectives of SEA since early days. Article 1 of the 2001/42 European Union (EU) directive explicitly states as an objective of the Directive to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans and programmes with a view to promoting sustainable development. Other countries followed this orientation, or went even further. For example in the regulation on procedures for implementation of SEA in Indonesia (Government regulation n. 46/2016) SEA is presented as a series of systematic, thorough, and participatory analysis in order to ensure that the principles of Sustainable Development have become the basis and are integrated in the development of a region and/ or policy, plan, and/ or program. Likewise in the SEA regulations of 2015, in Chile, sustainable development criteria are established as a requirement in SEA, to be used as a standard for assessment, setting the decision problem for the SEA and centering the strategic focus of the assessment.

However implementation appears to differ from the intended objectives. Most SEA found around the world tend to be limited to the biophysical environment, at best including also socio-cultural dimensions, hence undermining its intended outreach into sustainable development as a purposeful focus. Some countries moved to adopt sustainability assessment as a separate instrument precisely to overcome resistence to a larger scope in SEA. In the UK for example the two instruments run in parallel, creating some unecessary duplication of efforts. In other countries sustainability assessment is used outside of any regulatory context. When SEA is explicitely used to address sustainable development dimensions that are strategically relevant in promoting a sound development, it is questioned as an SEA. Comparing intended objectives with current practice could reveal that SEA rests largely behind its potential to help promote a sound and sustainable development. The most representative SEA practice still misses to address the relevant, interconnected, dimensions that can make of SEA the desirable integrative and strategic instrument to promote sustainable development.

The ambition set at the dawn of SEA is falling behind, and an avenue of inconsistencies between concept and practice evolved given outstanding limited strategic nature, with some SEA scholars questioning the actual purpose of SEA: weather fostering sustainability or safeguarding environmental concerns. These questions are still completely valid and need to be readdressed if we want to seriously consider how SEA can be instrumental in leading development processes, namely by addressing sustainable development goals (SDGs). This new challenge opens up opportunities to look at SEA as an instrument of strategic change, looking into problems far beyond the symptoms, making development targeted to human well-being, stimulating the focus on benefits and less on negative impacts, promoting integration of environmental priorities in a larger panorama, together with other priorities in a sustainable development context, increasing shared benefits and reducing inequalities. This Special Issue invites contributions reflecting on how SEA can be instrumental in leading sustainable development processes and how SEA should position itself strategically in promoting sustainability, enabling changes in the practice of SEA to bring in a fresh view in dealing with future issues. Suggested themes include:

  • SEA as an instrument of strategic change towards sustainability

  • SEA enabling transition processes to sustainable development

  • SEA role in helping to achieve sustainable development goals

  • Filling the gap between SEA sustainable development objectives and SEA practice

  • Lessons learned with strategic practices with SEA linked to sustainable development

  • Fostering sustainability through strategic environmental assessment

  • Governance rationale in linking SEA and sustainable development

  • New generation strategic environmental assessments

  • Transition from traditional to stratgeic thinking SEA

Prof. Dr. Maria Rosário Partidário

Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Strategic environmental assessment

  • Sustainability assessment

  • Strategic thinking for sustainability

  • Strategic thinking approaches

  • Transitions to sustainability

  • Sustainable Development Goals

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle Strategies for Dealing with Uncertainties in Strategic Environmental Assessment: An Analytical Framework Illustrated with Case Studies from The Netherlands
Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2463; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072463
Received: 18 June 2018 / Revised: 2 July 2018 / Accepted: 3 July 2018 / Published: 13 July 2018
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Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is a widely applied policy tool that aims to aid decision-makers in making informed, higher-quality decisions that minimize negative environmental impacts. However, different types of uncertainties complicate the ex ante assessment of environmental impacts. Literature suggests uncertainties are often
[...] Read more.
Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is a widely applied policy tool that aims to aid decision-makers in making informed, higher-quality decisions that minimize negative environmental impacts. However, different types of uncertainties complicate the ex ante assessment of environmental impacts. Literature suggests uncertainties are often not well addressed, resulting in inaccurate and even unreliable SEAs. At the same time, SEA literature offers limited guidance in how to systematically identify and deal with uncertainties. Therefore, in this paper, we present an analytical framework for characterizing and classifying different forms of uncertainty in SEA, and for identifying strategies for dealing with these uncertainties. The framework is based on literature on uncertainties in other subdomains of the environmental sciences. The framework is applied to five case studies of SEAs for spatial planning in The Netherlands in order to illustrate and critically reflect on our framework, and to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Based on these case studies we concluded the following: (1) The framework is useful for identifying uncertainties in SEA in a systematic way; (2) There is a discrepancy between how uncertainties are dealt with in theory and in practice; (3) In practice, uncertainties seem to be dealt with in a rather implicit way. The framework may help dealing with uncertainties more systematically and more proactively; (4) The most successful way of coping with uncertainties seems to be the application of multiple strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fostering Sustainability through Strategic Environmental Assessment)

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