Environmental Impact Assessment Review

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nvironmental Impact Assessment Review 65 (2017) 118-124
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Environmental Impact Assessment Review
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/eiar
Deciding over nature: Corruption and environmental impact assessments Alec! Williams, Kendra Dainty
Natural Resource Management, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Ow. Michelson Institute, Non,
Keywords: Corruption Environmental decision•making Environmental impact assessment Environmental crime Environmental regulation Albania
1. Introduction
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are an important analytic tool for identifying and potentially mitigating project risks and negative environmental and societal impacts. Their usefulness, however, depends on how they are implemented and on whether findings are used in public decision-making. Given the notorious vulnerability of public-private interactions to corrupt practices, we examine potential and actual corruption risks across four stages of a generic EIA process. Combined with case analysis of the EIA process in Albania, a Southeastern European context experiencing serious governance challenges, we reflect on the vulnerabilities of ElAs to various forms of corruption from a principal-agent perspective. We concur with earlier research suggesting that the fundamentally rationalist approach behind EIAs do not necessarily match the empirical realities of public environmental decision-making, particularly in less mature EIA systems. We conclude with suggestions for framing a future research agenda in this area and touch on tentative policy remedies.
Conventional economic development involves public sector deci-sion-making processes for new projects (Peet and Hartwick, 2009). Ostensibly guided by rational utilitarianism’ (i.e. the notion that it is the role of govemments to minimize pain and maximize happiness), public officials interact with private sector actors in procuring new roads, airports, rail networks, hospitals, or schools (Kattel and Lember, 2010). Environmental impact assessments (ElAs) are one analytic tool aimed at identifying and mitigating a particular projects risks to the environment and to society, including to habitats for particular species, to ecosystem and carbon sequestration services, to levels of biodiver-sity, and to water catchment regulation (Canter, 1996; Jay et al., 2007). Public-private interactions are notoriously vulnerable to corrupt practices (Basheka, 2009, Rose-Ackerman and Patna, 2016). Emerging formal empirical evidence suggests that ElAs may be influenced by corrupt practices including bribery, collusion, and conflicts of interest (Dougherty, 2015, Paliwal, 2006, Branis, 1994, HRW, 2012, Momtaz, 2002, Transparency International, 2011, Kakonge, 2013). Yet, although ElAs are a core aspect of environmental decision-making for new projects in most countries, and despite potential for public harms resulting from corrupt decision-making linked to ElAs, there is limited published research on this topic. This is surprising for at least two
reasons. First, environmental issues have recently significantly ad-vanced up the list of priority agenda items in global public discourse, coalescing around new funding mechanisms, policy measures and practical programs for adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change (Bulkeley and Newell, 2010). Second, there is considerable empirical evidence for the prevalence of corruption in many countries’ construction and natural resource sectors, areas of particular relevance to EIAs (Wells, 2015, Neu et al., 2015, Kolstad and Soreide, 2009). In this article, we theorize a set of potential corruption risks in carrying out ElAs and empirically examine their salience through a case study of Albania. We first outline our methodology, then discuss the main theoretical corruption risks in carrying out Fitts, drawing on the sparse literature on this topic. We then present our case study of corruption in the EIA process in Albania, drawing on our own fieldwork in this Southeastern European context characterized by serious govemance challenges (Transparency International, 2014, European Commission, 2015). We conclude with tentative suggestions for a future research agenda and a short discussion of potential policy remedies.
2. Methodology
In 2015 we were approached by the Albania country office of the German development cooperation agency GIZ to develop a study on the
Corresponding author at: Natural Resource Management, U4 Anti•Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelson Institute, P.O. Box 6033, N•5892 Bergen, Norway. E-mail address: [email protected] (IC Dupuy). 1 Peet and Hartwick (2009), for example, offer a discussion of utilitarianism as an emerging reaction to the social problems of 18th and 19th Century England, situated within broader classical and neoclassical economic theory. Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legisladon argued that every human action could be judged by its effect on either augmenting or diminishing the happiness of the individual (Bentham, 1987). Corruption is widely considered to undermine utilitarian goals by various means, but all relate to the surreptitious prioritization of narrow interests at the expense of sodetal• or group•level goals (Soreide and Williams, 2014).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eiar.2017.05.002 Received 19 October 2016; Received in revised form 1 May 2017; Accepted 1 May 2017 Available online 11 May 2017 0195.9255/ 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A. Williams, K. Dupuy
EIA process in the country given recent anecdotal evidence, media publicity and civil society concerns regarding the dubious nature of environmental decision-making, and in particular the EIA process. Recent cross-country corruption perceptions data (Transparency International, 2014) and a European Commission report (2015) confirmed that Albania experiences serious contemporary corruption challenges and, despite improvements in some policy and legislative areas, is still a poor performer on governance indicators. Our method of analysis was as follows. We first reviewed the existing academic knowledge base on corruption and ElAs, the results of which we outline in the next section. To carry out this review, we developed a list of key terms associated with corruption and environmental decision-making and inserted each of these terms (and combinations of, as well as altematives to, the terms) into the following academic search engines: Google Scholar, Web of Science, Jstor, and Academic Search Complete. Our Its’ t of t.ms is found m’ Appendix Based on this literature review,
Environmental Impact Assessment Review 65 (2017) 11,124
confidential nature of the interview and the means by which interview data would be secured; what would happen with the results of the study; and how the study would be peer-reviewed. Each interviewee signed a Consent Form affirming that they had read and understood the Participant Information Sheet and had an opportunity to ask questions; that they had understood that this participation was voluntary and that they were free to withdraw from the interview at any time, and without giving a reason; that they agreed to be referred to by a random number in the research and published study; that they understood that there may be limitations to their anonymity given relatively few interviews were to be conducted for the study. In order to ensure the anonymity of all respondents’ identities, we have kept identifying details of all interviewees in a secure location, and assigned a random number to each interview transcript. We used an interview guide to structure the interviews and asked each interviewee similar questions, with follow-up questions to specific