UNDP Namibia supports government to develop and launch EIA Guidelines

UNDP staff at the construction of Neckartal dam in Keetmanshoop (one of the Capital Projects implementing integrated EIA processes)

UNDP Namibia has supported the Government of Namibia through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to be the first country among ten in the sub-regional to develop Guidelines Integrating HIV and Gender issues into Environmental Assessment processes.

These guidelines are customised to the Namibian context and identify key public and private stakeholders from the environment, health and Gender sectors to provide insights into the integration roles each can play during capital project development process. The guidelines will contribute to making Environmental Assessments more effective by strengthening the social component pertaining to HIV and gender-related issues.

The Environmental Assessment process contributes to sustainable development through provision of information that is used to approve and implement projects and development that is ecologically sensitive, socially acceptable and economically cost- effective. By using these guidelines, the biophysical, environmental, social and economic benefits can be well integrated.

Speaking at the launch of the guidelines, UNDP Resident Representative Kiki Gbeho said “Capital projects in Namibia remain crucial for economic growth and employment creation. Successful projects will reduce poverty and increase government revenues as well as social spending”.

She also warned that, if not managed properly, capital projects can also have negative effects. These projects could fuel HIV transmission among project staff and their adjacent communities.

Ms Gbeho concluded that, “We cannot therefore talk about winning the war on poverty, getting to zero new infections and attaining gender equality, without talking about women and girls.”

Making provision for equality in employment for men and women according to their skills and competencies, Providing Employee Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) services, ensuring access to HIV prevention, treatment care and support services for project staff are just some of the actions to be taken when integrating HIV and gender-related issues into Environmental Assessments.

HIV/AIDS is one of the most significant threats to the socio-economic development in Namibia. It affects individuals, families, communities and the nation at large. Namibia recognises that HIV/AIDS is not just a health problem but also a development issue affecting all sectors of the society and as such at each EIA step, the guidelines indicate different roles players or stakeholders should undertake in order to integrate HIV and gender related issues.  

The Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta in his address said, “Integrating or mainstreaming health and social issues into Environmental Assessment (EA) is one practical way to ensure that capital projects purposefully consider these during the project life cycle and EIA process.”

He continued to state that HIV/AIDS is one of the most significant threats to the social-economic development in Namibia and that in view of this; “Namibia recognised the need for the EA process to better predict and manage long-term impacts of capital projects on the health, especially HIV and other diseases, and gender related impacts in the work force and affected communities where projects are implemented.”

He concluded by appealing to all Environmental Assessment Practitioners and other stakeholders in general to ensure that the mainstreaming of social issues into EIA’s and environmental management in general is done within the framework of the customised guidelines.

Many poorly compiled EIAs are submitted to the authorities for review, often with little consideration of HIV and gender-related issues. Even generally ‘good’ EIAs fail to adequately consider the long-term social and health impacts which may exacerbate HIV new infections and gender inequality.