United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Environment Outlook-1 - The Web version

Chapter 3: Policy Responses and Directions

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Summary of Regional Policy Responses

Basic Policy Instruments

Most countries in the different regions have established command-and-control policies as logical steps in the pursuit of better environmental management. The tools for implementing these policies are primarily legislation, compliance monitoring, and litigation. However, the effectiveness of implementation depends on the presence of appropriate environmental agencies, the comprehensive scope of legislation, availability of adequate human and financial resources to monitor compliance, and an effective legal system. As a consequence, environmental policy implementation varies greatly between regions and nations.

In Asia and the Pacific, umbrella environmental legislation and comprehensive environmental policies increasingly provide an overall framework for regulating most forms of pollution and enhancing environmental management in general. Specific command-and-control policies are firmly in place. Implementation of umbrella policies has unfortunately been hampered in a number of countries by institutional weaknesses and a lack of human and financial resources.

Many African countries have also enacted umbrella legislation, mainly within the framework of national environment action plans (NEAPs) stimulated by international financial institutions and conventions. Monitoring and regulatory systems have been set up in several states in the region to implement the legal provisions of new or revised environmental legislation. Unfortunately, institutional weaknesses, lack of skilled manpower, and inadequate training facilities still hamper monitoring and enforcement of environmental policies and regulations in a large number of African countries. Limited financial resources are partly to blame, but lack of coordination between involved authorities and counterproductive government policies also contribute in many instances to further restraint of policy implementation.

In countries of the EU, environmental legislation, and environmental considerations now impact on every individual, sector of society and governance structure. North America also relies strongly on legislative measures to combat environmental deterioration. While economic reform offers the key to solving certain environmental problems in countries of Central and Eastern Europe, environmental legislation needs further development, harmonization and enforcement to achieve maximum effectiveness.

In Latin America and the Caribbean most national initiatives concerning the environment revolve around command-and-control mechanisms, particularly legislation. While new institutions established to deal with the environment greatly assist implementation of legislative reforms throughout the Region, institutional weaknesses remain and are often aggravated by limited finances. Structural adjustment programmes have also led some governments to cut social and environmental spending in this region, as well as in Africa, causing the temporary abandonment of environmental planning in a number of affected countries.

Environmental programmes, institutions, and laws in West Asia have sometimes been created haphazardly and not in the context of an over-arching strategic plan for the environment. This has resulted in dominantly sectoral approaches to environmental planning without due consideration of the need for cross-cutting policies and institutional requirements. Recently, attempts to harmonize environmental legislation and the role of institutions in developing strategic frameworks for environmental planning have taken place in a number of countries in West Asia.

Overall, in the developing regions compliance monitoring is still constrained by a lack of financial resources and inadequate availability of skilled manpower.

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