1.24 - Social Impact Assessment (SIA) in Portugal

Project Description

This thesis is about Social Impact Assessment (SIA), under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), a term which in Portugal is often given the designation of 'socioeconomic impact assessment', or 'socioeconomics descriptor' of impact assessment. This imprecision in terminology is only the most visible reflex of the scarce technical and public recognition of this subject that, in other geographical contexts and for particular reasons (related to the severity of the problems involved or the greater degree of maturity in citizenship practices), already has this acceptance of relevance that in Portugal, has not yet been truly reached.

The main purpose of the work is to realize - after four decades of evolution of the subject, after more than two decades of existence of the EIA Directive and more than a decade under the SEA Directive - what is the situation of the social dimension of these tools used for decision support, mainly from the point of view of the substance and developed content both in its theoretical and legal bases as in its implementation. The present approach is not based in the analysis of the processes involved, since the AIS is not an autonomous instrument for decision support, and, therefore, doesn’t consist in an individualized process.

The work started from a global context (the theoretical debate and legal status), in which the international frameworks are taken as points of comparison, but focuses on Portugal to do an evaluation of SIA’s practice. With this in mind, this thesis presents three different ways of analysis: i) the theoretical framework of SIA ii) the legal and regulatory framework in the context of EIA and SEA, with some references to international contexts and for further development of the context of the European Union and Portugal, and finally, iii) a framework for implementing these tools for decision support, in relation to its social component, in Portugal.

The main challenge of this thesis was, since its beginning, to realize whether the defiance set by the legislature to SIA were or not fulfilled or if, on the contrary, time and practice highlight not achieved aspects. As it will be shown in its pages, issues such as public participation, but also the study and choice of alternatives, minimization and monitoring of impacts, or upstream, the question of defining the scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Reports, are very important elements to rethink and reassess so that the social dimension of these social impact assessment processes turn out to be more effective and recognized in their results.

The thesis closes with a prospective analysis of SIA, given a legal and programmatic framework, fundamentally European framework, that will influence its scenarios of evolution. The future presents some opportunities to gain credibility and recognition that it has not yet received, but also shows difficulties that threaten to extend its status as minor dimension of impact assessment.

Research Team
  • Luisa Mendes Batista
  • Paulo Pinho (supervisor)
Financial Support
  • FCT/PRAXIS XXI (Projecto PRAXIS7PCSH7C7AUR7233796)

Stage of Progress
  • Concluded in 2014