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    Institutional Limits to Effective Environmental Policymaking

    By Keith R | October 4, 2006

    Topics: Environmental Governance, Environmental Justice, Environmental Protection, The Basics | No Comments »

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    Changes Ahead for Peruvian Environmental Policy, or More of the Same? 

    Two weeks ago, while surfing South American blogs, I came across an interesting one covering environmental affairs in Peru.  "Ecoperú" (see link on the right-hand sidebar or click on the logo to the right of these words) is a pretty good blog in Spanish done by a journalist there; I recommend it if you read Spanish or don't mind the quirky translations one gets from Google or Altravista.

    Ecoperú included among its recent entries a reproduction of a Peruvian newspaper interview with the new President of the National Environment Council (Conam), Antonio Brack Egg.  For those of you not familiar with Conam and Peru's governmental machinery, the Council is charged with formulating and coordinating environmental policymaking in Peru, but most of the nuts-and-bolts of implementing and enforcing the resulting rules, and its budgetary and political clout, is not quite on par with that of the Ministries.  The adoption in October 2005 of a new General Environment Law strengthened and reinforced Conam's role, but did remove all of its institutional limitations.

    Brack said a number of interesting (and refreshingly candid) things during his interview bearing on what to expect in environmental policy during the next Administration, including:

    Peru's Situation is Hardly Unique 

    Peru is not the only Latin American or Caribbean (LAC) nation whose chief environmental body is hampered or constrained by junior institutional status, forced sharing of key responsibilities, limited budgetary and staffing resources, and lack of implementation follow-through and/or enforcement powers. 

    For example, not all nations have environmental policymaking and/or enforcement in the hands of a Cabinet-level Ministry, State Secretariat or independent environment agency [such as Panama's National Environment Authority (ANAM)].  Chile's National Environment Commission (Conama), like Peru's Conam, also has coordination and administrative powers, but is run by a board of Ministers and implementation/enforcement in Chile is in the hands of other institutions.  The Bahamas has a special advisory body, the Environment, Science and Technology Commission ("BEST Commission"), but no Ministry or independent agency and no specially trained enforcement body.  Uruguay's National Environment Directorate (DINAMA) is subservient to the Housing Ministry, historically a highly politicized Ministry.  DINAMA's staff and budget is tiny, and its enforcement role restricted to helping local governments. 

    In some nations (such as Chile, Costa Rica or Peru), environmental responsibilities are still divided between the Health Ministry (which had the role to itself under the Sanitary Code before an environment body was created) and whatever environment authority has been created, with former usually having more budgetary and technical resources than the latter.

    Even in some of the nations that already an Environment Ministry or State Secretariat, that body (just like Conam) can elaborate the policy, but has no enforcement authority.  In other words, the effectiveness in practice of what they labor so hard to develop and adopt depends on the whims and diligence of the Justice Ministry, Public Ministry (Ministerio Público) or local prosecutor (who frequently does not understand environmental issues).

    I'll be looking at what makes effective environmental policymaking institutions in an upcoming Temas blog as part of a series I like to call "The Basics."  Stay tuned!

    — Keith R

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