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​​Screening, Assessment and Management of Social and ​​Environmental Risks and Impact

Programme Level​​
UNDP will screen Programmes early in their development. Programme screening, which is aligned with the SES Overarching Polic​y and Principles, assists with the identification of potential social and environmental risks and opportunities. Programme documents will incorporate appropriate management and budgetary resources to address any identified social and environmental risks, including for potential application of requirements of the SES to Projects identified in the Country, Regional and/or Global Programme. For Programmes that include a set of activities which pose potentially significant adverse social and environmental risks, a Strategic Social and Environmental Assessment (SESA) 90 may need to be integrated into the Programme. 

At each stage of the Programme Management Cycle, application of the SES will be reviewed as part of UNDP’s quality assurance process.​

Project Level

Quality Assurance​​

The SES are included as one of seven quality criteria within the Quality Assurance Framework for UNDP Projects. Therefore, compliance with the SES are reviewed by UNDP throughout the Project cycle as part of the required periodic Quality Assessments.

Screening and Categorization/ Social and Environmental Screening Procedure (SESP)

UNDP will carry out Project screening and categorization at the earliest stage of Project preparation when sufficient information is available for this purpose. Screening is undertaken (i) to identify and reflect the significance of potential impacts or risks that Project activities might present, and (ii) to identify opportunities to enhance benefits and to support stakeholders. Categorization is undertaken to reflect the level of review and resources required for addressing such impacts and risks. All proposed Projects will be screened to identify potential application of requirements of the SES Overarching Policy and Principles (i.e. human rights, gender equality, environmental sustainability) and relevant Project-level Standards.
UNDP utilizes its Social and Environmental Screening Procedure (SESP) to identify potential social and environmental risks and opportunities associated with the proposed Project. UNDP’s SESP applies a Project-level categorization system to reflect the significance of potential social and environmental risks and impacts and to determine the appropriate type and level of social and environmental assessment. Each proposed Project is scrutinized as to its type, location, scale, sensitivity and the magnitude of its potential social and environmental impacts. UNDP screens all Project activities, including planning support, policy advice, and capacity-building (often referred to as “upstream” activities), as well as site-specific, physical interventions (“downstream” activities) and procurement. Based on the screening, UNDP categorizes Projects according to the degree of potential social and environmental risks and impacts. In some cases, applicability of specific requirements will need to be determined through additional scoping, assessment, or management review. The screening process results in one of the following three categories for the proposed Project:
  • Low Risk: Projects that include activities with minimal or no risks of adverse social or environmental impacts. Further assessment of potential adverse social and environmental risks and impacts is not required.
  • Moderate Risk: Projects that include activities with potential adverse social and environmental risks and impacts, that are limited in scale, can be identified with a reasonable degree of certainty, and can be addressed through application of standard best practice, mitigation measures and stakeholder engagement during Project implementation. Moderate Risk Projects may require limited social and environmental assessment and review to determine how the potential impacts identified in the screening will be avoided or when avoidance is not possible, minimized, mitigated and managed. Further assessment may determine that a full social and environmental assessment is required in order to ensure that the SES requirements are addressed, and that the Project should be re-categorized as High Risk. Moderate Risk activities include “upstream” activities that may present benefits and/or risks that are predominantly indirect, long-term or difficult to identify, including potential future downstream implementation activities where moderate risks are likely but undefined. UNDP adopts a social and environmental mainstreaming approach for such “upstream” activities, employing a potential range of methodologies and/or tools, depending on the potential issues, risks and/or impacts. (91)
  • High Risk: Projects that include activities with potential significant and/or irreversible adverse social and environmental risks and impacts, or which raise significant concerns among potentially affected communities and individuals as expressed during the stakeholder engagement process. High Risk activities may involve significant impacts on physical, biological, socioeconomic, or cultural resources. Such impacts may involve a range of human rights, gender, and/or environmental sustainability issues (i.e., the Overarching Policy and Principles) and Project-level Standards. (92) Potential significant adverse risks or impacts of “upstream” activities shall be analyzed and addressed, utilizing a potential range of tools, including Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA). A full environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA), including development of applicable social and environmental management plans, is required for “downstream” activities with potentially significant adverse impacts. (93) Such assessments are required, for example, for Projects that (i) may adversely impact critical habitats, (ii) involve significant displacement and/or resettlement, (94) (iii) produce significant quantities of greenhouse gases, or (iv) may adversely impact the rights, lands, resources and territories of the indigenous peoples, and (v) other circumstances that reflect potentially significant adverse impacts. Projects will adhere to recommendations of the SESA/ESIA. High Risk Projects require enhanced internal and external support. (95)
Projects that undergo substantive revision after the initial screening and categorization will be re-screened and potentially re-categorized.
Assessment and Management
UNDP will ensure that potential social and environmental risks, impacts and opportunities of supported activities are systematically identified and assessed in an integrated manner. The type and scale of assessment and the agreed management measures should be proportionate to the level of social and environmental risk.
UNDP supports countries through a wide range of services, including policy advisory services and capacity building. UNDP applies a social and environmental mainstreaming approach to these types of services. UNDP will seek entry points for strengthening capacities for integrated approaches to development policies and planning that consider social and environmental risks and opportunities. (96)
Projects with potentially significant adverse risks and impacts, including potential impacts which may undermine the realization of human rights, require review and/or assessment of potential social and environmental impacts, identification of measures to avoid and minimize adverse impacts and to improve social and environmental performance. Risk reduction measures follow a mitigation hierarchy that favours avoidance of potential adverse impacts over minimization, and where adverse residual impacts remain, mitigation and, as a last resort, the application of offset and compensation.
Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) and/or Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) are required for High Risk Projects, and may also be utilized to address potential impacts of Moderate Risk Projects. The UNDP Project Manager will ensure that the SESA/ESIA adequately includes and/or reflects the following measures: (97) Address impacts on physical, biological, socioeconomic, and cultural resources, including direct, indirect, cumulative, and induced impacts in the Project’s area of influence, including associated facilities. (98) Address potential transboundary concerns. Utilize strategic, sectoral or regional environmental assessment where appropriate.
Assess adequacy of the applicable legal and institutional framework, including obligations under Applicable Law and confirm that the Project would not be supported if it contravenes international obligations.
Assess feasible investment, technical, and siting alternatives, including the “no action” alternative, as well as potential impacts, feasibility of mitigating these impacts, their capital and recurrent costs, their suitability under local conditions, and the institutional, training and monitoring requirements associated with them.
Enhance positive impacts and avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate adverse impacts through social and environmental planning and management. Develop an Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) that includes the proposed measures for mitigation, monitoring, institutional capacity development and training (if required), an implementation schedule, and cost estimates. When uncertainty remains regarding specific Project components or exact locations (e.g. for “upstream” activities), develop an Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) in place of an ESMP. (99)
Use independent expertise in the preparation of social and environmental impact assessments, where appropriate. (100) Use independent advisory panels during preparation and implementation of Projects that are highly risky or contentious or that involve serious and multi-dimensional social and/or environmental concerns.
Examine whether particular individuals and groups may be differentially or disproportionately affected by the Project’s potential adverse impacts because of their disadvantaged or marginalized status, due to such factors as race, ethnicity, gender, age, language, disability, sexual orientation, religion, political or other opinion, national or social or geographical origin, property, birth or other status including as an indigenous person or as a member of a minority. Where such individuals or groups are identified, recommend targeted and differentiated measures to ensure that the adverse impacts do not fall disproportionately on them.
Ensure that the SESA/ESIA is undertaken as early as possible, noting that in some cases, a SESA/ESIA will be undertaken as a component of the Project. In no case shall Project activities that may cause adverse impacts be carried out until completion of the SESA/ESIA.
Ensure that the SESA/ESIA process and development of ESMF/ESMP involves early, iterative and meaningful stakeholder engagement and participation, predicated on timely disclosure of relevant information. (101)
UNDP’s mandatory Social and Environmental Screening Procedure (SESP) provides detailed requirements and guidance on screenin​​g and assessment.​

(90) SESA or Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) refers to a range of analytical and participatory approaches that aim to integrate social and environmental considerations into policies, plans and programmes and evaluate the interlinkages with economic and social considerations. For guidance see the OECD DAC guidelines "Applying Strategic Environmental Assessment" (2006), available at​.
(91) Tools and methodologies are outlined in UNDP’s Social and Environmental Screening Procedure (SESP) and supporting guidance materials.
(92) UNDP’s Social and Environmental Screening Procedure contains an indicative list of potential “High Risk” Projects.
(93) For example, an Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) or an Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF). An ESMF is a document that establishes a mechanism to determine and assess future potential social and environmental impacts of a Project or Programme when uncertainty remains on the Project component or exact location.
(94) Significant displacement and/or resettlement refers here to its potential scale. UNDP typically requires a full ESIA for all Projects involving displacement or/resettlement; however where potential displacement and/or resettlement may be minimal, UNDP may determine that its requirements could be met without a full ESIA.
(95) For High Risk Projects UNDP requires that the SESA/ESIA address UNDP’s assessment requirements. For High Risk Projects for which assessments have been commissioned or completed prior to UNDP’s support, UNDP reviews the assessment (and/or its terms of reference) and works with Implementing Partners to ensure that it fulfills UNDP’s requirements.

(96) UNDP applies a range of tools to support social and environmental mainstreaming, these approaches and tools are outlined in UNDP’s Social and Environmental Sustainability of Programming Toolkit (forthcoming).
(97) See UNDP’s Social and Environmental Screening Procedure for guidance (please note, UNDP’s current screening procedure will be revised and updated to align with SES).
(98) A Project’s area of influence encompasses (i) the primary Project site(s) and related facilities (e.g., access roads, pipelines, canals, disposal areas), (ii) associated facilities that are not funded as part of the project but whose viability and existence depend on the Project (e.g., transmission line to connect UNDP-supported hydropower facility), (iii) areas and communities potentially affected by cumulative impacts from the Project or from other relevant past, present and reasonably foreseeable developments in the geographic area (e.g., reduction of water flow in a watershed due to multiple withdrawals), and (iv) areas and communities potentially affected by induced impacts from unplanned but predictable developments or activities caused by the Project, which may occur later or at a different location (e.g. facilitation of settlements, illegal logging, agricultural activities by new roads in intact forest areas).
(99) UNDP’s Social and Environmental Screening Procedure contains an outline of the contents of an ESMP and guidance on preparing an ESMF (current screening procedure and guidance to be updated to include these components).
(100) UNDP will generally require that independent experts not directly affiliated with the Implementing Partner or UNDP conduct ESIAs for Projects with potentially significant adverse impacts. UNDP will ensure that conflicts of interest are avoided.

(101) Draft social and environmental assessments, including any draft management plans, are to be disclosed before Project appraisal formally begins.​


 Social and Environmental Screening Procedure (SESP)

Social and Environmental Screening Procedure - Guidan​ce[English] [French​]​ [Spanish] 

Additional Guid​ance
SESP Form/Template (to be used for completion and to attach as Annex to Project Document)