The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has been giving attention to environmental impact assessment (EIA) since about 1974. That attention has been centred primarily in the Environment Committee where, as in other OECD committees, representatives of the 24 Member countries meet to discuss common problems, the international economic implications of those problems and solutions to them. The Environment Committee has passed two recommendations related to EIA which call upon member countries to establish procedures and methodologies for assessing the environmental impacts of significant public and private projects and to exchange information on matters which could help them better forecast the environmental effects of such projects (OECD 1974, 1979).
Since the passage of these recommendations most OECD Member countries have established some type of EIA system. No two countries, however, have adopted an identical approach with the result that the scope and requirements of national EIA processes vary greatly. None the less, OECD Member countries are gaining experience in assessing the environmental impacts of their domestic activities, in both the public and private spheres. The application of EIA to development aid activities, however, has been much less common. Thus, whereas large industrial and infrastructural projects within OECD countries are often routinely submitted to EIA, when included as part of a foreign aid programme in a developing country, they are not. There are probably several reasons for this, a main one being that aid policy and foreign environments have not been subject to the same internal political pressures as domestic environment issues. The situation, however, is changing and the need to inject an environmental component into aid programmes is being recognized increasingly.
Within the OECD this need was recognized in the creation of the ad hoc Group on Environmental Assessment and Development Assistance which had its first meeting in October 1983. This group represented a co-operative effort between the Environment Committee and the Development Assistance Committee