Table of Contents

New Directions in Social Impact Assessment

New Directions in Social Impact Assessment

Conceptual and Methodological Advances

Edited by Frank Vanclay and Ana Maria Esteves

This important new book outlines current developments in thinking in the field of Social Impact Assessment (SIA). It advances the theory and practice of SIA, and argues that a dramatic shift is required in the way socioeconomic studies and community participation is undertaken. The book emphasizes that, much more than the act of predicting impacts in a regulatory context, SIA needs to be the process of managing the social aspects of development and that there needs to be a holistic and integrated approach to impact assessment. It stresses that greater attention needs to be given to ensuring that the goals of development are attained and enhanced.

Chapter 21: A Human Rights-based Approach to Social Impact Assessment

Gillian MacNaughton and Paul Hunt

Subjects: economics and finance, valuation, environment, environmental sociology, research methods in the environment, valuation, geography, human geography, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, sociology and sociological theory, urban and regional studies, regional studies


Gillian MacNaughton and Paul Hunt Introduction In recent years, as a field of research and practice, social impact assessment (SIA) has grown to encompass a professional value system that is based upon fundamental human rights (Vanclay, 2003). Key features of this value system are fairness, transparency, participation, accountability and empowerment. It also holds a central concern for disadvantaged groups in society, including women, minorities and people living in poverty. Drawing on these core values, the SIA community has adopted fundamental principles for development and for SIA practice. First among these principles is that ‘respect for human rights should underpin all actions’ (Vanclay, 2003, p. 9). Independent from this evolution in the SIA community, the human rights community has recently begun to explore using impact assessment as a tool to advance the enjoyment of human rights. Indeed, the United Nations human rights treaty bodies have called upon governments to perform human rights impact assessments to ensure that they are respecting their obligations under international human rights law (Hunt and MacNaughton, 2006). In response, the human rights community – including UN Special Rapporteurs, civil society organizations, academics and others working to promote and protect human rights – has embarked on developing human rights impact assessment (HRIA) methodologies and tools, and have drawn upon the experiences of the other types of impact assessment, including SIA (UNHCHR, 2009). This convergence of values and methodology in the SIA and human rights communities makes it timely to open a discussion to consider the potential benefits of these two...

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