United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

The Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+)

United Nations Environment Programme-UNEP/ UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs-OCHA Joint Environment Unit (
United Nations / Multilateral body
)
    Description
    Intro

    The NEAT+ is a simple project-level environmental screening tool designed for humanitarian practitioners. NEAT+ enables organizations to conduct rapid environmental impact assessments before implementing a humanitarian program, project or intervention. The tool assesses the current sensitivity of the crisis-affected environment, highlighting and categorizing any underlying risks and vulnerabilities to the environment and affected communities. Specific modules assess the impact of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), shelter as well as food security and livelihood interventions. The tool works via mobile data collection in KoBo toolbox and can easily be used by non-environmental experts.

    Description

    By assessing the sensitivity of the crisis-affected environment, highlighting and categorizing risks to the environment and affected communities, the NEAT+ enables humanitarian projects to minimize their environmental footprint and support long-term sustainable development. It identifies activity-related environmental risks and provides suggestions for mitigation actions that support a more effective recovery process. The NEAT+ comprehensively assesses environmental risk, including climate change, biodiversity loss and waste generation. Cross-cutting social themes (such as gender and disabilities) are mainstreamed throughout the tool.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    The tool is framed to work towards many SDGs and mainstreams environmental sustainability in the design of humanitarian programmes. It promotes the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation through its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene questionnaires; sufficient and safe food through the Food Security and Livelihood questionnaire; and climate- and biodiversity-sensitivity through its Environmental Sensitivity questionnaire. The NEAT+ is not only contributing to several SDGs but also to the implementation of its core values.

    Implementation methodologies

    The NEAT+ has been developed under the Coordination of Assessments for Environment in Humanitarian Action Initiative (Joint Initiative). The tool was built on basis of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT) but redesigned to ensure wider applicability. The content and logic in the tool are built on various environmental guidelines such as the QSAND, USAID Sector Environmental Guidelines, WWF’s Green Recovery and Reconstruction Toolkit, Rapid Environmental Assessment and FAO’s Environmental and Social Standards. During its planning and development, the tool was reviewed in detail by multiple environmental and humanitarian technical experts from UN agencies, Red Cross, NGOs, donors and private consultants. Following the tool’s development, environmental sensitivity and activity modules were extensively piloted in emergency settings by operational humanitarian agencies. The pilots were followed by updates to the tool, which was subsequently launched. To date, it has been applied in at least 30 field operations worldwide. The NEAT was developed with the financial support of USAID, UNEP, OCHA and USAID, and benefited from in-kind technical support of around 20 humanitarian and environmental organizations. As part of the NEAT+ rollout, JEU has organized webinars bringing together UN organizations and NGOs who had used the tool to share experiences and reflect on the NEAT+. User feedback has since then been used to improve the tool. Since its first launch in 2019, the tool has gone through several updates. In January 2021, the updated English NEAT+ was launched alongside French and Spanish versions of the NEAT+.

    Results

    The use of the NEAT+ tool has influenced humanitarian programming in multiple locations worldwide. The projects to which NEAT+ has been applied have reached thousands of people benefiting from humanitarian aid, where the NEAT+ has allowed programme managers to include environmental interventions and move away from unsustainable practices. For example, the NEAT+ has highlighted the unsustainable use of burnt brick livelihood practices in camp settings and encouraged the move towards other activities like agroforestry and conservation. Organizations applying the NEAT+ are using it as a tool for ensuring adherence to environmental safeguards. The NEAT+ includes a PowerBI dashboard which allows its users to follow up on environmental performance improvements over time.

    Factors and Constraints

    An increased focus on environmental issues and requirements from donors and organizations encourages humanitarians to use an environmental assessment tool like the NEAT+. The NEAT+ is innovative in that it is an open-source solution, making the tool free to use and easy to adapt to organizations’ needs. Based on user feedback, the tool has been updated and improved several times. In 2021, the development of an urban version and a health module was started by one of the operational agencies applying the NEAT+. These updates and plans will expand the scope to cover additional sectoral specific modules.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The tool is widely in use in emergency settings and is free of charge. It has been adopted by numerous humanitarian organizations such as UNHCR who uses the tool as baseline for its operations. Following a demand from partners active in urban settings, the NEAT+ (originally designed for rural environments) was in 2020 developed as an urban version. The urban NEAT+ was piloted in November 2020 and is expected to be launched by mid-2021. Additional modules are under development, where the development of a health module is especially important given the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, NEAT+ current and future versions are being moved to a single online platform which is expected to lead to better functionality, user-friendliness and cost-effectiveness.

    COVID-19 Impact

    Although COVID-19 has affected operations around the world, NEAT+, as an online tool, can be used remotely. The successful piloting of an urban NEAT+ in November 2020 in Brazil and Colombia, with expert inputs provided remotely, is also proof of the tool’s efficiency. Following the pandemic as well as the increased recognition of health-environment linkages, the development of a health module of NEAT+ has been started. The development of a dedicated NEAT+ Health module would be of particular value in assisting the affected community in terms of biological hazard preparedness and recovery from the pandemic.

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    N/A
    False
    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
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    Timeline
    01 December 2019 (start date)
    31 December 2021 (date of completion)
    Partners
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    SDGs
    Countries
    Uganda
    Uganda
    Contact Information

    Charlotta, Head of Unit