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Next Generation Compliance and Enforcement: Back to the Future

The International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) has recently released the study Next Generation Environmental Compliance and Enforcement: Back to the Future, written by Jo Gerardu, Marcia Mulkey and Grant Pink. Between them, the authors have many years of experience in undertaking, leading and supporting environmental compliance and enforcement efforts. Based on three continents (Europe, North America and Australasia), their activities have informed global and regional environmental enforcement networks in most parts of the world.

The new study considers a range of present-day and forward-looking activities associated with next generation environmental compliance and enforcement. By reflecting and "looking back to the future", it explores lessons already learned and identifies existing information that can potentially assist environmental compliance and enforcement professionals in the future.

The study focuses on the role that INECE can play. It frames the discussion on where we have been as an environmental compliance and enforcement community in previous generations; where we are now, in the current generation; and where we are heading in the next generation. Simply put, the study looks at approaching changes and at what we can learn from our past.

Firstly, the authors set the framework by examining the importance of the design of environmental requirements (laws, regulations, treaties, permits etc.) and the key interactions between how requirements are designed and compliance behaviour. Secondly, they focus on transparency, the availability of information, public accountability, and citizen/community involvement in enforcement and compliance behaviour. Thirdly, they turn to a discussion of networks and networking as a (if not the) vital instrument for the implementation of the next generation of ideas. This third part emphasises the role of networks (at international, regional, national and sub-national levels) in technology acceptance and transfer. The fourth section focuses on capacity building and training, with an emphasis on their actual and potential role in the implementation of next generation approaches. The fifth section introduces another cross-cutting topic: measurement, data and results. In this section, the authors touch briefly on “big data” and data analysis as a next generation approach, and discuss more generally the importance of key performance indicators, measurement and results orientation as critical aspects of all compliance and enforcement efforts.

While advances have been made, are being made, and must continue to be made in the areas of technology and behavioural and support systems, at the heart of any actionable response is a human being. Capacity building and training will therefore continue to be needed and directed towards individuals, teams and organisations. It is imperative that we all work to ensure that the weakest link in next generation compliance and enforcement efforts is not the current generation officer. Networks the INECE in particular, but others, too, such as the Themis Network provide a means to empower all those who will be drivers of success for many generations to come.