International Association for Impact Assessment

2024 Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Watch this interview with Yaw Amoyaw-Osei, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.


    Gary Baker, CEO of IAIA, talked with Yaw Amoyaw-Osei, the recipient of the 2024 IAIA Lifetime Achievement Award.  Watch the video now, and find the full transcript of the conversation below.

    Gary Baker, IAIA CEO:  Hello, everyone. The next award winner you are going to meet is someone who is already very familiar to many of you. The Lifetime Achievement Award is for someone who has contributed enormously to impact assessment over many years in a whole variety of capacities.  You name it, and this man has done it.  I'm delighted to be joined by Yaw Amoyaw-Osei, who is going to tell us a little bit more about himself, although many of you may already know a lot about what he has done. Thank you for joining me and welcome to this conversation. You have had a long, distinguished career in impact assessment on different continents and in different roles. What are some of the highlights you would point to as to things that have had the most meaning to you or that you are proudest of across your career?

    Yaw Amoyaw-Osei:  That's a very difficult one because there have been so many highlights. Since my first attendance at IAIA96 in Lisbon, Portugal (20 years ago!), I never looked back. It's been a great opportunity to be part of that family. I have learned so much from others about the happenings in the impact assessment field and the different jurisdictions. I have shared experiences with many people and networked with senior professionals and practitioners, some of whom have become very close friends. There's even been opportunity for job referrals from some of these friends and opportunity to work in partnership with some of them. IAIA is a wonderful family for building one's capacity as well as building the confidence in the field of impact assessment because of the regular interactions and the opportunity to network. Then through IAIA's contribution, Ghana became a powerhouse of impact assessment in Africa in the mid-1990s, attracting other African countries, especially from East Africa, to understand and study the Ghana EIA system.
    In all this, it's been the capacity building opportunities I had with IAIA and others. At the first IAIA conference in 1996, we presented two papers. The first was on developing EIA procedures for a developing country, the Ghanaian experience, and then developing local capacity in impact assessment in Ghana. We did this with a view to getting affirmation or criticism so that we could eventually improve upon our homemade EIA system. EIA has become part of me, and every year I look forward to attending, to learning new things, and to interacting with colleagues and friends.

    Gary: You have outlined something of your experience with IAIA back to that first conference. But as a young professional coming into impact assessment now, and perhaps looking at IAIA, what would you say to them are the real benefits of volunteering and networking?

    Yaw: The wealth of resources presented by IAIA at the annual conferences and other opportunities are enormous. All this will be at one's disposal. This includes the opportunity to meet with accomplished professionals from academia, industry, consulting firms, civil society organizations, and other international financing institutions, even including one's country's environmental protection agency and other officials. You will get to meet an array of professionals that, of course, you would not regularly encounter in your work, and then there's opportunity to network with professionals who would guide you in developing your own professional career or niche and even the possibility of gaining employment, part-time jobs, attachments or even internships. In some cases, even admission to do higher academic programs in universities because we've been meeting some of these professors. The opportunities are just limitless. This is how some of us developed our own careers and our capabilities. Becoming consultants who are sought after now, and then delivering training in all manner of areas, within university and then, in my case, becoming an impact assessment trainer for the World Bank and IUCN for the whole of West Africa, lecturing in the university in EIA and environmental law, and so on. The opportunity is just limitless for any young professional to have such an opportunity.

    Gary: It’s probably quite challenging for anyone to live up to all those opportunities, but you have clearly benefited enormously from it. One final question, stepping back a little bit. There's a lot of pessimism around the environmental challenges that we are facing, whether that's in Africa or elsewhere in the world. Where do you stand on that? How optimistic are you that we are making progress? There's still that collective will to make a difference. Have you got a view on that?

    Yaw: I am very, very much optimistic. Impact assessment has the potential to offer invaluable contributions to addressing some of these worsening environmental situations, be they from the climatic end or climate-related issues, sanitation, resource exploitation, deforestation, and whatever. The potential of impact assessment in dealing with these issues must be publicized, must be advertised, and the knowledge must be shared, especially among policy and decision makers, so that they become aware of this potential, too. I think that is very, very crucial.

    Declaring that Accra will become one of the cleanest cities in the world, I immediately said to myself, this is an issue for impact assessment. Unfortunately, we didn't take advantage of that. Now we turn around to blame the president for not achieving what he promised for Accra, the capital city. I think it should have been picked up by the relevant institutions in charge of impact assessment administration and pushed forward to achieve the results desired by the president. Impact assessment practitioners must translate impact assessment into simple, practical, resource-oriented policy for decision makers, and they must feel the need to promote and also deploy the two. I think we must be ready to critique and challenge ourselves in this direction so that everybody will see that impact assessment is not just an academic discourse but something that has practical use and benefits.

    Gary: I think that's a great way to end that conversation. I think it's a challenge we're all facing, and IAIA has to lead on that. How we adapt and adopt and move from the theoretical and the abstract to the practical. You spent your whole career doing that successfully, so you are a very worthy recipient of this Lifetime Achievement Award. Thank you very much for spending some time with us today.

    Yaw: Thank you very much.

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