With the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), FESS has developed an Environmental Security Assessment Framework for National and Subnational Regions, Natural Resource Sectors, and Ecosystems (ESAF). The framework is designed to identify risks to nations and regions that arise as a result of the confluence of environmental and political, economic, and societal factors, and to evaluate the implications of these risks. The ESAF is intended to provide consistency for comparisons across countries and regions, while focusing on the specificities of local economic, political, social, cultural, and environmental factors. The goal of the ESAF is to inform policymakers, facilitate the establishment of policy priorities, and contribute to the development of effective and sustainable programs.

The ESAF proceeds in nine phases. Phase I of the ESAF sets out the initial profile of the country, subnational region, natural resource sector, or ecosystem under study. This profile provides baseline information about the politics, economics, social structure, culture, history, and foreign relations of the area and is the first stage in determining fault lines or cleavages that may be relevant to stability and security.

Phases II and III ground environmental security within the context of natural resource-based economic activities, social conditions, and the physical environment. These two phases examine qualitative and quantitative economic and social data linked to the environment to identify issues, sectors, and resources important to stability, collectively referred to as Critical Concerns (CCs). However, in recognition of the fact that the compilation of quantitative data equivalent to that available for countries is often difficult or impossible to compile for sectors, subregions, and ecosystems, a list of qualitative questions also is used as the basis for generating information about linkages among economy, society, environment, and sustainability.

Through further analysis in Phase III, the relative condition and vulnerability of each CC is investigated, thereby identifying a set of key environmental problems. To understand the scope and underlying factors associated with these key problems, each one is then disaggregated and studied more closely by examining the impact on the CCs of environmental governance, defined as the traditions and institutions by which power, responsibility, and authority are exercised over a population's natural resources. This phase asks questions about citizen access to public institutions to air grievances, perceptions about the responsiveness of institutions and officials with responsibility for environmental governance, and plans and capacities for responding to shocks, such as natural hazards.

Phase IV departs from the preceding assessment of the relative condition and vulnerability of the CCs to develop a more finely tuned basis for assessing their implications and distinguishing between environmental problems and problems of environmental security (as not all environmental problems are problems of environmental security). Therefore, a preliminary judgment is rendered about which issues are to be identified as high priority Critical Concerns, defined as problems related to the environment with significant implications for economic and social stability and welfare, potentially posing a threat to security or contributing to its creation.

During Phase V,,information, opinions, and perceptions of local and sectoral experts are solicited through interviews and small community discussions. The purpose of these meetings is to test preliminary hypotheses about the key environmental security challenges, identify their implications within the local setting, and understand what efforts are underway to mitigate their effects.

Phase VI examines how constituencies and stakeholders are affected by the high priority Critical Concerns, their interests in relation to them, and possible sources of conflict. For each high priority Critical Concern, the level of impact and response capacities of each stakeholder are elaborated, and possible areas of conflict are documented and collected.

In Phase VII, through both the collected data and the analysis developed in the prior phases, three types of potential scenarios are generated. The first projects likely outcomes if trends remain relatively constant; the second posits shocks to the system and projects likely outcomes given the present capacity to respond; and the third describes potential outcomes if the country were to take many of the steps necessary to address identified environmental security threats. Each scenario is evaluated in terms of probability and potential impact.

Phase VIII is devoted to relating ESAF findings in specific ways to international development assistance activities in the country or region examined through field interviews with bilateral and multilateral donors. This is then compared and contrasted to the potential scenarios generated by the ESAF to identify gaps and target areas for improved coordination and assistance.

Phase IX is the culmination of the ESAF, providing a full assessment of both the principal environmental security threats and alternative remedial actions. These are gathered together in the consolidation of the ESAF findings in the form of a final report detailing the findings and recommendations of the study. The final recommendations of the ESAF entertain a full range of options available to host governments, international donors, and stakeholders in civil society and the private sector.

In sum, the ESAF generates practical policy recommendations for the use of government officials and civil society stakeholders, with a view toward promoting economic well-being, social peace, political stability, and environmental sustainability in the countries and regions it examines.

FESS has conducted environmental security assessments in Nepal, the Dominican Republic, Uganda, Sierra Leone, the Philippines, and Ethiopia.