Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) is a practical exercise in democracy, and as such has only a degree of effectiveness that is predictably controversial. In the European context, SIA began in 1999, just before the so-called "Millennium Round" of trade talks was expected to be launched at the WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle. It was then that under the leadership of WWF many Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working in the field of sustainable trade were already objecting to the perceived neglect of environmental goals in European trade policy, an issue that would later that same year help derail the Millennium Round in the “Battle of Seattle”. In response to the CSOs’ reasoned protest in Geneva and Brussels, the European Commission instituted the SIA process on its proposed trade measures. The University of Manchester was awarded a multi-year grant to do the simulation upon which public consultations were to be based,

WWF had a donor-funded project that ran only for three years, from 2001-2003, but “[t]he ultimate objective of the project is to facilitate the establishment of a process owned and trusted by local stakeholders, so that discussion and action on sustainability assessment of trade are pursued and strengthened beyond the lifetime of the project,”

The group of stakeholders participating in the Commission’s SIA consultations of WTO agreements consists of representatives of both CSOs and business entities.

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