Interview with Valerie Brachya

IPMS 1995
Director of Planning, Ministry of the Environment

Deputy Director General of Environmental Policy and Planning


(This interview was conducted in 2002.  Ms. Valerie Brachya is currently Director of the Environmental Policy Center at The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS)). 

Current Activities
In her positions as Director of Planning for Israel’s Ministry of the Environment and as Deputy Director General of Environmental Policy and Planning, Valerie is currently engaged in a number of different activities. With regard to national policy, she is developing environmental strategies for the distribution of residential and open space development, as well as for national infrastructure projects. Valerie is also responsible for running Israel’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system as well as the Geographic Information System (GIS) Unit.

In addition to her domestic activities, she manages Israel’s international environmental treaties and coordinates the country’s commitments to the Mediterranean Action Plan. She is also currently preparing for Israel’s participation in the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Global Sustainability in Johannesburg. Beyond her responsibilities with the Ministry of the Environment, Valerie lectures at Hebrew University on environmental planning and conflict resolution.

Most Important IPMS Lessons
Among the important lessons that Valerie has drawn from her IPMS experience is the change in attitude that it brought about in participants. As she describes it, this conceptual change in thinking about dispute resolution is the single most important outcome of the programme. She indicates that this shift is a result of the programme’s theoretical and simulation aspects, as well as the briefing and de-briefing process that accompanies each exercise. So strong is Valerie’s conviction with respect to the merits of IPMS that she has taken measures to expose her staff to similar training.

Applying IPMS Lessons
Valerie uses her IPMS skills on a regular basis in her work on behalf of the Ministry of the Environment, most notably when conflicts emerge between private developers and environmentalists. The mutual gains approach allows her to establish a process in which resolutions to such disputes may be found. The importance of using such an approach also applies to her staff, which participates in ongoing training through the JEMS project, a program that involves environmental professionals of both Israeli and Palestinian origin. She also uses her IPMS training for international issues concerning peace negotiations and environmental planning issues.

Suggestions for Improving IPMS
In Valerie’s estimation, IPMS is an excellent programme. From her perspective, its current length is quite appropriate, offering sufficient time to absorb the material presented in both lectures and simulations.
For those who have been trained to use IPMS principles, Valerie suggests that consideration be made for organizing an advanced program. In such a program, past participants could present casework illustrating the ways in which their skills have been used. This advanced program could be an effective means of further honing consensus-building and environmental analysis skills by reviewing the professional experiences of past participants and conducting de-briefing sessions to evaluate each participant’s management of their presented case.
With respect to the current IPMS curriculum, Valerie suggests that more attention be paid to the influence of factors well outside the circle of stakeholders involved in a given conflict. She indicates that it is important for participants to understand how disputes may be affected by unequal forces, such as access to political power or to financial resources necessary for retaining high quality legal services that strengthen alternatives to negotiated agreements. As her intention in making such a suggestion is not to make the current training programme any longer, Valerie suggests that a follow-up session may be a wise way to address this issue.

Suggestions for Other SCF Activities
Valerie strongly supports the concept of a regional program. She indicates that such a program would be very beneficial to Israel by allowing the country to be placed in a European context for developing institutional approaches to consensus-building and sustainable development. Valerie points out that this European context is key in that Israel’s governmental style is very similar to Europe’s, in addition to the fact that Israel is actively involved in a number of European activities. Furthermore, a regional program may facilitate opportunities to bolster the efforts of sustainable development professionals working on local level issues.
Valerie also suggests that future IPMS programs develop a framework for examining issues related to the administrative circumstances under which consensus-building approaches are most feasible.


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