The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that the institutionalization of the environmental assessment (EA) of road development in Cameroon is context-sensitive. A content analysis of literature and key stakeholders’ interviews reveals that socio-economic processes of the 1990s guided by, among others, the concepts of sustainable development, poverty reduction and good governance shaped the context of forestry and environmental policy reforms that led to the institutionalization of EA of road development. The Rio Earth Summit, the involvement of donors and non-governmental organizations in release mechanism programmes and projects enhanced this process. With this background, three phases were determined : the marginality phase (before 1992), when roads were constructed without EA, a general formalization phase (1992-1994), during which a nationwide EA framework was promulgated, and a specialization phase (after 1996), when the implementation of EA of road development became operational, even before the nationwide system. An understanding of the context must be included in the institutionalization process of EA, especially in developing countries.