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Development of a Methodology to Identify Practical Lessons from Involving the Public in Environmental Decision Making

Public participation in administrative and legislative decision making has become an integral and important aspect of environmental governance in many democratic countries. However, striking a good balance between democratic participation and administrative efficiency may present a challenge for many governments. Experience suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach to public participation does not exist. Rather, consultative procedures to involve the public need to be adapted to the nature of the decision process and take into consideration national and issue specific circumstances, while satisfying the expectations of stakeholders.
To assist interested countries to address the challenges of strengthening participatory environmental governance and based on results from a research project in South Africa implemented in collaboration with the Environmental Evaluation Unit of the University of Cape Town, UNITAR is developing a methodology to support interested countries in assessing their capacities to conduct participatory processes in a systematic, collaborative and participatory manner. The country-driven research aims at facilitating a national dialogue between government and its stakeholders on the strengths and limitations of participatory processes and generating practical recommendations to strengthen future ones.
Specific objectives of the research include:
  • Taking stock of past public participation processes
  • Creating knowledge to what extent stakeholders’ expectations have been met
  • Providing recommendations on practices, approaches and conditions conducive to effective and accepted participatory processes
  • Contributing to strengthening the relationship between government and its clients in civil society and the business community