Welcome to the thematic network on ICZM Participation and Implementation in Europe
We need YOUR help to populate the Wiki with more articles! Contact us to gain editing access and discuss your contributions to theme 2. The thematic network on ICZM Participation and Implementation in Europe is led by EUCC – The Coastal Union. Theme 2 is led by Alan Pickaver and Wouter Kreiken
Introducing Theme 2: ICZM Participation and Implementation in Europe
Many of the activities proposed by theme 2 rely on the participation of the actors involved in the field. Within this front page of the Theme 2 Coastal WIKI, we introduce the work being done by this network in order to encourage your participation. Note: If you have not yet an editing authorisation we ask you to send your contribution (new article, revision/update of existing article, revision/update of your course details or link) and your contact details to your national network coordinator. You will be registered in the Contact Database and you will receive an editing authorisation, eventually with some additional instructions. Read the Coastal Wiki Rules and the Guidelines before starting to write your contribution.
The state of the art of public participation in Europe
EUCC has also written a report on status of public participation in Europe. This reports provides an introduction of public participation, information on the level of public participation as perceived by professionals in public participation in ICZM, national and European legal issues concerning public participation and more.
What is Public Participation?
The public are now much more aware of their rights and the effects that decisions have on their lives. More than ever before, they expect better services and desire to be involved in the decision-making process.
All citizens of the EU now have the right to participate in environmental decision-making. Especially considering the recent enlargements with former communist states, public participation trends throughout Europe can differ immensely. For example, a country with a strong central government will probably have a very different participation tradition from a country with a weaker central and stronger regional government. First of all, regional governments logically exist of people from the region and secondly, regional government and regional issues are much closer to the people which makes citizens and citizen groups more prone to participate.
Numerous definitions of public participation exist and this makes it more difficult to promote and implement it throughout Europe. Public participation means different things to different people.
First of all it is important to determine who are actually meant by the term public. CoastLearn provides us with the following definition: “Notions like "public" and "interested public" are used to identify the citizens who are directly affected by the project and not vested with administrative responsibilities, but taking part in the process of decision-making and implementation.” The Århus Convention, on the other hand, claims that the public consists of just about anyone who wants to be involved and/or has an interest in the matter. The public is just one of a number of concerned stakeholders.
As for participation, it has been defined as “the various mechanisms that individuals or groups may use to communicate their views on a public issue”. So it is the way that the public gets its views across on a public matter. The ways this may occur are numerous: voting, demonstrating, petitioning, lobbying, letter writing, debating, campaigning, discussing and many more.
Why is Public Participation needed in ICZM?
In a report drawn up by the European Commission on socio-economic costs and benefits of ICM, it was stated that one of the most essential features of ICM is stakeholder consultation and commitment. There are many benefits to public participation in environmental decision making viz.
• the public become more knowledgeable and aware of the different coastal issues,
• their knowledge and experience can be harnessed to improve plans and policies,
• there is a tendency for improved understanding and support for the decisions that have to be made,
• the process leads to greater openness or transparency in the decision-making process,
• there is generally less polarisation of viewpoints leading to less misunderstandings and disagreements,
• there is an increased tendency to ‘own’ the decision taken and for the participants to work together to move the process forward,
• it prevents unnecessary delays and costly objection processes, and eliminates aggrieved parties taking their cases to the courtrooms.
In short, public participation can lead to decisions that are better for the environment.
Legislation governing Public Participation
The EU has passed specific legislation (Directive 90/313 of 7 June 1990) on the freedom of access to information on the environment is one of the first binding pieces of European legislation that had to do with public participation. This freedom of access to information has to do with creating “awareness”, one of the early levels of public participation. This directive is now amended by Directive 2003/4/EC which also constitutes the first pillar of the Århus Convention. The right to public participation has been determined by some minimum participation standards in environmental decision-making:
- The “public concerned” should be notified timely and effectively,
- Time should allow for public participation,
- Acquiring information should not cost the public any money,
- The decision-makers should take into account the public’s opinion,
- The decision should be made public timely, with full text and reasons to back it up.
The Key Features of Public Participation
There are a number of key features that have recognised in public participation:
- subsidiarity: simply said this means that decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level, i.e. as closely as possible to the citizen,
- access to information: before any meaningful participation can occur, the public must be aware and informed,
- a voice in decision making: implicit in the concept of public participation is the notion that the public’s voice should not only be heard in the decision-making process but that it should be acted upon. Listening to someone’s opinion and then disregarding it is not participation.
- transparency: the process should be completely open without secret deals or decisions amongst a sub-grouping of the stakeholders behind closed doors,
- enforcement: once taken the decision should be implemented,
- access to justice: if needed, and
- post-project analysis and monitoring: the participation should continue after the initial decisions have been taken.
The Different Levels of Public Participation.
Eight levels of public participation have been used in the ENCORA project ranging from no input at all by the public, i.e. all of the decisions are taken solely by the decision-makers, to a point where the public and other stakeholders are actually part of the decision-making process from the very beginning to the very end. The seven stages can be categorised as follows:
Level 1 - all decisions are taken by governmental or regulatory bodies with no input at all by stakeholders.
Level 2 - stakeholders are placed on committees or advisory boards for the main purpose of engineering their support; they have no advisory capacity and certainly cannot take decisions.
Level 3 – stakeholders are simply informed but there is no channel for feedback; the information flow is one-way. It does lead to access to information and therefore awareness-raising.
Level 4 – the stakeholders are consulted i.e. their opinions are asked. However, there are no other means of participation and although the opinions of those asked are generally taken into account there is no guarantee that they will be taken into consideration when decisions are taken.
Level 5 – the stakeholders have a truly advisory role. However, again, there is no certainly that the advice will be followed when a decision is taken.
Level 6 – there is real negotiation between the stakeholders and the decision-makers; there is shared planning and decision-making responsibilities.
Level 7 – stakeholders have decision-making delegated to them by the public officials resulting in the stakeholders achieving dominant decision-making authority. Stakeholders may hold veto power on decisions.
EUCC – The Coastal Union has used these Levels to collect information from the thirteen participating countries of the EU to determine their participation practices. This has been done in the form of a broad questionnaire which was circulated to ICZM practitioners.
The Status of Public Participation in ICM in selected European Countries
In Europe, participation most often occurs at Level 4, generally seen as attitude surveys, neighbourhood meetings and public hearings. Whilst a valid step towards full participation, when it is not combined with higher levels of participation it is simply not enough. Consultation alone means that there is no guarantee that “citizen concerns and ideas will be taken into account”. It is important to recognise that consultation is not full participation.
Only in some cases, is their full participation in ICM decision making, largely through the development of partnerships. These are especially common in the UK. In a partnership, the power is shared by “negotiation between citizens and stakeholders”. Planning and decision making tasks are carried out through bodies like “joint policy boards”, “planning committees” and other mechanisms that might enforce such a partnership. They work best with an “organized power base” in the region or community where meetings can be held, finances can be taken care of and where the group can do business with its employees (lawyers, technicians etc.). The key to effective partnership is good organization and planning.
Traditional top-down decision-making, with little involvement of the people most affected, runs the risk of loss of trust and the decision being contested. A process involving the public in the finding gives them ownership of the verdict. It takes longer to reach a decision in the short-term but time is saved in the long-term. Participation often leads to a better quality of the plan or project, an improved definition of the problems, improved knowledge of the local situation, increased insights into the effects of the plan or policy, a broader field of expertise and experience, and attention to new, more creative solutions.
Wanted articles for Theme 2
Other useful items
Resource database: List of institutes, important websites, projects that worked, etc.
Coastlearn has an excellent learning module on public participation in ICZM. The Coastlearn module is designed as an introduction and can be readily understood by anyone working outside the field of ICZM.
CoPraNet has a database of case studies on public participation in ICZM.
The ENCORA public participation survey has also produced a list of examples of good practice in ICM
How to edit the coastal wiki
There are a number of articles on how to edit the coastal wiki. First of all, you need an editing account. To get this, contact your national contact officer. Basic wiki markup is easy and more information can be found on the how to edit page. The wikipedia cheatsheet can be printed out in your language to put next to your computer while editing a wiki. Read the Coastal Wiki Rules and the Guidelines before writing your contribution.
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