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Citizen Participation and Sustainable Development

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significant level of environmental awareness and concern amongst citizens. ... and deliberation in the decision making process offers an ingenious solution... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Citizen Participation and Sustainable Development


1
Citizen Participation and Sustainable Development
  • Graham Smith
  • School of Social Sciences
  • University of Southampton

2
The attitude-behaviour gapA barrier to
environmental citizenship
  • How to bridge the gap between citizens
    environmental attitudes and their actual
    behaviour?
  • significant level of environmental awareness and
    concern amongst citizens.
  • rarely converts into the type of behaviour
    necessary for sustainable development e.g.
    cutting back on car usage, changing consumption
    patterns, etc.
  • Important role for public authorities?
  • regulatory and fiscal incentives necessary to
    shape environmentally-sensitive behaviour.

3
The problem of government intervention?
  • To achieve sustainable outcomes, public
    authorities will need to employ a greater range
    of policy instruments
  • Legal regulation
  • Green taxation, etc.
  • But, strong public resistance to imposition of
    measures to achieve radical changes in
    consumption patterns.
  • Citizens are suspicious of the motives of public
    authorities.
  • Increased state intervention is likely to
    increase sense of political alienation.

4
Responding to the conundrumcitizen participation
  • Citizen participation and deliberation in the
    decision making process offers an ingenious
    solution
  • Citizens are dissatisfied democrats
  • Lack of trust in political institutions
  • But strong commitment to democratic norms
  • Increases legitimacy of potentially controversial
    policies.
  • Citizen participation in the formulation of
    environmental policy offers a mechanism for
    building trust in public authorities and
    acceptance / support of decisions.
  • Improves knowledge-base for decision making.
  • Information flows between citizens and decision
    makers.

5
Responding to the conundrumcitizen participation
  • Enhances environmental citizenship
  • Orientates citizens towards the public good and
    promotes reflection on environmental values.
  • Exposes the narrowly self-interested grounds of
    many environmentally-degrading and unsustainable
    practices.
  • Citizens confront the implications of policy
    choices, such as the environmental costs of
    consumption and production patterns.
  • Part of the process of internalising
    environmental values and developing an
    environmental ethos.
  • Opportunity to develop skills, capacities and
    dispositions necessary for environmental
    citizenship.

6
Sustainable policy?
  • There is no guarantee that citizen participation
    will lead to sustainable development.
  • However, good reasons to expect more
    environmentally-informed decisions that are
    accepted as legitimate by citizens.
  • Arguing for participation and deliberation is the
    easy part
  • Evidence from practice?

7
Experiments in participationDeliberative
innovations
  • If participation is to be embedded in the
    political process, we need to think carefully
    about institutional design.
  • Many participation exercises have been poorly
    designed and executed, often increasing the
    alienation of citizens.
  • Growing interest in democratic experiments such
    as citizens juries, consensus conferences and
    deliberative opinion polls
  • Independent organisation and facilitation to
    ensure fairness
  • Careful selection of cross-section of the
    population
  • Presentations and opportunity to question
    experts
  • Citizens given time to deliberate over policy
    options

8
Experiments in participationDeliberative
innovations
  • Evidence indicates that citizens are willing and
    able to deliberate on controversial and complex
    policy issues and provide reasoned decisions.
  • A small number of deliberative innovations have
    been run on environmental issues, e.g.
  • Consensus conferences Danish Board of
    Technology.
  • Deliberative opinion polls Texas public
    utilities.
  • Evidence indicates that environmental
    considerations are given significant weight in
    citizens deliberations and decisions (but
    evidence is based on only a few cases).

9
Experiments in participationDeliberative
innovations
  • At present such innovations remain marginal.
  • The challenge is to embed meaningful citizen
    participation into the decision making process.
  • An example Citizens Assembly on Electoral
    Reform (British Columbia)
  • 160-strong randomly-selected assembly of citizens
    who met regularly for a year.
  • Recommendations put directly to a popular
    referendum.
  • Not an environmental example, but shows how
    deliberative innovations can play a significant
    role.

10
Experiments in participation
  • Deliberative innovations are not the only option
    for democratic renewal
  • Lessons to be drawn from, for example,
    participatory budgeting, citizens initiative,
    etc.
  • Beyond the traditional political realm
    democratic participation in the social economy
  • Co-operatives, mutuals and voluntary
    organisations, associations and foundations that
    engage in productive activity with a social
    remit.
  • Ethos and democratic structure offer a promising
    context for the promotion of environmental
    citizenship.

11
Enhancing citizen participation
  • There is a potentially significant relationship
    between citizen participation and sustainable
    development.
  • Increases the legitimacy of decisions.
  • Improves the knowledge base for decision making.
  • Enhances environmental citizenship.
  • Without widespread experimentation and support
    for democratic innovations (in the political and
    economic realm), the evidence will remain only
    suggestive.
  • BUT, how to overcome the reluctance of public
    authorities to increase opportunities for
    meaningful citizen participation?
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