Information Access and NGO Participation: North America and Europe

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What is public participation and what does it add? Pragmatic reasons for public participation.
Examples of public participation to achieve environmental goals.Summary thoughts about public participation.Future directions in the Danube

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Information Access and NGO Participation: North America and Europe

  1. 1. Information Access and NGO Participation: North America and Europe Ruth Greenspan Bell, Resources for the Future Jane Bloom Stewart, New York University
  2. 2. Overview of Presentation • What is public participation and what does it add? • Pragmatic reasons for public participation • Examples of public participation to achieve environmental goals • Summary thoughts about public participation • Future directions in the Danube
  3. 3. What is Public Participation? • Explicit processes to involve people, NGOs and the private sector in decisionmaking and achieving environmental results • Can include – Commenting on draft legislation/proposed regulations – Lobbying – Litigation & citizen enforcement – Commenting on proposed discharge permits – Implementation activities
  4. 4. Public Participation can: • Improve the quality of environmental decisionmaking • Help build a dynamic for improved implementation
  5. 5. Four Reasons To Involve the Public • Builds an Environmental Constituency • Informs Decisionmaking • Participatory Democracy - Obtains Consent of the Governed to Environmental Requirements • Builds Public Trust & Fair Process for Environmental Results
  6. 6. Involving More People in Finding Solutions • Numerous Pollution Sources • Geographically Dispersed Facilities
  7. 7. Increasing the Information Available to Decision-makers • Available Technologies • Experience Applying Technologies • Impacts of Pollution • Public Acceptability of Risk
  8. 8. Consent of the Governed: How is Public Opinion Expressed? • Voting/Influencing Other Voters • Lobbying Elected Bodies/Providing Information and Data • Opportunities to Comment on Proposed Government Policies (e.g. draft regulations) • Advisory Committees
  9. 9. Obtaining Consent of the Governed • Environmental Protection as an interactive process between government and the public • Keys to legitimacy and public acceptance – solicit/consider views of all affected parties – transparent decisionmaking process – articulate reasons for decisions
  10. 10. Increasing Public Trust • Do People Believe Government Decisions are Worth Obeying? • Importance of Fair Process in Establishing Legitimacy • Honest, Neutral, Unbiased Decision-makers • Transparent Decision Processes
  11. 11. Example #1: Environmental Impact Assessment • Congress Passed a Law • Public Pressure/Litigation Aided Implementation • As a result, EIA Provides Information to the Public • Information Feeds Back into the Decision Process
  12. 12. Lessons Learned? • Success of EIA in U.S. demonstrates two roles for the public – Holding government’s “feet to the fire” – Using EIA-generated information to express opinions, influence decisionmakers • Transparent Public Process Builds Trust in Government Decisionmaking
  13. 13. Example #2: Toxic Release Reporting • Law requires reporting of toxic releases by industrial dischargers to all environmental media • Public access to TRI (PRTR) enables public to identify polluters/enforce/exert pressure to reduce toxic releases • Media dissemination of TRI data encourages voluntary reductions/enforcement
  14. 14. Lessons for the Danube • Results require multiple actors -- government, private sector and NGOs • Information is powerful – foundation of participation • Participation builds – regulatory success – legitimacy • Informed participation can help reduce pollution
  15. 15. Future Directions: Building Institutions for Public Participation in the Danube • CEE-wide commitments to Aarhus Convention • Objective: Implementation • 18-month GEF-funded pilot project • Hungarian and Slovenian government officials, NGOs, other stakeholders • Builds constituencies for GEF’s transboundary Danube restoration programs • Model for progress throughout Danube basin

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