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Development of a Tool Kit to Strengthen Capacities for Developing and Implementing a Public Involvement Plan for Environmental Decision-making

Experience gained in countries suggests that designing and implementing effective participation in environmental decision-making can be a challenging endeavor. An important determinant to help reap the full benefits of public participation is careful and informed planning by government lead agencies on when, how and through which mechanisms to involve the public. Various approaches and options exist and the chosen approach needs to take into account the nature of the decision at hand, stakeholder expectations, and the political and institutional context. Experience gained in countries with a long-standing tradition of engaging with the public can provide valuable information for countries who are interested in strengthening their capacities for effective public participation.
To address country interest in strengthening their capacity for effective stakeholder engagement, UNITAR has initiated the development of a Public Participation Tool Kit. The tool kit will introduces potential benefits and challenges of engaging the public in decision-making and feature a step-by- step decision-framework which introduces key issues relevant in developing a public involvement plan. For various stages of the process, reference to more specific guidance material is made, as appropriate. Real world examples and case studies are provided, whenever possible. The approach taken favours a facilitative and learning by doing approach to strengthen capacities for effective public participation, i.e. emphasis will be placed on developing a framework and step by step guidance, rather than “providing answers” and offering training in a traditional sense. The Toolkit will be initially prepared in hard copy and subsequently be put on an interactive internet based platform.
Specific objectives for the project include:
  • To develop practical guidance for decision-makers to develop a public involvement plan for specific environmental decision-processes
  • To facilitate information exchanges among countries with long-standing experience of engaging the public (such as the US) and partner countries interested in learning from this experience, through co-operation within a multi-lateral partnership framework
  • To enhance access to existing guidance, resources and training materials for effective public participation in environmental decision-making.
  • To support hands-on capacity development in pilot countries (subject to additional resources)

The project has commenced in 2008 by reviewing existing public participation guidance documents and engaging with MIT in preparatory research.