Governance for Sustainable Development
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Governance for Sustainable Development

The Challenge of Adapting Form to Function

Edited by William M. Lafferty

This book is an original study of the challenge of implementing sustainable development in Western democracies. It highlights the obstacles which sustainable development presents for strategic governance and critically examines how these problems can best be overcome in a variety of different political contexts.
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Chapter 6: Participation and Sustainable Development: Modes of Citizen, Community and Organisational Involvement

James Meadowcroft


James Meadowcroft The enhancement of public participation in environment and development decision-making is generally understood as an essential characteristic of governance for sustainable development. Agenda 21, for example, described ‘broad public participation in decision-making’ as a ‘fundamental prerequisite for the achievement of sustainable development’ (UN 1993: 219). And the OECD has argued that ‘well-designed consultation and participation processes’ are ‘especially important’ in relation to ‘policies promoting sustainable development, because of the multiplicity and complexity of these goals’ (OECD 2001a: 103). But participation can take many forms, and its place within the framework of democratic institutions can be understood in various ways. This chapter explores the role of public participation in decision-making for sustainable development. It is concerned with the normative arguments justifying participation; with the mechanisms through which such participation can be organised; and with the contribution that different participatory traditions can make to the realisation of sustainable development. It argues that governance for sustainable development requires the integration of ideas and practices associated with three distinct participatory currents – the citizenship, the community-based, and the stakeholder orientations. But it also suggests that of the three, the stakeholder orientation, with the group-based processes it legitimates, is particularly important. Thus, effective participation in governance for sustainable development will be found to depend somewhat less on the mobilisation of the ‘noble citizens’ and ‘dynamic communities’ so beloved of democratic theorists and green activists, and rather more on interactions among representatives of the organised interests that are already enmeshed in the nexus of environmental...

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