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Deliberative democracy for effective stakeholder engagement in sustainability assessment

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conference contribution
posted on 2009-07-28, 13:36 authored by Vivek Narain Mathur, Andrew Price, Simon Austin
In contrast to well established techniques such as Environmental Impact Assessment and Whole Life Costing which have limited focus, Sustainability Assessment has multiple dimensions and often requires the incorporation of several intangible concerns, for example environmental justice and social capital. The complex social and political dimensions of decision-making for sustainability imply that traditional methods of participation and expert-dominated decision-making may not be the most appropriate approach. It has become imperative, therefore, to shift from this mechanistic viewpoint towards more deliberative democratic and perhaps iterative processes. This paper argues that Sustainability Assessment may be considered as an opportunity to put discursive mechanisms into action, thus empowering the civil society and enhancing local decision-making. Sustainability Assessment would thus be seen less as an analytical technique and more as a forum for dialogue with the potential for serving as a basis for avoiding or handling potential conflicts. One measure of its effectiveness could be its successes in consensus building. Such interactive processes provide opportunities for the participants to share each other’s values. Through their involvement in this interchange of ideas and negotiations, the participants will become aware of each other’s values, which may not be so obvious at the beginning of the process, thus making it easier to align goals and objectives. This extends the purpose of the democratic process from reaching a consensus to mutual social learning. The paper argues that the innovative and context-specific solutions required for realising sustainable development can emerge from democratic deliberative processes that form part of Sustainability Assessment. These deliberative processes will evolve as the participants learn from new and innovative approaches to sustainability development and assessment.



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MATHUR, V.N., PRICE, A.D. and AUSTIN, S.A., 2006. Deliberative democracy for effective stakeholder engagement in sustainability assessment. 4th international conference Citizens and governance for sustainable development, CIGSUD'2006, 28th-30th September, Vilnius, Lithuania


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