Participatory Approaches for Local Agenda 21
There are at least three different approaches for structuring participation in the development of Local Agenda 21s: a) the "priority problem" approach; b) the sectoral or municipal services approach; and c) the stakeholder or thematic approach. Each approach is described below along with a flow chart, list of requirements, advantages and disadvantages, and an example of its application in a city.
The most commonly used means of structuring public involvement in Local Agenda 21 is to involve stakeholders in determining priority urban environmental problems and then structure participation around key problem areas. The process is as follows: 1) background information on the city's urban environment is prepared (e.g. environmental data and a "State of the Environment" report); 2) a stakeholder workshop is held to discuss the background information and prioritize urban environmental problems; 3) stakeholder working groups are created around the 2-6 highest priority problems; 4) the working groups identify and prioritize options for solving the problems; and 5) a panel with representatives from each working group, along with experts, develops an integrated strategy and individual action plans for each priority problem.
The Priority Problem approach requires: a) consensus on which problems are the most important; b) consensus within each problem area as to priority options; and c) participation of relevant stakeholders, especially decision-makers. Its advantages are that it focuses the LA21 process on addressing the most important issues and promotes an integrated approach to strategy development. Its disadvantages are that real-life problems may be different from identified priorities if the process takes too long and it may be difficult to achieve consensus on priority problems and options.
This approach is based on the environmental dimensions of a city's existing sectors or municipal services. The process is as follows: 1) an analysis is made of sector-by-sector or service-by-service issues, either by experts or by a stakeholder workshop; 2) stakeholder working groups are established for each key sector or municipal service; 3) working groups prioritize issues, identify options and prioritize options for each sector or service; 4) an integrated working group develops an inter-sectoral or cross-service strategy and sector- or service-specific action plans.
The sector- or service-specific approach requires the active participation of key sectoral actors (e.g. industries and neighborhoods affected by industrial pollution) or key services (e.g. the water and sanitation company directors as well as representatives of their industrial, commercial and residential customers) and a willingness to evaluate real problems in each sector or service. The advantages of this approach are that it focuses on operational problems in each sector or service and that it results in practical, institution-specific recommendations. The disadvantages are that it may not identify and address the most important environmental issues in a city and it tends to reinforce the existing sectoral structure or service delivery system.
In this approach, public participation is organized around groups of key stakeholders or pre-identified urban themes. The process involves: 1) identification of relevant stakeholders or themes; 2) establishment of stakeholder or thematic working groups; 3) optional preparation of background environmental documents (e.g. environmental data and a "State of the Environment" report for use by the working groups); 4) identification and prioritization of stakeholder- or theme-specific strategies and action plans; and 5) integration of working group outputs into a city-wide action program by a stakeholder workshop or a group of experts.
This approach requires the active involvement of all key stakeholders and/or consensus on central themes. The advantages are that it is easy to establish and understand, and that it can address cross-sectoral and inter-jurisdictional problems. The disadvantages are that: a) the resulting strategies and action plans may not address a city's most important environmental problems; b) recommendations may be too general to guide action at the level of individual institutions; and c) separating stakeholders may create an "us against them" mentality that could lead to divisiveness.
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