In this era of environmental democracy, citizens are more or less willing to take an active part in decisions that concern them and their environment. How should such participation be organised? For what purpose? How can citizens be mobilised? Such are the challenges to be taken by private and public contractors and players.
In parallel with the setting up of regulations in the field of materials (Aarhus convention, Barnier law…), the number of participative initiatives is increasing. The engagement of citizens – who are increasingly sensitive to their environment and better informed –, or of associations representing them, has become a necessity, almost an obligation, to take legitimate and hence efficient decisions.
There is no miracle solution. However, there is extensive positive feedback both in France and abroad, especially in Quebec, about the BAPE (Bureau d’Audience Publique sur l’Environnement) or in Denmark, about the Danish Board of Technology. In France, the model of public meetings has reached its limits, and the National Commission of Public Debate, an independent administrative body, undertook to create a model of public debate that is more open and closer to ordinary citizens. Public contractors, who are also fully aware of the benefits of public participation, have been actively working on consultation processes. What should be done concretely? Several measures were highlighted during workshop 8, such as, to begin with, citizen juries or conferences. They enable randomly selected “non-concerned” people to get trained on the subject, to debate and to make comments or recommendations. We also need to go and meet people and find more playful tools easily accessible to those interested. Last but not least, citizens should be consulted at the earliest possible stage, so that several options remain possible.
More and more players specialise into consultation and get mobilised to share their experience with decision-makers and with private and public contractors (scientific interest group on public participation and institute for consultation, for example). They now allow all those who wish to involve the public to avail of true solutions for a more efficient participation.