Complex environmental issues require new approaches

A new book on the emerging practice of global citizen consultation and deliberation provides tips and tools for increasing citizen participation and developing environmental protection in international politics.

The PE2020 project organises together with the Consumer Society Research Centre at the University of Helsinki a seminar “Public Engagement in Decision Making Related to the Global Environmental Policy”. In this seminar, a new book will be released that is based on a method that has been recognised as an innovative new way of engagement by the PE2020 project consortium.

WWWviews book pic

In Governing Biodiversity through Democratic Deliberation (Routledge, 2015), edited by Docent Mikko Rask and Professor Richard Worthington (from Pomona College, Claremont, California), an international group of 30 researchers evaluates the role of new deliberative processes in international environmental policy.

To date, international politics have proved ineffective in preventing global environmental problems, such as climate change and the loss of biodiversity. International organisations established after World War II – the UN, World Bank, OECD, WTO, IMF, EU and NATO – have retained their position at the core of international decision-making, amid mounting accusations of them being ineffective and distant from ordinary people.

If citizens lack sufficient information, how can you survey their opinions about complex environmental issues. Therefore, the ignorance of environmental matters poses something of a challenge. In fact, less than half (44%) of Europeans know the meaning of biodiversity according to the Eurobarometer. The World Wide Views method solves this by providing the members of the citizen panels with comprehensive information about the topics handled. The World Wide Views methodology seems thus better suited to discussions on environmental matters than traditional surveys or focus group studies.

The World Wide Views method has been used at the UN’s Conferences of Parties (COP) on climate and biodiversity questions since 2009. The first global consultation was organised in Copenhagen in 2009 leading up to COP15. Citizens were consulted again in connection with COP11, the Conference of the Parties to the UN Biodiversity Conference, in Hyderabad, India. In the final report, the participants encouraged the use of the World Wide Views methodology.

The new method is not without its flaws. In the new book, researchers criticise it for focusing too heavily on numerical information and ignoring local perspectives. Since the UN is interested in more democratic decision-making, the local perspectives of different countries should be integrated more closely into global policy making.

The book comprises 15 scientific articles, which evaluate the role that citizen deliberation processes based on the World Wide Views method play in the UN’s climate and biodiversity conferences, the democratisation of international politics and the mainstreaming of environmental issues.

Here you can find a link to the book’s website.
Information on the World Wide Views process.

– Mikko and Kaisa –