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Can participants participate? Assessing the impact of participation in tight regulation

Aino Inkinen
Tampere University
Aino Inkinen
Tampere University
Open Panel

Abstract

Public participation and stakeholder involvement have become a central and to some extent uncontested element of environmental decision-making, fuelled by optimism about their ability to produce more environmentally sound decisions by incorporating a diversity of values and needs into decision-making and enhancing participants'' environmental awareness. Ample research is carried out on the quality of participatory processes, but few empirical analyses exist however on the outcomes of participation, and what the sometimes onerous and conflict-ridden processes achieve. In Finland, public participation is integrated into environmental management and policy on many levels, including command and control-style pollution management in order to improve both the quality and acceptability of pollution permit decisions and improve accountability. This paper describes an assessment of what the outcomes of participation are in the environmental permit process, where public input is sought although the space for participation to affect decisions may be limited.