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Quality of Consensus and Deliberative Democracy in Environmental Policy Making : Three Case Studies of Stakeholder Participation Processes in Finland

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Title: Quality of Consensus and Deliberative Democracy in Environmental Policy Making : Three Case Studies of Stakeholder Participation Processes in Finland
Author(s): Bärlund, Hanna-Maria
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies
Discipline: Political Science, Politics
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2011
Abstract:
Since the beginning of the 1990s the emphasis of participatory democracy has become stronger in Finnish policy- and decision-making. This development involves various stakeholders participating in negotiations, or more specifically deliberations, around current issues in order to reach consensus and enable a continuance in the policy process. According to research, the more consensual a democracy is the more favourable are the policy outcomes towards environmental issues. The three case studies investigated, ie. the Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland, the Working Group on Renewable Energy, and the Natura 2000 Network of European Union nature protection areas, support this notion. The case studies are focused on how the key players involved have conceived the decision-making process in terms of achieved goals and degree of agreement as well as on the specific issue context as a backdrop to the development of policy. The cases displayed significant differences of outcomes depending on the achieved level of consensus and deliberation. The outcomes are analysed within the theoretical frameworks of Arend Lijpharts consensus vs majoritarian model of democracy and Martin Jänickes consensual capacity for ecological modernisation. Further, applying Joshua Cohens theory of deliberative democracy and his suggestions for achieving ideal deliberation, the results suggest that the connection between consensus democracy and more effective environmental conservation policy is not that clear-cut. Nevertheless, consensus democracy provides a promising point of departure for overcoming the main disputes between the stakeholders, and common starting points and general goals to be agreed on, which is crucial in order for any progress in environmental conservation to take place.
Keyword(s): concensus deliberative democracy environmental policy environmental conservation stakeholders konsensus ympäristönsuojelu ympäristöpolitiikka demokratia neuvottelut


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