An evaluation of a public participation process for fairness and competence

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dc.contributor.author Oosthuizen, Marita
dc.date.accessioned 2008-06-20T13:44:00Z
dc.date.available 2008-06-20T13:44:00Z
dc.date.issued 2008-06-20T13:44:00Z
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10210/659
dc.description.abstract Public participation can be defined as ...”a process leading to a joint effort by stakeholders, technical specialists, the authorities and the proponent who work together to produce better decisions than if they had acted independently" (Greyling, 1999, p. 20). In South Africa, public participation processes are legally driven and form part a statutory part of environmental impact assessments. Many environmental impact assessments have been undertaken in South Africa, but the environmental impact assessment undertaken for the proposed construction of a demonstration module pebble bed modular reactor was perhaps one of the biggest studies undertaken to date from a public participation process point of view (Smit, 2003). The main aim of this mini-dissertation was to evaluate the public participation process followed for the environmental impact assessment of the demonstration module pebble bed modular reactor at Koeberg in the Western Cape Province against the criteria for fairness and competence as set out by Webler (In: Renn et al., 1995). Despite the fact that this work is eleven years old, it is still regarded as a benchmark for the evaluation of public participation processes in environmental decision making (Abelson et al., 2003). Webler (In: Renn et al., 1995) developed a normative theory for fairness and competence in public participation based on the theory of ideal speech of German sociologist Jürgen Habermas. Habermas’ main contribution to science was his theory of universal pragmatics (Author unknown, 2005). Universal pragmatics is a theory aimed at explaining how language is used to ensure mutual understanding and agreement. Webler (In: Renn et al., 1995) argues that the conditions of universal pragmatics, if applied to public participation, points towards the concepts of fairness (providing everyone with the opportunity to participate) and competence [providing participants (called interested and affected parties (I&APs) with the opportunity to make, question and validate speech acts]. Habermas advocates that each statement (or speech act) makes at least one validity claim and that there is a presupposition that the speaker can validate each claim to the satisfaction of all communication partners, should this be necessary (Perold, 2006). Furthermore, Habermas identifies four different types of validity claims, each having to do with a specific type of statement. In his theory, communicative speech acts have to do with comprehensibility; constantive speech acts with truth/correctness; regulative speech acts with normative rightness and representative speech acts with sincerity. Webler (In: Renn et al., 1995) developed a set of criteria to evaluate the fairness and competence in public participation. This set of criteria was applied to the public participation process of the case study. The study found that the process followed in the case study did not fare particularly well in either fairness or competence, but that fairness was slightly better than competence. The most alarming finding was that little attempt was made to ensure that validity claims – especially constantive (truth and factual information) – were validated or redeemed as this left the door open for misinterpretation, politics and incorrectness. It was also found that I&APs were, for the most, prevented from participating in the decision-making process. This finding may or may not be interpreted as negative as the public participation consultant never made a claim towards power sharing as well as the fact that there are widely differing opinions regarding the level to which public participation should take place. It was suggested that at least some elements of power sharing be incorporated into future processes, that validity claims – especially constantive (theoretical/factual) and therapeutic (regarding feelings and emotions) – must be able to stand up to scrutiny and should be validated. Finally, it was suggested that more attention be given to representative speech acts (statements regarding emotions, perceptions and feelings). en
dc.description.sponsorship Dr. J. M. Meeuwis en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.subject Public opinion en
dc.subject Environmental impact analysis en
dc.subject Environmental impact analysis law and legislation en
dc.subject Pebble bed reactors en
dc.subject Koeberg (Nuclear power station) en
dc.title An evaluation of a public participation process for fairness and competence en
dc.type Thesis en

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