This paper considers the challenges entailed in applying the principles and methods of public participation to national and international policy processes. It draws on evidence from the field of biotechnology policy and bio-safety regulation in Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States and Zimbabwe. While there are positive examples to be found in the experiences of different countries, generally there is an unsatisfactory compromise between the obligation to promote public participation and the need to conform to international standards. Even when governments have the will to include the public in decision making, they may lack the capacity to do so effectively, or to stand by the concerns of their publics in the face of opposition from powerful foreign countries.
Institute of Development Studies