In 2006 oil was discovered in Uganda. With the country’s economy highly dependent on fuel imports, national oil production could make a long-term contribution to poverty alleviation. But for sustainable development to occur, participatory governance must ensure that people are involved in the decision-making processes affecting their lives. This paper, therefore, first analyses the adequacy of the existing legal framework on access to information and participation. Its findings show that although law and policy in Uganda indicate certain efforts to open up environmental decision-making processes to public influence, this is not the case in the oil production sector. On the basis of interviews and focus group studies it further examines the main practical barriers to better public participation. The author finds that in practice, public participation is subject to several financial, technical and political constraints. The culture of secrecy within government bodies, weak civil society structures as well as the politics of patronage remain substantive challenges for the fair and equitable management of natural resources in Uganda.
The functioning of democratic institutions has the potential to bring about substantial policy change in favour of poor and marginalised people. However, there is a limited understanding of how to strengthen the political representation of poor people within democratic structures. This paper looks at one example of how the political representation of a historically marginalised and excluded group of pastoralists in Ethiopia is shifting and changing. Based on research at federal, regional and sub-regional levels in Ethiopia, it discusses the establishment of a body within parliament committed to representing this group. It identifies the critical factors which led to its formation as changes in the broader political environment as well as a specific moment of change, the role of key actors both internally and externally, and the cumulative effect of the mobilisation of a substantial group of MPs. The paper also discusses the limitations of both this body and other structures of political representation in the political context of Ethiopia. The key constraint to effective political representation is identified as the broader political environment, including a lack of political competition and an absence of institutionalised democratic processes.
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.
There is a growing recognition that citizens should play a role in informing and shaping environmental policy. But how should this be done? This paper explores one route, where opportunities 'from above' are created, often, but not exclusively so, by the state, often through local government policy and planning processes. A set of approaches - known collectively as Deliberative Inclusionary Processes (DIPs) - are explored in different settings through 35 case studies from both the north and south. These experiments in more inclusive, participatory forms of policy deliberation have been prompted by a number of factors. These include wider political shifts towards new forms of citizenship and democracy; concerns about policy effectiveness and implementation success; the emerging recognition of the complexity and uncertainty inherent in environmental problems; growing levels of distrust in policy processes and expert institutions; and the increasingly recognised importance of accepting that values, ethics and issues of justice are key to environmental policy problems. Through an examination of lessons emerging from the case studies, practical issues, such as time and resource constraints, are considered alongside methodological questions emerging from asking: who convenes the process, who defines the questions, and how are multiple forms of expertise accommodated? The paper shows how power relations and institutional contexts critically affect the outcomes of DIPs processes. Without linking such processes to broader processes of policy change - including connections to conventional forms of democratic representation - DIPs may simply be one-off events, and so their considerable potentials for transforming environmental policy processes will go unrealised.