Participation Mechanisms in Urban and Environmental Planning - Valuable Tools or Wishful Thinking?
Last modified: May 16, 2007
Presentation date: 06/11/2007 4:30 PM in ISCTE-II C103
This paper investigates in what way citizen participation mechanisms in urban and environmental planning are valuable tools of opening the political decision-making process. A brief sketch of how participation has come to be seen as a paradigm of local governance, citing theoretical roots as well as the main actors driving this movement, will introduce to the topic. A portrayal of the distinctiveness of urban and environmental planning, in terms of actors as well as interests, will follow suit and is complemented by a description of methods and strategies of participation mechanisms. Consequently, four main variables – procedures, forms, issues and environment - of participation mechanisms are outlined. Participation procedures (i.e. participatory budgeting) define institutionally, where citizens’ input is made possible, while the form of participation (i.e. hearings, voting) directly affect the engagement level of citizens. Very different participants might be drawn to the table depending on the issues at stake, while the institutional environment, such as social capital and level of trust, are important in understanding why participation mechanisms do not function equally well in all cities. This description of variables will provide the theoretical background for a thorough analysis of a participation mechanism in Buenos Aires, introduced last year, to open up the drafting process of the Urban Environmental Plan, the Foro Participativo Permanente del Plan Urbano Ambiental. This mechanism is analyzed using the four main variables outlined above, in order to explain its quite depressing outcome, and conclusions for future endeavours are drawn.