7c Advocacy and Public Participation


Welcome to Thematic Working Group 7c

Advocacy and Public Participation

Bell and Morse, in their 2012 book wrote:
“The conjunction of population and participation/ issues and solutions is what we refer to as the Human Project. We really are all in this together; it is not a matter of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and we all have to participate in finding a solution. We cannot leave it for distant ‘others’, be they politicians, scientists, charismatic leaders or revolutionaries ‘out there somewhere’, to find the solutions and tell us what to do. We (i.e. all of us) have to help find the solutions. We feel that the way in which this project is managed over the coming millennium will expose the durability, the resilience of humanity itself.” (Bell & Morse, 2012, page 2).
This statement sums up the nature of the task and the relevance of this group. All the main issues facing the planet emerge as a consequence of the activity of human beings and the only means for managing the main issue of us is us. Sustainable life for all human and non-human beings is the goal. Participation of the public in this goal is the unavoidable necessity for global survival.

Working Group Chairs

Dr. Simon Bell

Dr. Volker Mauerhofer

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State-of-Art review

Advocacy and Public Participation are central to global and therefore human survival – it could be said to be part of an age old need and, at the same time the theme for “New Civics” (Davidson, 2003, Moro, G. 2010). Surowiecki has inspired us with the Wisdom of Crowds (Surowiecki, 2005) whilst Robert Chambers has provided reams of evidence that human participation is not only productive and useful but enjoyable and satisfying (Chambers, 1997, 2002). We know that the world is a strange place and that survival is not a matter merely of finding the percentage answers. ‘Black Swans’ of discontinuity and systemic discord are constant and unpredictable companions (Taleb, 2008). And you do not have to go far to see just how precarious the global situation is (Brown, 2011) in order to see how quickly a flock of Black Swans could throw the entire project into chaos.

We know that participation and advocacy are means whereby issues are addressed and apathy is countered (Boneacute & Pueyo, 2007; Cuthill, 2002; Mohan, 2003; Reina, 2003). We also understand that real change is only possible if populations are attuned to the change and to some extent are its authors (Goodwin, 2000; Kindon, Pain, & Kesby, 2007; Newson & Chalk, 2004).
But nothing is clear.

With all this ‘knowing’ and wisdom the task remains unsure and the process unclear. There is something compelling and yet off-putting about participation. We see the value of it and yet are often reluctant to engage with it. Something of the zeitgeist maybe of individualism and atomic relations requires us to constantly seek isolation and alienation in favour of participation.
On the other hand the great force of our networked society (Castells, 1996) is leading to greater and greater integrative force and the emergence of virtual crowds, invisible pressure groups and strident advocacy on the internet – enough to topple government and alter the course of regional geo-politics (Hare et al., 2001; Hsieh, Keil, & Holmström, 2012; Spirakis, Spiraki, & Nikolopoulos, 2010).

Globally, public participation gets increasingly institutionalized on all continents while considerable differences regionally remain (Mauerhofer, forthcoming; Bruch and Czerbiniak, 2002). Starting from the Rio-Declaration of 1992 (“Principle 10”) and the1998 UNECE Aarhus Convention (Wates, 2005; Pallemaerts, 2006) rights regarding access to information, public participation in decision making and access to justice make their way into legislations of different regions and countries while implementation widely remains a challenge (Pitea, 2009; Mauerhofer, forthcoming).

And it still remains to be prooved whether this currently increased institutionalization of public participation effectively improves the state of the environment (Newig, 2007). Considerable discussion is also ongoing regarding the formal addressee of these environmental rights, in particular whether they should be institutionalized as human rights or directly held by the environment through specialized representatives (Francioni, 2010). Furthermore, the extent of inclusion of future human/non-human generations is still under discussion (Brown-Weiss, 1989; Agius, 1998; Hubacek and Mauerhofer, 2008). Nevertheless, the Rio+20 outcome document “The Future We Want” recently reconfirmed in paragraphs 43 and 44 the importance of Public Participation and its close connection with sustainable development (UN, 2012).

Issues abound and fractal relationships constantly scope in new territories to the theme of advocacy and participation: but here are some of the key grounds of dispute from our point of view:

  • Participation for what? Questions of impact and value
  • Participation by whom? Questions of involvement and competence
  • Participation via what? Questions of channel, media and forum
  • Advocacy for what? Questions of theme and legitimacy
  • Advocacy and so? Questions of development and consequence
  • Advocacy reflected? Questions of sustainability for the advocate and the planet

Call for Papers
Next Conference

For more information:
ISDRS 2014

This theme will support the following tracks at the upcoming conference:

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Suggested literature

Agius, E. (1998). Obligations of justice towards future generations: a revolution in social and legal thought, in: E. Agius, S. Busuttil, T.C. Kim, K. Yazaki (Eds.), Future Generations and International Law, Earthscan Publications Ltd., London, 1998, pp. 3–12.

Bell, S., & Morse, S. (2012). Resilient Participation: Saving the Human Project? London : Earthscan.

Boneacute, & Pueyo, A. (2007). Model for social participation in the formulation of water policies. Retrieved from here

Brown, L. (2011). World on the Edge. New York: W W Norton and Co. .

Brown-Weiss, E. (1989). In Fairness to Future Generations: International Law, Common Patrimony, and Intergenerational Equity, Transnational Publishers Inc., Tokyo. The United Nations University,

Bruch, C.E,, Czerbiniak, R. (2002). Globalizing Environmental Governance: Making the Leap From Regional Initiatives on Transparency, Participation and Accountability in Environmental Matters. Environmental Law Reporter, 32 (4), 10428-10453.

Castells, M. (1996). The Rise of the Network Society. Massachusetts: Blackwell.

Chambers, R. (1997). Whose Reality Counts? Putting the first last. London: Intermediate Technology Publications.

Chambers, R. (2002). Participatory Workshops: A sourcebook of 21 sets of ideas and activities. London: Earthscan.

Cuthill, M. (2002). Exploratory research: Citizen participation, local government and sustainable development in Australia. Retrieved from here

Davidson, J. (2003). Citizenship and sustainability in dependent island communities: the case of the Huon Valley region in southern Tasmania. Retrieved from http://libezproxy.open.ac.uk/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,url,cookie,uid&an=11184877&db=a9h&scope=site&site=ehost

Francioni, F. 2010. International Human Rights in an Environmental Horizon. The European Journal of International Law Vol. 21 no. 1 41–55

Goodwin, B. (2000). From Control to Participation. Resurgence, 201(July / August), 30–33.

Hare, M., Gilbert, N., Medugno, D., Asakawa, T., Heeb, J., & Pahl-Wostl, C. (2001). The development of an Internet forum for long-term participatory group learning about problems and solutions to sustainable urban water supply management. Retrieved from here

Hsieh, P. A., Keilb, M., & Holmströmc, J. (2012). The Bumpy Road to Universal Access: An Actor-Network Analysis of a U.S. Municipal Broadband Internet Initiative. THe Information Society, 28(4), 264–283.

Hubacek K.& Mauerhofer V. (2008). Future Generations: economic, legal and institutional aspects, Futures 40, 413–423.

Kindon, S., Pain, R., & Kesby, M. (2007). Participatory Action Research Approaches and Methods: Connecting people, participation and place. London: Routledge .

Mauerhofer, V. (forthcoming). Public Participation in Environmental Matters: Compendium, Challenges and Chances globally. Land Use Policy, Special Issue on “Public Participation in East Asia” (to be launched in autumn 2014).

Moro, G. (2010). Civic Action Key Issues. In K. Anheier, H & S. Toepler (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Civil Society (pp. 1–9). London: Springer Science and Business Media.

Mohan, R. V. R. (2003). Rural Water Supply in India: Trends in Institutionalizing People’s Participation. Retrieved from here

Newig, J. (2007). Does public participation in environmental decisions lead to improved environmental quality? Towards an analytical framework. Communication, Cooperation, Participation (International Journal of Sustainability Communication), 1, 51–71.

Newson, M., & Chalk, L. (2004). Environmental Capital: An Information Core to Public Participation in Strategic and Operational Decisions?The Example of River “Best Practice” Projects. Journal of Environmental Planning & Management , 47, 899–920. Retrieved from here

Pallemaerts, M. (2006). The Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters: Engaging the Disenfranchised through the Instutionalization of Procedural Rights? In: Green J.C., Chambers W.B. (Eds.), The Politics of Participation in Sustainable Development Governance. United Nations University Press, Tokyo & New York, pp. 179-203.

Pitea, C. (2009). Procedures and Mechanisms for Review of Compliance under the 1998 Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. In: Treves T,, Pineschi L., Tanzi A., Pitea C., Ragni C., Romanin Jacur F. (Eds.) Non-Compliance Procedures and Mechanisms and the Effectiveness of International Environmental Agreements, TMC Asser Press, The Hague, pp. 221-249.

Reina, P. (2003). Participation offers hope on resources. Retrieved from here

Spirakis, G., Spiraki, C., & Nikolopoulos, K. (2010). The Impact of Electronic Government on Democracy: E-democracy through e-participation. Electronic Government: An International Journal, 7(1), 75–88.

Surowiecki, J. (2005). The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the many are smarter than the few. London: Abacus: New Edition.

Taleb, N. (2008). The Black Swan. London: Penguin.

UN, 2012. Rio+20 outcome document “The Future We Want” Available at http://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/ (accessed 29/04/14).

Wates, J. (2005). The Aarhus Convention: a driving force for environmental democracy. Journal of European Environmental and Planning Law 1, 1-11.