New Forms of Decision Making



As a summary, the experts of CIPRA recommends the following:

1. New standards for decision making processes

To achieve new standards for decision making processes, common conditions such as transparency, trustworthiness, respect, and opennes to other opinions and critisism are needed (Source: Frank Schultze / ZEITENSPIEGEL).
Regardless what the decision making form in place is (market, technocratic, consultative, co-decision or any combination of these), there are some common conditions which will always improve the effectiveness and results:
  • transparency
  • trustworthiness of responsible actors
  • respect and serious consideration for different opinions and alternative options
  • open opportunities for all interested to give comments and (as high degree as possible) to participate in decision making
  • willingness to accept critic and arguments
  • readiness for compromise and consensus.
In order to achieve new standards, the integration of the following elements into existing decision making processes in the different fields of Alpine policy and regional co-operation is needed:

  • Procedures to reach mutually accepted problem definitions.
  • Procedures to balance existing power relations within the participative procedure.
  • Integration of different types of knowledge (expert knowledge, "local" knowledge, scientific knowledge, practical knowledge) and active knowledge transfer between the different groups.
  • Integrated approaches including neighbouring topics.
  • Adequate and easily accessible information to the parties concerned and to the general public.
  • Procedural and negotiation skills of the responsible persons.
  • Organised frameworks and platforms for negotiation, conflict resolution and binding decisions.
Further Readings & Links

"Future in the Alps Workshop"
This workshop deals with cooperative decision-making and conflict management in public planning and environment (in English).

"Future in the Alps Workshop"
Which form of public participation do landscape- and environment oriented projects need? (in German)

Verwall (Austria)

The Verwall mediation procedure formed part of a highly controversial planning process aimed at the creation of a Natura 2000 conservation area in the Alpine region. The nomination of the Verwall Natura 2000 area, and in particular its designation as a Special Area of Conservation, led to widespread worries and strong opposition on the part of landowners in the affected communities. They felt overruled. There was a number of tensions and conflicts of differing magnitudes between the various interests arising from different land uses, some of which had their roots far back in history. Among these were: land use restrictions, compensatory payments, animal browsing damage, illegal use of forest paths by mountain bikers, disturbance of wildlife through tourist uses... Communication between the authorities and those affected broke down until the provincial government decided to conduct a mediation procedure.

A mediation forum with 33 participants was formed. The forum included the concerned administrative bodies, the majors of the municipalities, the regional tourism board, two external experts and the local mountain farmers and other land owners. The process was guided by two external mediators. Within 18 months, the concerned parties reached an agreement regarding the future land use in the Natura 2000 area. At the end of the procedure, a monitoring group was installed in order to control the implementation of the agreements.

2. Upgrading of the decision making culture through capacity (education, and training) and institution building

Capacity Building to overcome the lacking of procedural and negotiation skills is necessary (Source: Christoph Püschner / ZEITENSPIEGEL).
Managing decision making procedures in a good and promising way is a big challenge. Today, many of the involved persons like clients, politicians, process facilitators, participants from administration, technical experts, civilians etc. are lacking of "procedural" and negotiation skills. This is true not only for individuals, but also for institutions like local or regional administration, business, NGOs etc. This can only be improved through capacity building, education and training. The trainings offered on the market are manifold but often not specific enough for the needs of the individual. In addition, there is a lot of new literature like guidelines and handbooks for process management, public participation and conflict resolution.

Improving the situation does not only include the training of the responsibles of today, but also to educate the youngsters in negotiation and conflict resolution skills at school.

The building of adequate (temporary) organisations like regional or local platforms will be necessary to provide a stable framework for negotiating Alpine future. Hereby, the analysis of the functionality of existing traditions and institutions of collective decision making like agricultural co-operatives or regional networks can provide valuable knowledge to support these processes of institutional change or institution building.
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The Verwall mediation procedure formed part of a highly controversial planning process aimed at the creation of a Natura 2000 conservation area in the Alpine region.