- Executive summary
This Guidance Document aims at assisting competent authorities in the Member States and Accession Countries with the implementation of Article 14 of the Water Framework Directive about Public Participation. This document can also benefit stakeholders and general public by informing them about the public participation process, encouraging them to engage in river basin management planning explaining what can be expected and outlining opportunities. This Guidance is horizontal Guidance since it is of concern to most activities under the Common Implementation Strategy for the Water Framework Directive.
This advisory and non-binding document has been developed by an informal European drafting group of experts and stakeholders under working group 2.9: Best Practices in River Basin Planning in the context of the Common Implementation Strategy for the Water Framework Directive. A list of members of the drafting group and contributing authors can be found in Annex III of this Guidance.
What can you find in this document?
This Guidance starts with creating a common understanding regarding the meaning of public participation in the context of the Water Framework Directive (Section 2). Public participation can generally be defined as allowing people to influence the outcome of plans and working processes. It is a means of improving decision-making, to create awareness of environmental issues and to help increase acceptance and commitment towards intended plans. Public participation for the implementation of the Directive is recommended at any stage in the planning process, from the Article 5 requirements to the Programme of Measures and the design of the River Basin Management Plan.
After setting out a common understanding of public participation in the context of the Directive, the Guidance gives specific help on how to implement public participation in the different steps of the management process. The general planning steps to be undertaken are indicated in Section 2.8 and elaborated for public participation in Sections 3, 4 and 5.
Although the phrase 'public participation' does not appear in the Directive, three forms of public participation with an increasing level of involvement are mentioned:
- Information supply;
- Consultation; and
- Active involvement.
According to the Directive, the first two are to be ensured, the latter should be encouraged. Although the Directive does not require active involvement, this Guidance shows how active involvement can be very useful for reaching the objectives of the Directive. These three forms can be interpreted as being 'public participation', although public participation usually covers a wider range of activities than prescribed by the Directive.
Who should we involve? The Directive is prescriptive in the sense that at least stakeholders (i.e. interested parties) should be involved when dealing with active involvement and also the public when dealing with consultation. Background information should be available at any time for anyone. A stakeholder analysis as described in Annex I will help to identify the stakeholders 'who have something at stake' in the process and could be involved. A stakeholder will generally have an interest in an issue because he/she or it is either affected or may have some influence.
To avoid disappointing the parties involved it is very important to make clear which form of public participation is dealt with and what the role of those involved is. Also it should be borne in mind that Member States are responsible for the public participation process since they are responsible for achieving the objectives of the Directive. A clear signal should be given that no blue-print exists for public participation and that the public participation process should be organised and adapted to national, regional and local circumstances. Annex I gives examples of tools and techniques, which support the process in a practical way. Ingredients for organising a public participation process are given in the main text of this Guidance. Annex II gives several examples of public participation that are related to different scales and different forms of public participation. Collectively, this information should make it possible to design a tailor-made public participation process at any level in the River Basin District.
With regard to timing (Section 2.6 and 2.8) public participation should be started early in the river basin planning, today rather than tomorrow in order to establish a good public participation process and allow integration of ideas, comments and input from stakeholders along the way. Moreover, early involvement will most likely prevent the competent authority from ending up with a river basin management plan on which no consensus can be achieved by 2009. The Directive mentions the following deadlines concerning consultation (with a repetitive cycle of 6 years for future river basin management plans):
at the latest
|Time table and work programme for the production of the plan, including a statement of the consultation measures to be taken;|
Comments in writing.
at the latest
|Interim overview of the significant water management issues identified in the river basin;|
Comments in writing.
at the latest
Draft copies of the river basin management plan available;
Comments in writing.
at the latest
|Start implementation of the plan.|
The scale (Section 2.7) at which public participation should take place is not pre-determined. At a local scale the effects of management will be felt more directly and more responses from public and (local) stakeholders can be expected. This input can be aggregated to a higher level to take advantage of local knowledge at river basin or river basin district level. Sometimes the focus should be on a wider area than the one where public participation is undertaken, for example when dealing with measures.
In Section 3 the significance and practical approach of active involvement is elaborated in relation to steps in the planning of the implementation of the Directive. Early active involvement for the identification of the River Basin will raise awareness while involvement in characterisation of the River Basin District will also help to collect data, information and experiences from stakeholders and to identify conflicts or establish common understanding. For the Programme of Measures active involvement is particularly important since it will most likely improve the effectiveness of the implementation and contribute to delivery in the long term.
Section 4 addresses the 3-step consultation that is foreseen in the Directive (see also table above), trying to indicate practical issues that need to be dealt with when organising a consultation process, either a written or oral consultation process. One of the messages here is the need for clarity about who is being consulted and about what issues and the need for concise information or documents, which will be subject to consultation. Examples of tools for supporting the consultation process can be found in Annex I. Processing comments received and using this input for improvement of the River Basin Management Plan requires a good management plan. Finally it is very important to give feedback to participants.
Access to information and background documents should be secured by the competent authorities. Section 5 addresses questions like what kind of information should be available, in what way and who will be the one maintaining and disseminating this information. As a minimum the background documents should include all the documents that are summarised in the River Basin Management Plan. Usually on-line information like Internet or e-mail and off-line information like meetings are combined to inform stakeholders and public. One suggestion is to create one central information or knowledge centre in a river basin responsible for information management and dissemination.
During the whole process of public participation iterative reporting and evaluation are important tools to make the process transparent for participants. Therefore evaluation should be integrated with the public participation process. In Section 6 indicators are mentioned that will help reporting and evaluation.
Finally the competent authority (who will often be the manager of the process) should be aware of the fact that any form of public participation requires capacity building and investment in order to build relations and understanding between different stakeholders. These and other factors which will help enable a learning approach to public participation are explored in Section 7.
A well-managed public participation process is not free of costs and demands time and energy, but it will pay off in the end. Public participation is not an end in itself but a tool to achieve the environmental objectives of the Water Framework Directive. Trust, transparency of process and good management of expectations will help to achieve good participation.
Now just do it!
On land›01 - Iberic-Macaronesian region
On land›02 - Pyrenees
On land›03 - Italy, Corsica and Malta
On land›04 - Alps
On land›05 - Dinaric western Balkan
On land›06 - Hellenic western Balkan
On land›07 - Eastern Balkan
On land›08 - Western highlands
On land›09 - Central highlands
On land›10 - The Carpathians
On land›11 - Hungarian lowlands
On land›12 - Pontic province
On land›13 - Western plains
On land›14 - Central plains
On land›15 - Baltic province
On land›16 - Eastern plains
On land›17 - Ireland and Northern Ireland
On land›18 - Great Britain
On land›19 - Iceland
On land›20 - Borealic uplands
On land›21 - Tundra
On land›22 - Fenno-Scandian shield
On land›23 - Taiga
On land›24 - The Caucasus
On land›25 - Caspic depression