Environmental Context


Rationale for Participation
spaceInfluencing Decisions
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Influencing Government Bureaucracy

Bullet pointAccountability
Bullet pointRepresentation
Bullet pointParticipation



Accountability is the usual way and implies that the organisation's policies and actions are open to public scrutiny and regulatory investigation. This form of influence is quite indirect and weak and totally dependent on the degree of secrecy practiced by the bureaucracy.

Accountability can be reinforced by regulatory agencies which are supposed to monitor the activities of the organisation, be it public or private, and ensure that it abides by existing legislation and standards in its operations. "One problem is that these agencies can take on a life of their own - they do not necessarily reflect the interests of the citizens. And once again the citizen is reduced to a state of helpless dependence on 'experts'."

Representation, whereby citizens are able to elect representatives to make decisions on their behalf, is a more powerful form of influence in that such representatives can be voted out periodically if they do not perform well. But such influence does not extend to expert advisers who tend to be appointed rather than elected. Such appointees may be responsible to an elected representative but influence is far less direct.

Representative democracy has not been effective in allowing citizen's views to directly influence technological and development decisions. For this reason there have been calls for more direct participation in these decisions. Mechanisms such as consultation on environmental impact statements, public enquiries and membership of community spokespeople on committees have all been used to meet the public demand for greater participation.