The UN recently adopted a new citizen consultation and deliberation process, aiming to increase people's awareness of global environmental policy questions, as well as to mainstream the related solutions and make them more effective.
The third global citizen consultation, based on the World Wide Views methodology, will be held on 6 June 2015 in preparation for COP21, the Climate Change Conference in Paris. Consultations will be organised in over 80 countries. During the day-long event, groups of 100 randomly selected citizens in each country will discuss many of the key issues to be dealt with at the Conference.
"The World Wide Views methodology seems better suited to discussions on environmental matters than traditional surveys or focus group studies," says Docent Mikko Rask of the University of Helsinki.
Ignorance of environmental matters poses something of a challenge. According to the Eurobarometer, less than half (44%) of Europeans know the meaning of biodiversity.
"If citizens lack sufficient information, how can you survey their opinions about complex environmental issues," Rask wonders.
The World Wide Views method solves this by providing the members of the citizen panels with comprehensive information about the topics handled.
Complex environmental issues require new approaches
In Governing Biodiversity through Democratic Deliberation (Routledge, 2015), edited by Docent Mikko Rask and Professor Richard Worthington (from Pomona College, Claremont, California), an international group of 30 researchers evaluates the role of new deliberative processes in international environmental policy.
To date, international politics have proved ineffective in preventing global environmental problems, such as climate change and the loss of biodiversity. International organisations established after World War II - the UN, World Bank, OECD, WTO, IMF, EU and NATO - have retained their position at the core of international decision-making, amid mounting accusations of them being ineffective and distant from ordinary people.
The World Wide Views method has been used at the UN's Conferences of Parties (COP) on climate and biodiversity questions since 2009. The first global consultation was organised in Copenhagen in 2009 leading up to COP15. Citizens were consulted again in connection with COP11, the Conference of the Parties to the UN Biodiversity Conference, in Hyderabad, India. In the final report, the participants encouraged the use of the World Wide Views methodology.
The new method is not without its flaws. In the new book, researchers criticise it for focusing too heavily on numerical information and ignoring local perspectives.
"Since the UN is interested in more democratic decision-making, the local perspectives of different countries should be integrated more closely into global policymaking," Rask notes.
The book comprises 15 scientific articles, which evaluate the role that citizen deliberation processes based on the World Wide Views method play in the UN's climate and biodiversity conferences, the democratisation of international politics and the mainstreaming of environmental issues.
Link to the book's website: http://www.