The process of public consultations with project stakeholders is one of the key elements to ensure project sustainability. Consultations can be a decisive factor in the success of the project that seeks to promote local development.
In order to be effective, it is necessary for this process to be meaningful, but what does that mean? How do we guarantee its effectiveness?
We can highlight five elements that make participation meaningful:
First, we must ensure that all communication and consultation channels involve all the actors involved in the project. These may include individuals or groups, as well as formal and informal local institutions or representatives of civil society.
Access to Information
Another important factor is the prior availability of relevant information to ensure that stakeholders can learn about the project and its potential impacts. The information must be available well in advance for interested parties to analyze. This material should be in a format that is easy for everyone to understand (translated into specific languages and using simplified reports, without excessive technical information, for example). One tip is to use graphic tools that can organize information clearly and objectively, without losing the quality of the shared data.
The consultation process, which must be continuous and adapted to the different stages of the project cycle, must be carried out in a transparent and equitable manner. This implies guaranteeing a space to speak without fear of coercion or reprisals. This space allows the consulted parties to present their disagreements and suggestions for solutions to mitigate the impacts. Respect is a fundamental requirement for a truly meaningful consultation. It builds effective communication channels and allows for interventions to be inclusive.
Confidentiality of information
Sometimes it is necessary to guarantee the confidentiality of the information, if requested by the consulted parties. Remember that the consultation process should not exacerbate the conflicts that already exist in the localities, but rather offer mechanisms to build alternatives that satisfy all stakeholders in a fair and equitable manner.
The last advice is to ensure that there are enough resources to meet all communication and participation needs with stakeholders. The resources allocated to consultations are an investment in the sustainability of the project and is proportionally much less than the cost of managing project opposition, which can cause delays in the schedule, financial compensation and, ultimately, even the cancellation of the project as a whole.
There are other recommendations that, added to these, modulate what we understand as an effective process of meaningful consultation with interested parties. We invite you to learn more about our publication “Meaningful Stakeholder Consultation” to get an overview of how to build a cycle of meaningful consultations and strengthen the objectives of social inclusion in the design of your project.
Please share your experiences that show the good practices that have been compiled in this publication. Have you had experiences in meaningful consultation processes with interested parties? Were they positive? Can you improve the practices adopted by your institution in this area?
We are certain that the exchange of experiences is always a useful way to strengthen the work of managing social and environmental risks in projects and we are committed to disseminating good practices in this area. Join us and help us build and strengthen our meaningful consultation mechanisms, making this practice an increasingly recognized tradition in the management of projects and programs in Latin America and the Caribbean.