Earth Day is celebrated annually to demonstrate support to environmental protection. Last year on Earth Day, several countries pledged to ratify the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which entered into force on November 4, 2016.
This year, Earth Day (hosted by the Earth Day Network) is focusing on Environmental and Climate Literacy, a prerequisite for advancing environmental and climate policies. The signing of the Paris Agreement is one step towards mitigating the impacts of climate change. Education needs to be a key part of this effort.
The Earth Day Network also invites local leaders worldwide to participate in the annual Global Day of Conversation, a “platform for leaders to engage with their communities in conversations on challenges and opportunities related to sustainability. These discussions help constituents and other stakeholders achieve a deeper, shared understanding of the complex challenges and opportunities facing the Earth and all its local communities as they strive to build a sustainable future.”
In the spirit of this Global Day of Conversation, we at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are working on improving our engagement with stakeholders and communities in development projects. Every project we finance which has an environmental and social risk requires consultations with affected parties and consideration of their views. In projects financed by the IDB, stakeholder consultation is primarily the responsibility of the borrower through the implementing agency for the project, but the IDB has a complementary role throughout the project cycle, to explain, advise and provide support.
Transparent and meaningful consultation with key stakeholders is a cornerstone of informed decision-making and good governance, and adds real value to projects. Yet experience and reviews show that there is a need to strengthen the practice in this area. Real or perceived poor quality of consultation is a recurring theme in complaints to our accountability mechanisms. International good practice can help practitioners and those responsible for stakeholder consultation processes in projects we support. This includes IDB project teams, and those among Borrower project staff and authorities responsible for consultation and stakeholder engagement in projects financed by IDB.
Of particular relevance to the work of IDB in the area of stakeholder consultation and engagement, the United Nations has stressed that the right to development must embody the human rights principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation, transparency, and accountability. We recognize that our development work should be informed by these principles.
What makes a stakeholder consultation meaningful?
“Meaningful consultation,” a requirement of IDB policies, involves a two-way process of dialogue and engagement, rather than a one-way dissemination of information. It is a process rather than one or a few single events; and it involves people in affected communities and other relevant stakeholders.
Meaningful consultation with project stakeholders adds value to projects in different ways:
- It captures the views and perceptions of people who may be affected or have an interest in a development project, and provides a means to take their views into account as inputs to improved project design and implementation;
- It provides an important source of validation and verification of data obtained elsewhere;
- Greater transparency and involvement of stakeholders enhances project acceptance and local ownership, and is key to project sustainability; and
- It is required by IDB in complying with its environmental and social policies.
Meaningful consultation should be preceded by an analysis of the project, its context, and who the relevant stakeholders are; and it should be followed by genuine consideration of stakeholders’ views and concerns in decisions related to project planning and implementation.
Ten elements of meaningful stakeholder consultation
International good practice today establishes ten key elements, which are helpful in guiding the development and execution of meaningful consultation. But it is important to keep in mind that these elements are rarely sequential or discrete. They may be partly or fully overlapping; happen in stages; and be iterative. Professional judgment and experience are needed to determine what the right approach is for each project.
With that in mind, the recommended approach is to ensure that each of the following ten aspects and elements of stakeholder consultation are embedded in the project preparation and execution:
- Identification of priority issues: What are the likely risks and opportunities arising from the project?
- Stakeholder analysis and consultation plan: Who is affected by the project, and who has an interest that can influence outcomes? How will the project engage with them?
- Prior information: How will information be provided to stakeholders prior to consultation and consultation events in a meaningful way?
- Appropriate forums and methods for the consultation process: How should consultation events be organized?
- Grievance redress mechanisms: How can stakeholders seek remedy if they feel the project is causing harm to them or the environment?
- Design and implementation decisions considering stakeholder perspectives: How will stakeholder concerns and recommendations be addressed in project decision-making and overall management system?
- Feedback to stakeholders and transparency in decision-making: How will the stakeholders be informed about project decisions and how their views and inputs have been incorporated?
- Baseline data, action plans, and management systems: What are the action plans that the project will implement to reduce risk and enhance benefits for project stakeholders? How will the project establish and maintain a suitable management system to address environmental and social issues?
- Documentation and public disclosure: What are the mechanisms established to document and disclose relevant project information?
- Ongoing stakeholder consultation during implementation: What are the mechanisms established to ensure that stakeholders are kept informed and involved throughout project implementation?
Addressing these ten elements explicitly and systematically is key to designing and undertaking a meaningful stakeholder consultation process.
These ten elements and other aspects of stakeholder consultations are guideposts the IDB is working to integrate in its practice, and to help executing agencies enhance the quality of consultations. It is a work in progress and we encourage you to provide comments below. Stay tuned for further updates!
The Global Day of Conversation is a coordinated opportunity for local government officials worldwide to engage their constituents in a constructive dialogue about issues related to the environment. Follow these conversations and other Earth Day events on twitter using the hashtag #EarthDay2017.