Environmental governance in context: a study of process dynamics, contextual features and outcomes in four empirical cases
In the past decades societal changes contributed to what Pierre and Peters (2000) conceptualise as a move from government to a governance model where decision-making is distributed across levels and among different types of actors. In this sense the European Union is an interesting case of a multi-layered polity operating on the principle of subsidiarity allowing for power distribution and, when it comes to environmental decision-making, it supports broad involvement of non-state actors (e.g., citizens, ENGOs, stakeholders groups). For instance the Water Framework Directive, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and the Marine Strategy Directive explicitly demand a high degree of involvement of non-state actors (Boström et al., under review). This offers a range of opportunities to citizens, to stakeholders, to ENGOs, etc. for exerting influence on environmental decision-making. These opportunities, however, are not equally open for all and for all types of issues. Most of the current literature assumes that in established democracies participatory approaches are more likely to be adopted, but results from earlier research done at the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies of the Södertörn University suggest that access to environmental decision-making can be an issue in established democracies as much as in countries were democracy was introduced after the fall of the socialist regime. Participatory environmental governance is a complex matter and performance levels vary greatly across the member states of the European Union. This raises questions about contextual features and institutional arrangements that can best support participatory processes as well as questions about the type of outcomes participation can deliver.
It is the aim of this research project to further the understanding of participatory environmental governance by undertaking empirical work in established democracies (i.e., Sweden, Italy) and new democracies (i.e.,Slovenia, Croatia). The research work in this project will focus on the context e.g.,institutions, law, social capital, where participation takes place, on the process e.g., who participates, how discussion takes place,as well as the outcomes of the participatory governance e.g., final decisions, environmental outcomes, legitimacy. In this, attention will be given to the social and the political process that underpins participatory governance and the type of outcomes that are generated for the community as well as for the environment.