It is essential that citizens have adequate opportunities for informed and equitable involvement in chemical regulation and management.
The choice of an appropriate process for community engagement varies according to participants and the issue, but the need for equitable and effective principles, a formalized protocol and good planning are fundamental.
Effective community engagement in chemical policy and management is also dependent on governments and industry ensuring that adequate resources and capacities are available to support civil society’s involvement.
Key issues that affect the success or failure of community engagement include:
- equitable access to information, technology and expertise
- balancing the inevitable power disparities among stakeholders
Read more about access to information in chemical issues ‘Rights and Wrongs of Knowing in Chemical Conflict’
The role that ‘good faith’ plays remains critical to all community engagement processes. While consultation protocols provide the commitments against which participants can judge a process, once a protocol is set, it is essential that a commitment to implementing it in full is made.
While some government agencies have developed community consultation committees, and others have put in place better processes for consultation, there is an overwhelming sense that community concerns still largely fall on deaf ears.
It is a fair assessment that some parts of the community are utterly frustrated with the apparent lack of response by governments to chemical pollution problems and are fed up with contributing to processes that do not lead to real changes.
To read more about the benefits of community engagement in international fora, see NTN’s presentation to the UN Institute on Training and Research (UNITAR) ‘The Role and Benefits of Public Interest Organizations in Chemicals Management’.