Is there anything like a citizen? A descriptive analysis of instituting a citizen's role to represent social values at the municipal level

Authors

  • Katrine Soma,

    Corresponding author
    1. The Norwegian University of Life Sciences, The Department of Economics and Resource Management, Ås, Norway, and Agricultural Economics Research Institute (LEI), The Hague, The Netherlands
    • The Norwegian University of Life Sciences, The Department of Economics and Resource Management, P.Box 5003, 1432 Ås, Norway, and Agricultural Economics Research Institute (LEI), PO Box 29703, 2502 LS The Hague, The Netherlands
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  • Arild Vatn

    1. The Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Ås, Norway
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Abstract

Environmental policy-making can be challenging because of lobbying by strong private interests. This results in less consideration about what is best for the wider community. The main goal of this study is to evaluate to what extent it is possible to institutionalize a citizen's role in decision-support processes. While the literature makes a clear distinction between private and social values, very little research is undertaken on how the framing of the instituted process influences which types of value become legitimate. Two deliberative meetings with local inhabitants were conducted in a municipality in Norway focusing on land use policy in coastal areas. The meetings were framed to facilitate dialogue and to emphasize the most important values to protect, given the interests of the wider municipality in the longer run. A large majority of the participants found the framing appropriate. Analyses of the dialogues, letters written by participants before the meetings and individual interviews undertaken afterwards document that the format of the meetings influenced strongly which arguments were found legitimate. The setting favoured the identification and specification of social values for inhabitants of the involved municipality such as public accessibility in conserved nature areas along the coast. The data moreover give insights about how the framing influenced the process. Arguments in favour of private construction interests were present, but were found to be weak in legitimacy. The framing might, however, also have influenced which social values were emphasized the most strongly. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

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