Hallintotieteiden tiedekunta, 2009
Hallintotiede : European Civil Servants - kansainvälisen hallinnon ohjelma
Citizen participation has become an important part of the whole democratic society. The demand of citizens’ participation and influence on decision-making processes is gaining salience among scholars, citizens and administrators as well. Citizen participation means simply ways, tools and forms for citizens to participate on the decisions made concerning their lives. Participation transfers into influence if citizens’ views and opinions have had an impact on the process or on the final decision. Citizen participation in the context of the European Union is now also extremely current since the EU is frequently accused of neglecting ordinary citizens.
This research studies the question of citizen participation and influence from the NGOs point of view in the context of environment policy in the European Union. The intention of this research is to understand and evaluate citizen participation in the European Union. More precisely three research questions were asked in this study; how citizen participation can be understood in general and on the other hand in the context of the European Union, what is the environment NGOs level of influence in participation of the environmental policy making of the European Union and which are the tools and means to increase the level of participation and influence of the NGO’s in EU? These questions of citizen participation were first approached from the theoretical point of view. In the theoretical examination the concept and theory called “A Ladder of Citizen Participation” by Sherry Arnstein emerged as the core function of this research.
The research is qualitative in nature and the aim is to explain and understand citizen participation. The research is conducted by using two main sources of information. Firstly, the theoretical examination was done by examining and reviewing literature of citizen participation, influence as well as European Union’s decision-making procedures. Secondly, interviews were conducted to collect the empirical data for this study. Twelve environment specialists from eleven different environment NGOs in Finland were interviewed for this study in order to find answers to the research questions. The findings of this research include the notion that participation in the EU is challenging and demanding, yet becoming more meaningful and important. It is also evident that NGOs can act as citizen participation representatives in the EU and that participation and influence can be categorized into different levels and stages. This research also illustrates that the NGOs’ level of participation in the EU is usually situated in the rungs of consultation and placation in the Arnstein’s participation ladder. The conclusions from this are that there exist forms of participation for NGOs also at the EU level, and that NGOs also take advantage of these possibilities. Yet, participation is not at its highest level possible and a genuine influential participation occurs too rarely. However, NGOs’ participation in general is considered to be beneficial for both parties, which indicates that higher level of participation is possible to achieve but that it requires active work from NGOs and it is not done overnight.
citizen participation, influence, NGO, European Union, environmental policy, decision-making