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5.2.9 Keeping stakeholders involved

Contents
5.2.9.1 Introduction
5.2.9.2 Keeping stakeholders involved in the specific case of long term stewardship
5.2.9.3 Procedures for stakeholder based decisions in the specific case of long-term stewardship
5.2.9.4 Political and economic partnership

5.2.9.1 Introduction

Even if all conceivable groups of stakeholders have been identified, individuals may (have to) set for themselves priorities other than to become actively involved in the decision making process [Wright]. There may be sound economic and social reasons for such priority setting, as active involvement commonly has to take place during people’s leisure time. Most social groups do not have the opportunity to become involved during the time they earn their livelihood or follow other social activities. Active participation and actively seeking involvement is commonly associated with certain kinds of social disposition and cannot be taken for granted. However, the decision making processes, in order to adequately reflect the interest of all groups, have to sample the views of those who cannot, or do not want to, actively participate.

The development of a ‘this is not my problem’ attitude among potential stakeholders is often observed in the context of complex decision making problems. This essentially affects all parties concerned with the development of stewardship plans. It may be due to a relative distance from the problem, or simply related to the fact that the site is not actually visible to the individual/community. It is most prevalent in situations where the implications or issues associated with a project are too complex for an individual, or a community, to comprehend. This effect has obvious implications when communicating and consulting with potential stakeholders.

Loss of interest, even by key activists, along a lengthy decision making and implementation process may also seriously undermine the diversity, effectiveness and credibility of public participation programmes.

Maintaining and enhancing transparency in the long term stewardship programme and traceability of records and decisions are factors that may influence the level of interest of stakeholders in the programme. Transparency implies that the decision-making process be well documented (including a clear and comprehensive synthesis of the bases for decisions) and available to all stakeholders in the programme. In addition, all documents should be readily retrievable and should be easily understood by all interested parties. Policy and technical considerations should be clearly differentiated; for instance, a statement of intent and rationale behind each stage and decision should be developed and tested for understandability and then broadly publicised to stakeholders. To improve transparency (and auditing), it is also valuable to ensure that key information is not buried in a surfeit of less relevant information. Transparency creates the basis for a dialogue among the implementer, regulator, external review bodies and stakeholders.

Responsiveness to stakeholder feedback is a further incentive to maintain stakeholder involvement. Responsiveness requires that the agency implementing the long term stewardship programme seeks, acknowledges and acts on new information and on inputs from other stakeholders in a timely fashion. Schedules should be planned to allow timely integration of new knowledge into decision making and to include the time to implement changes responding to newly acquired information. This phased approach to stewardship allows the implementing agency to integrate lessons learned from prior stages and stakeholder feedback, and to plan for future stages.

Finally, trust in the institution implementing long term stewardship is essential to involve and maintain the interest of stakeholders. Trust in the institution implies integrity, for example, carrying out agreed actions. For all decisions, all uncertainties, assumptions and indeterminacies should be identified and labelled as such. Technical results should be accurately and objectively reported and placed in context at each stage. The applicability and limitations of data should remain openly acknowledged. All relevant results, including those offered by external parties, should also be incorporated into the decision making process.

From the point of view of stakeholders, the success of a long term stewardship programme should be measured in terms of public participation. The following seven items may be identified as the basis for successful stewardship programmes:

  1. Acceptance of the responsibility for long term stewardship of contaminated areas;
  2. Development of a (national) policy on stewardship;
  3. Establishment of a legal mandate for funding stewardship activities separate from remediation funding;
  4. Development of a better understanding of the trade-offs and relationship between clean-up and stewardship;
  5. Development of guidance for site specific stewardship plans;
  6. Involvement of stakeholders in stewardship planning, oversight and review;
  7. Establishment of information systems (e.g., databases and permanent markers) designed for use by future generations.

While some of these items simply reflect the demand for good practice and the call for a decisive political will to take on long term commitments, others may pose a serious technological challenge.

5.2.9.2 Keeping stakeholders involved in the specific case of long term stewardship

As suggested above, identification of an appropriate stewardship strategy may depend partly on technical considerations and partly on societal concerns [Wright]. However, who speaks for society and who are the key stakeholders for stewardship decisions?
Stakeholders in the specific case of long term stewardship may typically be those individuals or organisations that may have an interest in stewardship being executed properly or who are affected by programmes. Although identification of stakeholders is difficult, consideration of the following questions may provide some insight:

  • Who has the information and the expertise that might be helpful?
  • Who has been involved or has wanted to be involved in similar risk situations before?
  • Who may be affected, with or without their knowledge, by the remediation planning?
  • Who may be mobilised to act or angered if they are not included?

There is no single delineation of the public and the stakeholder that is straightforward and applicable to all situations, and so no definition is universally accepted. Many analyses start from distinctions between public and private sectors of economic activity, for example, government and business, and then refer also to civil society. Some typologies include research and technical experts as a distinct category. In some contexts, tribal, ethnic or local community membership may be more significant than field of economic activity. Any individual can be both a member of the general public and a stakeholder with a business, government or other specific identity, depending on the private, political or professional aspects of their life that are touched upon.

Typically, the public is everybody and also includes all stakeholders such as affected citizens and civic organisations, environmental groups, labour organisations, schools and universities, representatives of business interests (e.g., chambers of commerce), representatives of government (e.g., local, regional and national government), and the scientific and technical expert community (e.g., academia, professionals’ organisations and government departments).

Whichever the groupings retained neither each member of these groups nor all groups may be necessarily affected in a direct way by the contamination in question and the related remedial and stewardship activities. The question of whether all concerned citizens or only those directly affected should be given standing as stakeholders in the context of stewardship remains unresolved to date and is probably irresolvable – because different answers refer to distinct models and beliefs about justice, knowledge and political processes.
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Figure 5.2 Typical stakeholders involved in remediation programmes
Figure 5.2 Typical stakeholders involved in remediation programmes

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For example, the question of the roles and legitimacy of non-government organisations has often been a matter of debate. These organisations (citizens’ associations, incorporated societies, networks, etc.) may vary tremendously in type and style of activities. There is no doubt that in some cases their activities have had a positive effect on the quality of decision making and site management. Acting as voices for the local community, environmental quality and the interests of less influential societal groups, they often play mediating roles between the public, local communities and regulatory agencies (the government). However, it is also noted that non-government organisations may develop distinctive profiles, with their own perceptions and agendas that may be at variance with the perceptions of those actually affected and whom these organisations claim to represent.

The activists within non-government organisations may, by design or effect, work to impose their own perspectives on locals (and also on regulatory agencies), as they may seek to expand their influence and to establish their indispensability as mediators.

Figure 5.2 indicates potential actors, or affected parties, as identified within a remediation programme. Their typical interests are outlined in Table 5.3. It should be noted that the diagram and the table are for purposes of illustration only, and are by no means comprehensive.
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Parties Interests

Problem holders Cost effectiveness
Functionality of environmental media
Efficient decision making

Authorities Multi-functionality of soil
Minimisation of residual environmental load
Consistent policy
Efficient decision making
Maintenance/improvement of tax revenues through viable economy

Consultants Interests of their clients (problem holders or competent authorities)
Efficient decision making
Shareholder benefits

Contractors Interests of their clients
Efficient decision making
Shareholder benefits

Public Risk reduction
Minimal limitations of use
Minimal nuisance
Efficient decision making
Maintenance/improvement of socioeconomic conditions

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5.2.9.3 Procedures for stakeholder based decisions in the specific case of long-term stewardship

Stakeholder participation may contribute to all aspects of stewardship activities, including record keeping, monitoring, communication, investment and site maintenance [Wright]. Following, the focus will be on the idea of stakeholders as partners with regulatory agencies and technical experts, through looking at the basis for decisions made about stewardship strategies.

A standard economics approach to decision making is to seek to establish a ‘rational’ justification for a choice between actions on the basis of relations of preference. If action C is preferred over action B, and action B is preferred over action A (etc.), then action C is the highest valued action. However, whenever the span of choices involves and will have consequences for more than one person, judgements typically may differ as to which is preferable. Each option for site management will produce distinct types and differing distributions of benefits, costs and risks that will be looked at differently by each of the individuals or sectors of society concerned. Not only will the different protagonists concerned have divergent views about what is their interest, their right or their due; they may also propose quite different principles for resolving this problem of social choice.

The particular difficulties of contaminated site stewardship as a problem of social choice may be summarised by the following four points:

  1. The choices relate to complex entities, processes or outcomes (involving geological, biological and social systems), each option being characterised by a range of attributes. Comparison of stewardship options means comparing a vector of attributes with a wide variety of concepts, units of measure and criteria. It is not always easy to pass from a multiple criteria appraisal to a ranking of alternatives along a single scale.
  2. The consequences of decisions are distributed in time, and often different aspects of outcomes (good and bad, as perceived by different constituencies) will have distinctive time profiles, for example: vegetation cover; diffusion or dilution of dangerous substances in water, rock and soil; financial costs of monitoring; financial benefit streams including stewardship salaries and eventual site use.
  3. There are various degrees of uncertainty due partly to the complexity of natural systems and partly to social indeterminacies such as decisions not yet made or the consequences of which are not yet known or future interest in the site.
  4. Many reasons or principles may be put forward as justifications for the acceptability, or not, of different outcomes (including perceived uncertainties and risks, distribution of benefits and costs across different constituencies within society, or across generations through time). It may not be possible to respect all principles simultaneously (this may be the case for the judgements offered by a single person, or for the judgements offered by a range of sectors). Because the principles may be ‘irreducible’ (i.e., incomparable, in the sense of being grounded in qualitatively different considerations), choice may be characterised by dilemmas and the need to make sacrifices of principles, rather than mere trade-offs on quantitative terms.

These complexities account for the importance of consultations with stakeholders, for example through processes of dialogue and of structured deliberations about site management issues and options. Stakeholder dialogues may be used to help build up a clear picture about the merits and de-merits of site stewardship alternatives that present themselves to the relevant authorities and stakeholders in the society. In general, three points should be addressed in order to build a structured stakeholder dialogue process:

  1. There should be an explicit identification of the relevant stakeholders, and the establishment of an institutional framework within which exchange of information and opinions can take place.
  2. There should be a clear picture of the relevant site management options. For example, remediation and long-term site stewardship issues and options may be explored in terms of a small number of scenarios each of which expresses distinct technological, economic and governance features. Stakeholders may sometimes be solicited to contribute to the framing of these scenarios.
  3. There should be a clear expression of the criteria for the selection of the stewardship strategies, with a variety of different criteria reflecting the full diversity of societal concerns.

If these conditions are met, then stakeholder dialogue may be organised as an evaluation of the different stewardship solutions or scenarios, within a multiple criteria framework that covers a full range of governance issues. The distinct stakeholder perspectives become visible through the contrasting judgements made in relation to each option or scenario. As systems analyst Rittel has remarked [Rittel]:

‘A policy maker or analyst in this sort of situation needs to be more like a ‘midwife of problems’ than a provider of determinate and uncontroversial solutions. Decision making has to be understood as an argumentative or deliberative process, one of raising questions and issues towards which you can assume different positions, and with the evidence gathered and arguments built for and against these different positions’.

Quite often, a constructive stakeholder interaction may permit the emergence of novel ideas for solutions, including compromises between different performance criteria. These processes of information sharing and debate may also be effective in building goodwill, respect and trust. Differences of view are not to be feared. Commitment to a stewardship role, or to cooperating with site stewards, may emerge alongside and partly through misunderstandings, disputes and conflicts.

Well structured participatory processes [CIRIA] may help with:

  1. Identification and development of elements of common problem definition and common language for all the parties concerned;
  2. Understanding of the assumptions underlying expert solution proposals and evaluation techniques, of the terms in which these techniques can contribute to reasoned decisions, and limitations to their application;
  3. Sharing of the reasons and justifications brought by the different social groups to the deliberation process;
  4. Status and respect given to participation by both professionals and lay persons in the deliberation processes.

Multi-stakeholder deliberation requires information, and may certainly be aided by good inputs from experts and by systems of indicators at appropriate scales. However, stakeholders do not just receive and exchange information. They may interact in a variety of formal and informal ways, sometimes being in conflict and sometimes cooperating. Working together to produce a well structured and transparent evaluation of stewardship options, with inputs from different sectors of the affected communities, may contribute significantly to the confidence and shared understanding needed to build a common future together.

5.2.9.4 Political and economic partnership

Partnership building (the third component identified, see Section 5.2.8.2) has emerged worldwide as a pragmatic response by public authorities (and, sometimes, by nuclear industry exponents themselves) confronted by the ineffectiveness of the standard technical expertise model for viable waste management decisions [Wright]. In many countries directly concerned with an obligation for radioactive waste management, there has been an incontestable deficit of stakeholder confidence regarding the decisions proposed by the established expert and government bodies for the long term disposal of radioactive waste, resulting in abandonment of envisaged programmes and/or a major reconstruction of the institutional and policy framework. Confronted by public disquiet about the risks, and the very long time frames involved in monitoring sites, the authorities have turned to various forms of stakeholder consultation.

Attention to the question of the nature of the relationships to be established and maintained by society with the sites and the radioactive materials (the second component, as identified above) is less in evidence. The reason for this is that this issue has been treated more implicitly than explicitly. A specific answer to the question of what type of ‘relationship’ is envisaged has dominated in the technical and regulatory literature, without really being made the subject of a focused discussion. In effect, the concepts of containment and of provisional and permanent ‘disposal’ of wastes through the competent action of an authority are based on a principle that can be summarised as ‘out of the public’s sight, out of the public’s mind’. The comfort and safety of the public are to be assured by technological means, implemented by a delegated authority, to achieve the segregation of the noxious elements outside the main part of society. Because the waste or contaminated site is placed ‘off limits’ the general public no longer has any relationship to it, and so the problem has disappeared.

Much of the current controversy about radioactive waste disposal and site stewardship arises because this solution concept – based on the principle of containment and segregation, ‘out of the public’s sight, out of the public’s mind’ – does not have widespread social acceptance. The historical record of controversies shows that many people are not willing to believe that wastes will remain where they are (for thousands and thousands of years), and many people are also not willing to trust experts when they say that, suitably contained, wastes will indeed remain where they are.

This lack of confidence undoubtedly arises from many factors, some of which are related to technical factors and some of which are related to non-technical factors. One relevant factor may be the accumulation of experience with nuclear energy, radiation and spent nuclear fuel, revealing the meticulous and costly character of achieving long term and secure containment. Another factor may be the growing general awareness about the problems of waste management in modern societies (extending far beyond radioactive wastes) and about the spectrum of side effects, often unpredictable and sometimes long lasting, of contemporary technologies. Another, certainly, is the heritage of suspicion about official cover-ups of accidents and risks, and hence perceptions of the unreliability of government agencies in risk management matters.

Whatever the reasons that might be identified, it is clear that the ‘containment and segregation model’ of the relation to be established between the society and the risk (the waste disposal or contaminated sites) does not inspire wide public trust. This does not necessarily mean that people are generally irrational about radioactivity. Rather, it suggests that certain features of the model ‘out of the public’s sight, out of the public’s mind’ are felt to be inappropriate – and hence unacceptable – for some classes of contaminated site problem. The challenge is to identify the factors that might affect a solution’s acceptability, in order that an appropriate strategy may be explored for the underlying problem.