Participatory democracy against industrial risks

Under Apartheid, marginalised groups had limited power to influence decisions contributing to environmental injustices. Democracy witnessed civil society as ‘inclusive’ to engage in formal decision-making. This paper examines the ability of the state and industry to effectively implement formal participatory decision-making spaces, including the ability of civil society to engage in these spaces. This paper presents viewpoints from stakeholders in Durban to examine engagement amongst civil society, the state and industry for participatory democracy. Investigations reveal that tokenistic participatory processes by provincial/local government and industry during development processes, government use of industrial consultants for decision-making, and fragmentation between some local community groups due to acquisition of industrial funding has not effectively included marginalised citizen’s into participatory processes to inform decisions. Despite a democratic transition, participatory democracy for environmental justice is limited. This paper suggests that government and industry need to engage proactively with civil society before decisions are made on development processes, rather than as an afterthought. It is also suggested that consultants used during development processes be chosen in consensus between civil society, industry and government. Community coherence against industrial risks will also be better achieved if industrial funding was administered through a community fund with an appropriate monitoring system of how funds are used.

Leonard, L. (2014) Participatory democracy against industrial risks: Environmental justice in Durban, South Africa, Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies, DOI: 10.1080/02589346.2014.905263

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