Environmental Conflict resolution holds key to growing "power struggle"
‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Whether it is due to an 800 kilometre long electric super highway , a private development of 2000 wind turbines, engineering developments in the indigenous energy sector or strategic infrastructural developments in water ,waste water and transport areas ; never since the Land League have opposition groups become more engaged across the island. In certain areas of rural Ireland ‘save our countryside’ campaigns have taken on messianic levels of passion. Aside from genuine concerns opposition groups have become infuriated by what they see as some promoters’ ‘patronising attitude towards objectors’, describing it as a ‘done deal’.
There are now tremendous opportunities ahead for Ireland’s energy resources. Very few countries have such untapped potential beside such a large insatiable market. Building trust between decision makers, developers and communities will take considerable time and commitment on all sides in these important developments. Impartial professional institutions like the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators can provide a key role in building alliances which will unlock investment that can create tremendous opportunity for the country and its people, if carried out properly. All these strategic projects require balancing the social, environmental and economic issues if they are to work. It should be possible to build and enhance the civil infrastructure through empowering experiences and achieve ‘informed consent’.
The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators – Irish Branch has set up a specialised group in 2013 to provide professional facilitation in this complex area of Environmental and Planning Mediation. The professional panel of trained mediators will provide critical mediation and facilitation services to decision makers, community groups and all stakeholders involved in such conflicts. The process involves both the professional fields of ADR and public participation. The key to the service is collaboration and public participation facilitated by trained professionals with a knowledge and background in this area.
Environmental Conflict Resolution requires a process manager or mediator who must be acceptable to all parties invited to come to the table. The parties must be given a chance to participate in or at least approve the agenda, ground rules, time table and other elements of the process before environmental conflict resolution begins. This facilitator must ensure that all parties are prepared properly and provided with opportunities for joint fact finding. Environmental Mediation can supplement whatever formal decision making is required by law. Transparency is the key responsibility of the Mediator together with an obligation to maintain promises of confidentiality. This is the opposite to the 'decide, announce, defend ' school of public consultation, an approach that is endemic despite its failings and leads to further mistrust. This was based on the principle that experts plan for the people rather than with them.
Most significant decisions in large public projects are not technical decisions but value choices informed by technical information. This makes it ideal for mediation and public participation. Where there are big value differences the opposite side will always appear over emotional and irrational and people of similar views will begin to cluster together. Disputes are often more about relationships and the lack of trust between the principal parties over a period of time, there is often a general distrust of officialdom. Participation requires a commitment in principle to open and collaborative decision making. It is often the ambivalence of decision makers about public involvement in decision making that gives rise to so many problems.......often involving tokenistic consultation. It is common all over the World for government agencies to operate a semi- participatory process of consultation with very few options available.
So in a country just getting back on its feet again, world famous for its landscape and with a love of the land that runs deep in all our veins there is now a series of urgent public meetings taking place in parish halls and schools across the island concerning proposed developments. There is an increasing anger!
Participants in these ‘power struggles’ could do a lot worse than contact the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) Ireland , the largest impartial dispute resolution institution in the world on E. firstname.lastname@example.org or T. 01- 8175307. CIArb environmental mediators can assist managers to turn competing interests into constructive engagement at an early stage and operate under a memorandum of understanding. Building trust between communities and decision makers will take time as well as change in institutional attitude.
‘You cannot achieve sustainable economic development without participation by people’.
W A Morrissey BE LLM FCIArb CEng MIEI MSEE MIAgrE
Chartered Civil Engineer & Accredited Mediator
For further comment, please contact Billy Morrisey on email@example.com