How can Belgium take a hard line against global warming? What about the siting of wind farms along the Belgian coast? Or the cultivation and sale of genetically modified organisms? You well may be concerned by these issues, and have your own opinion. The government wants to find out what you think about these and many other subjects and, with this in mind, it organises regular participation, also referred to as public participation.

One thing becomes increasingly apparent a s democratic society evolves: a democracy can only operate effectively if the population has a right to active participation in a number of decision-making processes. The same is true of decisions relating to the environment or living conditions in the broad sense.

mensenBy organising participation, the government is seeking to persuade citizens to express their opinion. Such efforts are generally more successful for local projects, such as creating a road or the development of land, than for projects which are further removed from people’s everyday living environment, such as a plan involving the ozone or biodiversity. It is up to the public authority to make even these types of complex and somewhat abstract issues accessible to the general public, by presenting them clearly and comprehensibly.

Public opinion can bring to light some original lines of approach for consideration in the debate, or open up entirely new prospects. Participation requires an effort on the part of both the government and the population, but is most definitely worth it!

Public participation is regulated at the international, European and national levels.

The Aarhus Convention lays down the basic rules for participation at the international level. See What does the Aarhus Convention say about participation? (HTML).

Participation is regulated by two directives  at the European level. See What does Europe stipulate? (HTML)

The federal government has transposed the provisions of the Aarhus Convention and the European directives on its powers into federal legislation. See What does the federal government stipualte with regard to plans and programmes relating to the environment? (HTML)

The federal government is also responsible for  a number of projects or specific activities. See What does the federal government  stipulate with regard to projects or specific activities with an impact on the environment? (HTML)

The role of DG Environment

The task of the Directorate-General (DG) Environment of the Federal Public Service (FPS) Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment is to ensure that the provisions of the Aarhus Convention on public participation are properly implemented at the FPS and federal level by the various public authorities involved.