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EIAs go public: creating new spaces for participation in China (PLA 62)

Lila Buckley

Journal article

Tackling resource scarcity and degradation in China is both an ecological issue and an arena for public participation. Within this context, the development of environmental legal frameworks, such as China’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) law has provided opportunities to strengthen policies for public participation.

Like other cases of participatory poverty alleviation approaches explored in this issue of Participatory Learning and Action (PLA62), developing China’s EIA law involved pragmatic use of international experience and financial support, as well as unique piloting and experimentation with participatory processes, involving a local nongovernmental organisation in the drafting of the law itself. This process resulted in a series of public participation requirements within China’s EIA legal framework that remain an ongoing arena for experimentation around the role of participation in poverty alleviation. The EIA law provides an example of how participatory approaches are gaining traction beyond small-scale pilot projects to be integrated into the structure of China’s development institutions.

The author shares insights into the participatory policymaking process from the Chinese NGO involved in the drafting of the EIA framework, providing a glimpse into one NGO’s experience engaging in China’s legal infrastructure and is a positive attempt to create space for multi-stakeholder involvement in the country’s policymaking.

NGO involvement in the drafting of future laws is not an end goal in itself. This experience highlights the potential and need for a more participatory policymaking process and the creation of a wider space for public policymaking with informed participation.

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