Accepted Paper:

How to organize stakeholders involvement in regulating technological issues? An argument for controversies-thinking  


Lonneke Poort (Eramus School of Law)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the failures of opening up decisionmaking for stakeholders.Stakeholders-involvement can only be successful if it is clear what problem is and what expectations are.I explore the impact of controversies-thinking in decisionmaking on the organization of stakeholders-involvement.

Paper long abstract:

Similar to the energy sector, formal decision-making on biotechnology struggles with challenges caused by the intractability of the problem. Whereas formal decision-making on genetic modification is strictly focused on safety and risks, in reality other (societal and moral) considerations are (still) being part of the problem. In dealing with this, the tendency in regulatory practice exists to open up formal decision-making for stakeholders or the broader public. However, in the field of biotechnology, these attempts are hardly successful. This paper discusses the failures of these attempts. I state that stakeholders involvement can only be successful if it is clear what the problem is, which methods to use for which goals and what the expectations of all stakeholders are. In earlier work, I criticized the strong focus on consensus in decision-making and argued for an ethos of controversies in which the diverging viewpoints, values and argument should have a more central role in problem-definition. In this paper, I take this argument to a next level and explore the impact of controversies-thinking in decision-making on the organization of stakeholders involvement. How to give room to diverging expectations of stakeholders involvement and conflicting agenda's? How can we deal with diverging viewpoints on the methods to use? I argue that involvement may be more successful if we are not focusing on commonalities in goals and expectations, but, instead, if we are open and clear about the differences and challenge each other on our viewpoints and motives in doing so.

Panel D02
Challenging formal arrangements and decision-making in the energy sector