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Public Consultation

5 Principles of Public Consultation


In recent years, there has been a renewed focus on the principles of ethics and integrity in public consultations. Whether the consultations have to do with a rezoning in your neighborhood, or reform of the financial sector, or even the goals of the Occupy movement, people want to be sure that they not only have a chance to speak, but that their input is listened to and taken seriously.

A Public Consultation held in Vancouver

Source: Green Culture Web

At their core, public consultations—whether conducted online or off—are based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process. To this end, there are several principles that can enhance the integrity of any public consultation process.  Here are five taken from the IAP2’s Code of Ethics for Public Participation Practitioners.


Principles of Public Consultation



Public consultations should be conducted in a fair and respectful manner to build trust and credibility for the process among the participants.


Proponents should disclosure all information relevant to the public’s understanding and evaluation of a decision.  This should include clearly communicating the issue to be addressed, the objectives and scope of the consultation, and the roles and responsibilities of participants.


Stakeholders should  have fair and equal access to the public consultation process and the opportunity to influence decisions.  Consultation activities should be organized to maximize the public’s involvement and effective use of their time.


Proponents should avoid strategies that polarize community interests or that attempt to “divide and conquer.” All views will be considered in a non-confrontational and constructive manner.


All commitments made to the public, including those by the decision-maker, must be made in good faith.  The outcome of each public consultation should be made public.


Each public consultation process will be different—reflecting the magnitude and complexity of the specific initiative, the level of public interest and the needs of people who may be affected.  As such, these principles are to be considered minimum standards, and will often be exceeded.



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