Pocedural Issues User Involvement in Formulating and eveloping Indicators

Involvement of stakeholders and users is often assumed to be a prerequisite of SD indicators. However, because we do not fully understand how to promote stakeholder involvement in a useful and efficient manner, we need critical analyses of the potentials and limits of participatory and deliberation processes. The key reasons for user involvement include the following:

• Integrating local knowledge with technical and scientific expertise to improve understanding of societal and ecosystems aspects of sustainable development

• Improving decision-making processes by allowing users or the public to influence the topics, components, and nature of indicators and the relative weightings given to different components

• Using stakeholders as a counterbalance to the influence of implicit values in experts' selection of indicators and widening the ownership of assessment instruments and hence the political commitment to action on the SD issues emerging from the participation process

The two major ways of achieving stakeholder and civil society participation are as follows:

• Involving the public (or part of the public) on a near-representative or random basis in order to increase the democratic value of the indicators. This involvement can be realized at two levels: involvement of the public to define, select, and prioritize the issues to be addressed with indicators and involvement of the public to select indicators to be integrated into a set.

• Involving users to increase the efficiency of decision-making processes (audience targeted) and thus reforming the process of making decisions about sustainable development. One of the goals of indicators is to achieve greater transparency of information and open up decision-making processes (e.g., by allowing shared knowledge to be spread).

Whereas involvement by users (e.g., policymakers, civil servants, business actors) is widely considered and implemented as a basic condition of many "science for sustainable development" initiatives, the wider public has been considered less critical. Whatever the involvement mechanism, the feasibility and value of public involvement are also determined by the scale of the indicator initiative. Comprehensive democratic public involvement synthesizing local knowledge would not work well for global-scale indicator initiatives. However, such involvement is highly appropriate at the local level (see Chapter 19, this volume), where expert opinions are likely to differ from the preoccupations and understanding of individual communities (diminishing the subsequent usability of the indicators). Local involvement for local indicators, as envisaged in Local Agenda 21, increases public ownership of indicators, improves their communication, makes measured issues more relevant to the local population, increases the reliability of indicator systems, and facilitates access to nonformalized data such as local knowledge that can complement weak formal data on many phenomena at the local level. Nevertheless, the difficulty of conceiving public and user involvement at global level reflects the difficulty of developing indicators that address cross-scale issues; these issues reveal a high level of difficulty at the level of both technical and participatory development. Because of the difficulties and resources needed to organize successful participatory processes, stakeholder involvement processes should not be initiated without clear objectives.

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