Decisions that have significant environmental and social consequences are often made without the involvement of those whose interests are directly at stake. Those most affected by local pollution, loss of land or access to natural resources are often not consulted. For poor people whose lives and livelihoods often depend on natural resources, and who are therefore most vulnerable to environmental risks, the consequences of exclusion can be especially severe.
Poor people in many countries face a daunting array of barriers to access, including low literacy levels, high costs (including the costs of corruption), exposure to risk through participation, lack of documentation of legal identity or rights to a resource, and difficulty in understanding technical information. Additionally, cultural norms that limit who may speak in public disproportionately exclude the poor.
- Specify the right of poor people, marginalised groups and tribal communities to participate in environmental consultations and create a requirement for decision-makers to consult these groups.
- Establish operational guidelines for agencies to involve poor and excluded communities – for example providing simple but accurate versions of background documents in local languages, identifying intermediaries and ensuring cost and other barriers to participation are addressed.
- Make targeted efforts to prioritise delivery of information to those most affected by decisions about natural resources. This requires dedicating staff time and energy to identify target audiences and create information campaigns that address the needs of these audiences.