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How to do a Public Consultation

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The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) has published a Public Consultation on the National Strategy for the Environment 2050 (NSE 2050). Public consultations allow people to express their views to lawmakers in the course of setting policy orientations and drafting legislation. Essentially the public provides feedback on the propositions presented. It is a fantastic tool for democracy if used properly. 

For this article, we’ll be providing some general information about public consultations, why they are important, how they work, and how to provide feedback. 

Why are Public Consultations Important?

Public consultations allow legislators to gather feedback from the general public, including public entities, NGOs, businesses, and private citizens. The NSE 2050 focuses on ensuring a healthy environment and a sustainable future. It sets the pace for protecting and managing our environment from now through the next generation. Building upon the Wellbeing First Vision for 2050, the NSE 2050 sets out long-term strategic goals and objectives that outline how this will be achieved. 

The NSE 2050 is built on eight strategic goals. These are:

  1. Clean Air
  2. Quality Neighbourhoods
  3. Thriving Biodiversity
  4. Zero Waste
  5. Resilient Land Resources
  6. Flourishing Seas
  7. Sustainable Water Resources
  8. Enabling Change 

How Does It Work?

Online public consultations usually follow three stages: 1) open consultation, 2) closed consultation, and 3) publication of feedback and an outcome report. During the first stage, the public is requested to submit comments. Stage two filters through all comments received via a moderation process. The third stage marks the conclusion of the public consultation. At this stage, the selected feedback and a detailed report of the outcome is published and made available to the public. 

All of the information above is taken from the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality website here.

How to Provide Feedback for Public Consultations?

In order to guide the public consultation process, the ERA provides three questions which are to be taken into consideration when reviewing the NSE 2050.

  1. Do you think that the proposed Strategic Goals and Objectives adequately provide the environmental direction which is required in the coming 30 years?
  2. What strategic actions, besides those already mentioned under the respective Strategic Objectives, do you feel should be included?
  3. Action Plans will be developed to turn the Strategy into reality, each covering roughly a 10-year period until 2050. What actions should the first NSE Action Plan prioritise till 2030?

Besides the guiding questions presented by the ERA, we are also including some general good practices to help provide feedback.

  • Ensure that your feedback is clear and legible. Rather than just writing a general email reply, consider tying your feedback to specific objectives. For example, if you’d like to provide feedback on ‘Strategic Objective 2.3 – People-friendly routes within towns and villages will increase,’ you could write ‘Strategic Objective 2.3’ and your feedback below. This allows the people reviewing to know at a glance which point you are referring to.
  • Remember that there is another person behind the screen. Be courteous in your feedback.
  • Consider not just how a proposition might affect you, but how it could affect the population as a whole, including vulnerable sectors of the population and the environment as a whole.
  • Consider the long-term effects of a proposition. How will this legislation affect the country in 50 years’ time?
  • If possible, explain why you believe a particular goal would not work and provide alternatives.
  • If you are going to cite academic sources, provide a hyperlink or DOI to that particular study.

The ERA provides three documents. These are the Public Consultation Draft, an Executive Summary of the Public Consultation, and background documents and information. All relevant details can be found here.

Comments on the Public Consultation on the NSE 2050 are to be sent via email to nse@era.org.mt by 21 October 2022. 

In the spirit of democracy and transparency, we strongly encourage you to take the time to review the Public Consultation and provide any feedback you may have – and to discuss it with your friends, family, and colleagues. Remember: look at the facts and make up your own mind!

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