Public participation, experts and expert knowledge in water management in the Netherlands
In our complex society, specific expertise is inevitable for decision-making in technical projects such as water management projects. For that reason, experts are also called the sixth power. Some of them work in administrative organizations and others are hired by stakeholders that participate in decision-making. For a large part they are employed in the private sector as consultants or are employees of interest groups. As such, they represent the most technocratic dimension of such projects. It often appears that their opinions about technical and financial issues play a dominant role in the outcome of water-related projects. The objective of this paper is to explore the influence of experts, in relation to the stakeholders (including governments and lay people), in participatory decision-making processes regarding water management. An important question here is whether experts and their knowledge advance or determine decision-making. We present two concrete experiments: one where experts were given a leading role, and one where experts were given a position in the backseat. The experiments demonstrate that stronger expert participation negates public participation and the other way around.
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