Participatory approaches and decision-making in the Msunduzi municipal council's local agenda 21 working committee.
The study stemmed from the observation that the Msunduzi Municipal Council has adopted the principles of Agenda 21. The aim was to examine participatory approaches employed by the Local Agenda 21 Working Committee. The research findings have signalled the importance of improving public invol vement in environmental decisionmaking. Yet the participatory approaches employed by the working committee such as advertisements and council meetings have proved inadequate to effectively meet the challenge of constructively involving the public. One reason is a lack of understanding on what public participation is supposed to accomplish. The Msunduzi Municipal Council is faced with the challenge of making high quality decisions while remaining responsive to the citizens those decisions affect. Meeting the challenge in the environmental policy arena poses particular problems because issues are often technically complex and value-laden, and multiple interests operate. At the same time , experience with public participation to support the position that involving the public is a mitigated good and more of it is always better, has not yet penetrated council structures. The Council is increasingly seeking better ways to fulfil its constitutional mandates while constructively engaging the public in environmental decision-making. Representatives of business and civil society are now included in joint forums with the council. They bring with them expertise and local perceptions to the policy-making process. It has been found out that members of civil society have led the way in showing connections between the environment and development. The effectiveness of promoting environmental equity depends upon the use of participation methodology that caters to the cultural and socio-economic needs of groups. The use of social capital is one way of organising and ordering individuals into productive associations. Local Agenda 21 makes possible social capital through the involvement of different stakeholders in environmental management and decisionmaking.