Citizen Participation in Environmental Policy and Urban Development (DE0008)
Action Plan: Germany National Action Plan 2017-2019
Action Plan Cycle: 2017
Lead Institution: Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety
Support Institution(s): Citizens and, depending on the topic, associations, private sector, multilateral organizations (e.g. UN, OECD)
Policy AreasCapacity Building, E-Government, Environment and Climate, Infrastructure & Transport, Land & Spatial Planning, Marginalized Communities, Participation in Budget Processes, Public Participation
Description: Strengthening citizen participation in decision-making in the field of environmental and urban development policy. Promoting citizen participation at federal level, among other things by expanding informal participation processes, e.g. update of the Climate Action Plan 2050, resource efficiency programme ProgRess III, implementing the Integrated Environmental Programme 2030 (IUP), participating in the 2017 UN Climate Conference (inviting young people, including school children); by organizing new dialogues to advise policy-makers on relevant decisions in the 19th legislative term; by participating in networks and bodies; by carrying out events. Aim: Further strengthening and expanding public participation in environmental policy decisionmaking and in the field of urban development. Status quo: In the 18th legislative term, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) strengthened citizen participation at federal level, e.g. by establishing a citizen participation division, carrying out informal citizen participation procedures for key federal decision-making processes (Climate Action Plan 2050, German resource efficiency programme II, Integrated Environmental Programme 2030 (IUP), first international citizen participation in the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris, selection of a final disposal site for highly radioactive waste), carrying out research projects and public events on citizen participation (tips for successful public participation in large-scale projects (3x3 einer guten Öffentlichkeitsbeteiligung bei Großprojekten)). Ambition: Within its remit, the BMUB uses state-of-the-art and sophisticated citizen participation processes, systematically improves them and publishes the results. This also helps other stakeholders (in particular federal ministries, state authorities and municipalities). Approaches in the next two to four years will include: public participation and testing citizen participation in decision-making processes in the field of environmental policy; developing new forms of online participation and better interlocking formal and informal participation. New or ongoing: new Implemented by: Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety Organizations involved in implementation: Citizens and, depending on the topic, associations, private sector, multilateral organizations (e.g. UN, OECD) Organizational unit and contact: Division G II 2, Michael.Muennich@bmub.bund.de Open government values addressed: Participation, transparency Relevance: Creating more possibilities for people to participate in policy-making is an explicit aim of the Federal Government. In addition to applying participation processes in practice, tools of citizen participation must be systematically monitored and developed. Using and improving this tool box has a direct impact on OGP goals.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
8. Strengthening Citizen Participation in Environmental Policy and Urban Development
Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:
“Strengthening citizen participation in decision-making in the field of environmental and urban development policy. Promoting citizen participation at federal level, among other things by expanding informal participation processes, e.g. update of the Climate Action Plan 2050, resource efficiency programme ProgRess III, implementing the Integrated Environmental Programme 2030 (IUP), participating in the 2017 UN Climate Conference (inviting young people, including school children); by organizing new dialogues to advise policy-makers on relevant decisions in the 19th legislative term; by participating in networks and bodies; by carrying out events.
“Aim: Further strengthening and expanding public participation in environmental.”
8.1 Starting or carrying out citizen participation processes for at least four relevant decision-making procedures in the field of environmental policy and urban development (e.g. youth participation in the 2017 UN Climate Conference, update of the Climate Action Plan 2050, ProgRess III, implementing the National Programme for Sustainable Consumption)
8.2 Carrying out at least three cross-cutting public events on citizen participation such as Beteiligung auf Bundesebene –Erfolge und Perspektiven (Participation at federal level – progress and opportunities)
8.3 Exploring and developing tools for better citizen participation (e.g. new forms of online participation; guidelines)
8.4 Participating in at least four national or international bodies or networks on citizen participation (e.g. in the alliance for more democracy, in the Conference of Environmental Ministers, and in the OECD)
8.5 Competition with citizens in the jury for exemplary participation processes in spatial matters, in policy-making and in the legislative procedure
Start Date: July 2017
End Date: June 2019
Context and Objectives
This commitment aims to build on an existing vast repository of practical experience and formal institutionalized mechanisms for civic participation in environmental decision making. During the previous legislative period (2013–2017), the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU) established a citizen participation division. BMU also carried out a number of informal citizen participation initiatives around the development of key environmental and climate policies.  This action plan commitment reflects the efforts of the BMU to use, systematically learn from, improve, and encourage the adoption in other ministries of “state-of-the-art and sophisticated citizen participation processes.” It focused on “developing new forms of online participation and better interlocking formal and informal participation.”
The milestones cover policy-relevant research and pilots for civic participation (8.3) and outreach events to enhance the visibility of and engagement with participation mechanisms (8.2). They also address the actual implementation of civic participation processes on four issues related to environmental policies (8.1). Milestone 8.4 affirms Germany’s participation in related international peer exchange fora. Milestone 8.5 seeks to incentivize innovation in and diffusion of civic participation practices through an award competition that will involve citizens as jury members.
The proposed actions are not linked to enforceable rights or specific public complaints and redress mechanisms, in case the envisaged participation processes fail to be inclusive or have procedural shortcomings. Thus, the actions cannot be coded as relevant to the OGP value of public accountability.
The milestones are verifiable and provide some specific targets (e.g., 8.1, 8.2, and 8.4 include the number of envisaged activities or events). Yet they could still benefit from more specificity—e.g., targets for diversity in participation or uptake of published materials.
The commitment could produce learnings and inspiration to scale up and innovate around informal citizen participation in other ministries. It also introducing citizen participation processes in at least four decision-making procedures. Thus, it could have a potentially moderate impact on participation. A civil society member observed that it could lead to deeper cultural change and openness and that it is anchored in the administration and not just hosted by a specific ministry. 
An expansion and more ambitious formulation of this commitment could turn it into a centerpiece of the next action plan, as it could help facilitate opening up government for participation and engagement. The IRM researcher therefore recommends:
- testing some innovative consultation processes for developing a related commitment for the next action plan, preferably involving a wider range of ministries and policy-making processes;
- considering exploration of targeted outreach to underrepresented groups in participatory initiatives via segmented social media advertising, to boost inclusion;
- moving beyond input and directed participation and putting a stronger exploratory focus on co-creation processes and how to integrate bottom-up initiatives into decision making;
- exploring how to evolve episodic input into continuous feedback systems and how to interlink informal and formal consultation and participation mechanisms;
- exploring how to support and cultivate the demand side for civic participation—e.g., helping to build competencies and capabilities for civic participation; and
- exploring to what extent government officials can engage more systematically at the grassroots level to get exposed to recommendations and feedback where they emerge and are articulated.
 See Federal Government of Germany. First National Action Plan 2017–2019, 20, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/germany-action-plan-2019-2021/.
 Interview with civil society representative.
Conditions for OGP Participation
DE0001, 2017, OGP
Open Data in Administrative Practice
DE0002, 2017, Capacity Building
Open Data Environment
DE0003, 2017, Capacity Building
Access to Spatial Data
DE0004, 2017, Capacity Building
Financial Transparency - EITI Standard
DE0005, 2017, E-Government
Transparency in Development Policy
DE0006, 2017, Aid
Open Data for Intelligent Mobility
DE0007, 2017, E-Government
Citizen Participation in Environmental Policy and Urban Development
DE0008, 2017, Capacity Building
Electronic Procedures for Family Benefits
DE0009, 2017, E-Government
Knowledge Network for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People
DE0010, 2017, E-Government
Local Alliances for Family Initiative
DE0011, 2017, Public Participation
Share of Women and Men in Leadership Positions, Private and Private Sectors
DE0012, 2017, E-Government
Open Access to Academic Literature
DE0013, 2017, E-Government
Science Year 2018
DE0014, 2017, Public Participation
Federal Competition “Living Together Hand in Hand”
DE0015, 2017, Citizenship and Immigration