N° 26 - April 2002
DUCSAI, what kind of example for public hearings?
In 1997, the French minister of Transportation announced restrictions on air traffic in the greater Paris region in order to reduce noise pollution. One way to achieve this would be to build a third airport. Set up in April 2001 to prepare the decision-making process for selecting a site, DUCSAI (Demarche d’Utilité Concertée pour un Site Aéroportuaire International) had the assignment to develop a participatory procedure so that citizens could voice their expectations, be more closely associated with eventual choices and adopt criteria based on the general interest. It handed its report in on 19 October. A month later, the Prime Minister declared that the new airport would be located in Chaulnes (Picardy). The Douffiagues committee on air transportation has always been said to be the authority that has done the best job of investigating this issue’s technical and economic aspects. But what specific contributions has it made? To what extent have public hearings led to taking into account economic and social factors that would otherwise have been underestimated? Can this experiment with public hearing procedures serve as a source of innovation for reforming the National Commission of Public Debate (CNDP)? Despite widespread self-satisfaction among officials, the four articles contributing to this discussion tackle the DUCSAI and its results from different angles.
Controlling flooding and reducing vulnerability: Managing the antinomic justifications given during the drafting of risk prevention plans
On the basis of interviews conducted in the Oise River Valley (France), a list of hindrances has been drawn up that were encountered while working out risk prevention plans relative to public works for controlling flooding. Controlling flooding and reducing the vulnerability to floods are two policy issues that are justified in opposite ways insofar as they are based on antinomic acceptations of the idea of responsibility. The implicit coexistence of these two justifications in the discourse of central authorities about their successive decisions led to mutual incomprehension between them and local authorities as risk prevention plans were worked out. A few proposals are made for putting an end to this antinomy.
New ways of deliberating
"Consensus conferences", "local information committees" or the many ad hoc or standing committees for "promoting public debate" (the National Commission of Public Debate created in 1997, the État-Généraux de la Santé set up in 1998 and 1999, etc.), all this is evidence of a renewal and diversification of a political management that is, in fact, quite old. According to Pierre Rosanvallon, the "consultative state" came into being at the end of the 19th century when feelings (already) about a "crisis of democracy" led politicians to try to skirt around parliament in order to find ways that would both allow interests to be heard and take into account technical qualifications. Before describing current means for doing this, it is worthwhile taking the time to look back on the origins of this trend so as to better distinguish in our own times between real innovations and proven methods.