Cooperative decision making and conflict management in public planning and environment was the theme of a two-day workshop held in January 2007 in Budapest by the REC and Austria's OGUT. The workshop was part of a joint project to collect case studies to examine and compare environmental conflicts and approaches to problem-solving in both Western and Eastern Europe. Researchers, professional mediators and NGO activists from all over the EU teamed up to share knowledge and experiences.
The event was also part of CIPRA's "Future in the Alps" knowledge-transfer project, within which a network of persons and institutions involved in public participation, environmental conflict management and environmental mediation was created.
Participants came to agree that environmental conflicts are conflicts of values and interests, and that environmental mediators face major challenges in refraining from advocating for either investors or activists. Mediators should be equally distant from all parties, explained Martina Handler, a participation expert from OGUT. Handler also drew attention to the CEE region's lack of skilled individuals and official support for this type of informal conflict resolution.
Processes in the region often start spontaneously and without preparation, she commented, adding that it is essential to get involved at the earliest possible stage, when there are more options on the table.