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THE NATION MEETS TO CONSERVE FOR THE FUTURE
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Initiating national consultations: the scope of national consultations in advance of a national wetland policy will be different in each nation. The lead agency must define how broadly to design these consultations in terms of stakeholders, time, travel and complexity. In federal states, for example, jurisdiction for wetland management may in fact clearly rest at a lower level of government...In a large nation, those agencies charged with these consultations will face a more complex task of extensive travelling to seek input.

One useful approach is to seek input through the hosting of a national stakeholders’ workshop...It would draw together representatives of major government, business and non-governmental organizations, aboriginal or indigenous peoples, local communities and private citizens, as appropriate. Such a meeting would build a supporting constituency and be a useful device to create a network of informed partners who can “spread the word about the policy and its proposals. These individuals could organize and lead local consultations, particularly at the community level...

Direct consultations may also involve many small meetings at the local level or with targeted groups or organizations...Such “face-to-face” meetings are often essential for inter-ministerial and inter-governmental consultations as well as with key local government and non-governmental organizations.

Indirect contacts, not involving visits or locally arranged meetings, may involve the same consultation materials but be conducted by telephone or mail. This requires more frequent follow-up contacts to ensure responses but is cheaper overall in terms of travel and staff time.

Inter-ministerial consultations with potentially affected or influential government agencies at this stage are quite important. This can be initiated through appropriate correspondence between ministers and...their department’s involvement.

Public consultation may require sophisticated public media programmes that can be very costly...However, in many jurisdictions, such public consultation is required by law to introduce new government initiatives and is thus not avoidable. Public consultation may require many types of printed and electronic meeting products and numerous, potentially difficult, public meetings.

The key issue here is to find the right balance in providing consultative suggestions which are early and open-ended enough to genuinely benefit from consultative input. It is critical to create a sense of empowerment and ownership among those people and agencies consulted...while at the same time having information that is sufficiently thought-through to show clearly the various implications of policy options.

It is advantageous to provide a basic outline in order to define the scope of the process and focus discussions. A degree of reiteration in some of these processes may be appropriate, for example, an evolving draft text. This should be kept within sensible bounds so that the process is resource-effective and is completed.

The policy should include one, or at most a few, simple goal statement(s) and appropriate principles with regard to other national policies and cultural considerations. Many of the existing wetland policies developed to date have presented simple and short goal statements. The wording varies but revolves around two themes: that the wetlands of the nation will be used in a sustainable manner for current and future generations of the people and that their conservation is essential to the environmental and economic well-being of the nation.

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