Public consultation typically involves two-way communication between a responsible authority, or a body acting on its behalf, and the public. The intent of consultation is to raise awareness and understanding about specific activities (e.g. project, policy or regulatory proposals) and to receive public comments to assist in their finalisation. The most common method for consultation is a request for written comments on relevant documents; however are often used.
Examples of Public Consultations
Two examples are provided below which highlight the impact of public consultations.
Calories on Menus in Ireland
In 2012, a Public Consultation Survey was carried out to find out the views of Irish consumers and food businesses on putting calories on menus in Ireland.
Animal Welfare of Dairy Cows
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) launched a public consultation in 2011 to gather comments on a draft opinion on animal-based measures (welfare indicators) of dairy cows.
Advantages of Public Consultations
- Good for receiving different perspectives on potentially controversial or complex issues where feedback will be considered and used to shape the final output.
- Beneficial for testing messages with different audiences. Sometimes good for facilitating dialogue between different stakeholders.
- Public concerns can be recognized at an early stage in the planning of major projects.
- It is an open and interactive communication method.
- Frequently involves NGOs.
- Affected people can influence the project to reduce adverse impacts and maximise benefits.
Disadvantages of Public Consultations
- Inappropriate for requesting feedback when there is no intention to include it in the final output.
- Strategic planning is required to ensure that stakeholder groups receive information early enough to influence the key stages of the project and that the inevitable constraints on time and financial resources are considered.
- The monetary cost of research and of communicating with the public.
- Extra time and resources to manage consultation.
- The cost of delays and/or uncertainty that may be caused by dealing with issues raised during consultation and building these into the schedule of project activities.
- Conflicts may arise that prove difficult and costly to reconcile or that cannot be addressed within the scope of the project.