Including women: addressing gender
In 1992, the United Nations Commission on Environment and Development agreed Agenda 21, a programme for global sustainable development. This was a significant achievement since Agenda 21 was debated at the instigation of the NGOs. Signatories committed themselves to depositing a national plan for sustainable development by 1994 and local areas were required to produce local strategies by the end of 1996. One of the guiding principles of Agenda 21 is that people normally excluded from the decisionmaking process (such as women, indigenous people and young people) need to be integrally involved in decision making within a framework which stresses the importance of public participation. The reason for this inclusive form of participation is that these under-represented groups are seen as having had little impact on the production of environments, although they are sometimes disproportionately affected by them. Therein, however, lies a problem, as the structures which traditionally exclude these groups are being invoked to involve them fully. Moreover, greater participation needs a social structure which fosters and encourages such involvement, addressing concepts such as citizenship and empowerment, availability of information, education and a respect for people’s identification with place-and place identity-which is in turn affected by environmental problems. The scene is then set for dissonance between a global agenda heavily influenced by NGO input and its national and local incorporation through political structures. This chapter examines aspects of the extent of this dissonance at national and local level in Australia and the UK, and seeks both to draw comparisons and to identify lessons which can be learnt from their experience.