Involve public in roads policy, urges Transport Department

(Zulfa Petersen, News24)
(Zulfa Petersen, News24)

Leipzig – It is very important for the South African Department of Transport to consult with the public and stakeholders regarding its roads policy, according to Abram Chego, the department’s director of rural and non-motorised transport.

“In South Africa we try our best to consult with the public as determined in our Constitution,” he said during a panel discussion at the 10th annual summit of the International Transport Forum (ITF).

“We talk to stakeholders, including business and NGOs. It is important to involve members of communities in the process.”

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Chego said stakeholder participation is just as important.

“It is important for project implementers to analyse their stakeholders properly and how they will benefit from a project. Explain to them how they will benefit and do not try to pull the wool over their eyes,” he said.

“Navigate the terrain well as some people would want to continue to disrupt matters so they can continue to benefit.”

For him it is also important to know which channels of communication to use to reach stakeholders and keep them informed. For example, not everyone might have access to social media or the internet.

“Do a proper needs analysis and inform the public and stakeholders properly. Establish the dynamics involved and have experts find out what communities want,” he said.

READ: SA must keep up with transport developments - deputy minister 

“Take a holistic approach to understand the needs of people and bring the technical people so they can explain to the people.”

Mans Lonnroth, former State Secretary for the Environment in Sweden, was another member of the same panel discussion. In his view, public participation will never replace political decisions, but it can help with it.

“The ‘how’ of a project is often much more difficult than the ‘what’,” he said. “Technical experts must learn to listen and talk to people.”

For panel member Manuela Lopez Menendez, Secretary of Works at the National Ministry of Transport of Argentina, it is very important to know who your stakeholders are.

“It is not easy to make the people part of projects. Of course you cannot always make everyone happy, but you must listen to them and inform them also of your view,” she said.

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“Look for solutions and sometimes you have to do something even if some people are not happy about it. You must, however, explain to them why you are doing something.”

For her transparency is the most important aspect.

“Tell people the truth about projects. Talk to them and try to find solutions. Often their concerns and problems can be resolved in another way.”

Monika Zimmermann, Deputy Secretary General of Local Governments of Sustainability (ICLEI), said during the panel discussion that it is very important to have public participation at the right time and in the right way.

“Public involvement is beneficial as it brings amazing results and leads to higher implementation and less risk of failure,” she said.

“Public participation can anchor decision making beyond political changes and solutions become better and richer.”

READ: Public transport can drive economic growth

She emphasised that clear political leadership is also very important.

Another member of the panel, Rafael Schvartzman, regional vice president for Europe of the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said the foundation of what he calls “smart regulation” is consultation to properly assess the impact of what is intended to be done.

“Public and stakeholder participation cannot just be a case of ticking the box,” he said.

· Fin24 is the guest of the ITF at its summit.

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