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Research Projects

EPP Conference 2006

This page is a summary of my session at the "Deliberative Democracy" conference, organized by the Environmental and Public Policy Section of the Association for Conflict Resolution. The session was co-hosted with with Dr. Shizuka Hashimoto (JSPS Fellow at DUSP, MIT).

The conference was held at MIT (Building E51) on June 28-30, 2006.

[Conference web site]

 
The following is a summary description of our session.

MODIFYING "IMPORTED" ENVIRONMENTAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION TECHNIQUES IN JAPAN

We will start the discussion by focusing on the traditional ways in which deliberative democracy is used in Japan to resolve public disputes: the cho-nai-kai system. Unfortunately, these traditional ways of resolving environmental conflicts are not working very well anymore, in part because they do not involve the full range of relevant stakeholders. The session will then examine an experimental use of "consensus building" techniques in Japan. Close examination of this case illustrates the need for process adaptation and organizational change in instances of cross-border borrowing of dispute resolution techniques. Then we will ask participants to address questions such as, "What is the best strategy for an international dispute resolution practitioner (from the west) to use when working in an Asian context?" and "How ethical it is to export ideas and techniques that might change the way people make public policy decisions?"


Presentation Slides

  • Matsuura, M.: Exporting Consensus Building to Japan: What's lost in translation?
  • Hashimoto, S.: Legitimacy by Tradition: Japanese model of Deliberation.
  • Matsuura, M.: Kita-josanjima Intersection Improvement Process: The first experiment of “importing” consensus building processes to Japan.

Summary by the organizer (Direct link to a conference web page).

Summary (MS-Word Document)


Reactions from the audience

What is the best strategy for an international dispute resolution practitioner (from the west) to use when working in an Asian context?

  • Experiment a few more times. Then determine if good change is possible. If there is hope--continue. If not, rethink.
     
  • When working in a foreign context, partnership with a local practitioner seems critical to assess whether D-R practices are appropriate, and if so, how to adjust these practices to local needs, conditions requirements.
     
  • Work with domestic partners to build capacity and transfer technology (both ways).
  • Honor customs and be always mindful not to push anyone in a corner or to lose face---embarrass one person and (s)he will be disillusioned.
     
  • How receptive are the neighborhood associations to outside influences in their organizational structure?

How ethical it is to export ideas and techniques that might change the way people make public policy decisions?

  • I think this is a difficult question with no "cookbook" answer. My intuitive sense is to seek some incremental but not jarring change. Good session!
     
  • Instead of importing ideas, would it be better to adapt existing methods to changing times.
     
  • "Do No Harm" should remain the overriding ethical concern. If consensus building (western style) is done in ways that undermine the family unit and further erodes social bonds, then it should be adapted. I was impressed with how the Kita-josanjima process was conducted.
     
  • Is it ethical to involve community leaders (to circumvent local opposition) if they are not truly representative of local interest?
     
  • Ethical if new ideas supported by community, if there is buy-in.

Other comments:

  • In future, how involve women and young people in Joint Neighborhood Association decisions?
     
  • Was it a change for the transportation Ministry to agree to "respect" the locally made decision? Dis the Ministry legally bind itself to the local decisions?
     
  • How do the stakeholder dialogue participants get chosen? By who? How to be sure that they are being chosen neutrally?

Thank you very much for everyone who joined our session. We can be reached at:

  • Masahiro Matsuura: masa (at) mmatsuura.com
  • Shizuka Hashimoto: zennist (at) mit.edu
(c) 1996-2006 Masahiro Matsuura, All Rights Reserved.