People’s Process

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People’s Process

Emergency steps to enable communities to decide their future

Local empowerment road-map to a better world

We have a choice: step into the role of being stewards of our communities, or let others determine what happens next.

Why this document is needed

When a community is threatened with the risk of development that is likely to have significant effects on the environment which, amongst other things, may cause an adverse impact on their community and/or further afield, there are a number of steps that can be taken so that concerned citizens can create the enabling conditions for a different outcome. This document has been created to help in time of crisis, when a local community has a choice; either accept an outcome that is harmful or become empowered to put in place an outcome that is beneficial for the community.

The essence of this document lies in the following three steps:

  1. carry out a review – what is needed to be asked to elicit the right information
  2. set out the conclusions of your community review in a report – establish the parameters ie Category A, B, C or D
  3. publish the report – make public the findings so that concerned citizens can put in place the enabling conditions to lead to a different set of results.

Why this is important

First you establish the harm or risk of harm, second you provide the evidence and third you make it publicly visible so that others can act on it. Press, politicians and local councillors all need evidence so that they can act in your best interests.

In addition to the above, it is essential that the community set out their vision. It is for the community to become self-empowered to create the enabling conditions for a new story to emerge.  Only when a community has a clear idea of what it does want, it is able to reject what it does not want.

This document is for the use of any community throughout the world. Although primarily focused on Europe, all issues raised can be applied elsewhere.

The starting point is to realign what we value

A development that will make money is one thing, however if it is to cause harm then it is up to the community to say no and put people and planet before profit. What we value need not have to be something that generates profit. Our well-being and the well-being of our wider community need not be dependent on profit; sometimes it is a person, a place or a way of being that we value over and above any concept of property, ownership and commercial profit.  Communities throughout the world are facing the risk of being displaced and/or harmed as a result of commercially driven motives without their voices being heard. This document is designed to give guidance to re-frame the way communities respond to threats to their well-being: instead of a community being dis-empowered, a community can set new terms of engagement and in so doing become empowered to co-create their community, based on a new set of values.  Instead of remaining unheard, the community can step up and speak out as one and put forward their parameters of what is acceptable to them and what is not. This document provides a matrix for what those new parameters can be.

By setting out what your community cares about (this includes tangible assets as well as intangible values), a community can put in place the enabling conditions so that their values are upheld.  In the UK, there is now a law so that local communities can register their land-based assets (Localism Act) and in many other countries many other communities are putting in place lists of what they value and care about (eg. in the US) without waiting for a law to be put in place.

By shifting the narrative, a community can establish their own ground rules – what they wish to put in place for the benefit of their own people and for future generations. When that happens, a community can set in place their overriding values and make the most of the wedges of opportunity that can be widened. Our rights and obligations go hand in hand, and by assessing our community values and how we want to life in our communities, we can open up the opportunity to envision a better world where we live in harmony with nature rather than bearing witness to its destruction.

We have a choice

Step into the role of being stewards of our communities, or let others determine the fate of our land and communities. When we step up and take collective responsibility we take ownership for the outcome. Think big: co-create the new story your community wants and by putting in place markers of a community vision, you empower others to make it happen. This document lists some of the enabling conditions which, if followed, will enable more favourable conditions to flourish. In so doing, members of the community are more likely to support a vision that is premised on the well-being of the community. By creating wedges of opportunity and seeding different ways of approaching a problem – namely from a place of constructive rather than destructive engagement –  other swill be inspired to help create a sustainable community, one based on well-being and harmony. Very soon you will see the seeds spread.

Colour Coding

This document is colour coded green (for immediate benefit) and blue (for future benefit) – blue steps are paving the way for a better world.

Why this is important & how it will make a difference

By following the green and blue steps, a community reinforces for other communities a best practice which when supported by enough citizens will establish new norms of decision-making and will influence future law-making.

Creating Wedges of Opportunity

Key Enabler: Questions

What you can do

Establish whether any or all of the following questions have been answered; if yes, identify which category applies; if no, follow through all of the questions below and use the graph below to assess project impact.

Why this is important

The higher the risk the more important it is that the questions are answered.

  1. Size: how large is the area that may be permanently damaged, destroyed or cause loss of ecosystems?
  2. Duration: will the adverse impact last longer than a season?
  3. Local Impact: will the adverse impact cause suffering to human, natural and/or economic resources?
  4. Scale-up: is the proposed project likely to be put in place in other territories, scaled up at a later date or is it a one-off?
  5. Neighbour Impact: what will be the likely adverse impact on neighboring areas?
  6. Well-being: has the well-being of
    1. local business
    2. economic
    3. community
    4. ecological
    5. human/social/cultural

    been assessed for increase/decrease of well-being as a result of project implementation

  • Long-term: 20 year review – how will the 5 areas of well-being compare in 20 years?
  • Citizen Participation: have the community participated in the preparation of all documents, plans and discussions?
  • EIAs: what previous EIAs have been shared with the community and do they comply with IAIA best practice?
  • Severe: will the project be hazardous, cause irreversible/long-term harm and/or unknown harm?
  • What you can do

    In the event that specific questions above have not been adequately addressed, seek an expert (communities can ask local universities to help) to specify the measures which must be taken in order to prevent any of the above; and require that any measures be put in place before any further steps are taken or within a given time period.

    Key Enabler: Category A, B C or D

    CAT A

    A proposed project is classified as Category A if it is likely to have significant adverse environmental impacts that are sensitive, diverse, or unprecedented. These impacts may affect an area broader than the sites or facilities subject to physical works. Irreversible, long-term adverse impacts and/or unknown hazards qualify as Category A. When a project is classified as Category A, it falls into the bracket of significant harm.

    CAT B

    A proposed project is classified as Category B if its potential adverse environmental impacts on human populations or environmentally important areas – including wetlands, forests, grasslands, and other natural habitats – are less adverse than those of Category A projects.  Reversible, short-term adverse impacts and foreseen restorative measures can be put in place. When a project is classified as Category B, it falls into the bracket of lesser harm.

    CAT C

    A proposed project is classified as Category C if it is likely to have minimal or no adverse environmental impacts. Beyond screening, no further EIA action is required for a Category C project. When a project is classified as Category C, it falls into the bracket of limited or no harm.

    CAT D

    A proposed project is classified as Category D if it is likely to have positive environmental impacts.  When a project is classified as Category D, it falls into the bracket of beneficial impact.


    Categories A, B & C are based on World Bank Investment Assessment Rules.

    Why this is important:

    Set your own parameters in line with future laws. Keep in mind that where the majority of responses establish that a project is a Category A or B project, alternative projects that are Category C or D will be given priority when new laws are put in place, such as the draft Ecocide Directive (see By establishing the parameters in advance of new law being put in place a community can create the enabling conditions for best practice decisions to be made that are in alignment with future legislation.

    Where information is not forthcoming on any given report, the burden of proof to establish lack of risk lies with the developer. This is about accountability, and where it is lacking, it is for the community to step in and put in place new parameters. Failure by a developer to carry out an assessment of the environmental and community effects of a project can be remedied by an independent assessor. In the event that a project has been approved without an EIA, a challenge can be raised.

    What you can do

    Command that an independent report be commissioned on the basis of the parameters as set out above, to establish whether the project is Cat A or B. By defining which category applies, you can establish whether or not it is safe.

    Key Enabler: Assets of Community Value

    What we value differs greatly, and whether we are shaped by external values and/or internal values can lead to very different outcomes. A community can establish their values collectively and document them in a number of ways (see:

    Community Bill of Rights

    What you can do:

    Create your own Community Bill of Rights to register your values. What we consider to be of value can be intrinsic as well as extrinsic. Assets need not only be the land, nor does it need to be valued in terms of profit; it can be what matters to us such as life itself.

    Why it is important:

    Community Bills of Rights have been pioneered in the US by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund ( in recent years. They are local laws to elevate the rights of communities and nature above corporate rights, and they have proved effective in empowering communities to allow them to determine whether corporate developments can proceed.

    Community Bills of Rights are an example of bottom up legal systematic change.  Where communities feel that their voices are not being heard, Community Bills of Rights redirect rights, so that people and planet are put first. This has parallels in successful rights based movements like the abolitionists and the suffragettes.

    A Community Bill of Rights changes the legal framework in two fundamental ways:

    1. it enshrines the right to local community self government by giving the local people the right to decide what happens in their communities;
    2. it recognises the rights of nature.  By identifying that nature has intrinsic value, and is not merely property a Community Bill of Rights is an example of Earth law which complements and supports law to eradicate ecocide at the international level.

    Community Charter

    The UK has it’s first Community Charter. You can read more here at

    Community Asset List

    What you can do:

    Register your valued asset.

    In the UK the new Localism Act grants communities the right to register assets of community value. This only applies to profit generating land assets, not assets that are loved for what they stand for.  If the owner of an “asset of community value” wants to make a “relevant disposal” of it’s interest, it must notify the local authority who must then notify the community group which nominated the asset. The Act requires Local Authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value which have been nominated by the local community. When listed assets come up for sale or change of ownership, the Act then gives the community groups the time to develop a bid and raise the money to bid to buy the asset when it comes on the open market. This will help local communities keep much-loved sites in public use and part of local life.


    In the UK you can contact ‘Locality’ who have a helpline:

    Locality says:

    Community assets are land and buildings owned or managed by community organisations. These assets cover a wide spectrum and include town halls, community centres, sports facilities, affordable housing and libraries.  Not all land and buildings are community assets. We believe that land and buildings are only community assets if they are capable of generating a profit that can be reinvested into activities that benefit the community.

    Why this is important:

    By listing your communities land-based assets you are making it publicly known what you value in the community and in the event that it is at risk of being lost, you have set in place a community interest.

    Key Enabler: Build Your Case

    What you can do

    Gather personal stories, photos etc by people who value your local community asset; gather expert local knowledge – these are your witnesses that you may want to call upon in the event that there is an opportunity for the community to have their say as “concerned citizens”; frame your call with the vision of the world your community wants and create pathways to alternative solutions, for example turn a fight against incinerators into a vision for zero waste from recycling (bring in the business players you want and ask them to submit documentation in support of being a viable alternative). An example of successful re-framing of an issue as a positive vision of the future is ‘Fluoride Free Kuranda.’ Council districts across Queensland, Australia, are supporting a fluoride free community. Key to this campaign’s success is it’s reframing of the story; instead of fighting against fluoride in the water, the community actively promote a flouride free community – see:

    Why this is important

    There are a number of wedges of opportunity that can arise to enable you to state your case. For instance where a community is facing a consultation process, where the community already has their case prepared, you can put in place your own consultation, present your evidence and show what your vision looks like. Invite the developers and local authority to assess your community response – on your terms (which Fluoride Free Kuranda did). This is your chance to re-frame your story and create a vision of your new world. The key is the vision – present an alternative that is so much more appealing and others will soon follow.

    Key Enabler: Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs)

    EIA’s offer a wedge of opportunity. Often they are limited in remit. This is your opportunity to re-frame the assessment – shifting it to a consequence analysis. The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) – the leading global network on best practice in the use of impact assessment for informed decision making regarding policies, programs, plans and projects. – says:

    Impact assessment, simply defined, is the process of identifying the future consequences of a current or proposed action.

    When a community is at risk of a local harm as a result of a decision that is being made by a local council/authority or by the state, often a report has been submitted. These reports are called an Environmental Impact Assessment or EIA. An EIA is not always necessary by law – each country has different rules as to when and what is required. Scoping is the stage “to identify the issues and impacts that are likely to be important and to establish terms of reference for EIA”. This opens up a wedge of opportunity for a community to present its review and realign what it values and cares about (see Annex 1 below for a summary of EIA Best Practice Guidelines).

    A key definition:

    s.78A Environmental Protection Act 1990 (UK):

    1. “Contaminated land” is any land which appears to the local authority in whose area it is situated to be in such a condition, by reason of substances in, on or under the land, that—
      1. significant harm is being caused or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused; or
      2. pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be, caused;

    A voluntary international standard is proposed by the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) – but note: this is only voluntary. It is not yet mandatory to have best practice applied. Many EIA’s fail to ask many of the questions set out here. Often it is a matter for the community to raise questions that have not been asked and this can result in answers that materially alter the outcome. In the event of a material difference being brought to light, an existing EIA can be legally challenged.


    Broadening the scope of EIAs can also benefit threatened species conservation. Instead of concentrating on the direct effects of a proposed project on its local environment some EIAs used a landscape approach which focused on much broader relationships between the entire population of a species in question. As a result, an alternative that would cause least amount of negative effects to the population of that species as a whole, rather than the local sub-population, can be identified and recommended by EIAs. (ie. identify best alternatives, such as small-scale organic farming practices)

    At the end of a project application, an EIA should be followed by an independent audit. An EIA audit evaluates the performance of an EIA by comparing actual impacts to those that were predicted. After an EIA, the precautionary and polluter pays principles may be applied to prevent, limit, or require strict liability or insurance coverage to a project, based on its likely harms.

    Why this is important

    The IAIAs best practice guidelines, if followed, will establish whether a proposed project will be harmful. All too often however, EIAs do not ask the necessary questions that, when answered fully, shine a light on the true extent of damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems that can occur.

    What you can do

    Assert your right as a concerned citizen to know the true extent of damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems that can occur and if needed call for an independent EIA. EIAs typically only highlight risks which have to be mitigated, rather than the consequences, and may set out measures to protect. This in itself rarely stops a planning application, but a more comprehensive report can flag up other issues and questions not previously addressed.

    Key Enabler: European EIA Directive

    In Europe a Directive (A Directive is a legislative act of the European Union, which requires Member States to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result), sets out overriding obligations to which every country in the EU must adhere to. That means that the 27 countries of the EU must make sure their laws adhere to the primary obligation imposed up on Member States by the Directive. Under Article 10a of the EIA Directive, taking account of the amendments introduced by Directive 2003/35 which is intended to implement the Aarhus Convention, “members of the public concerned” who fulfil certain conditions must have access to a review procedure before a court of law or another independent body make their decision.

    Size & Scale-up

    Where no EIA is required due to size of project precluding it, it can be challenged on the grounds of existing EU case law. For example, splitting of projects and cumulative effects, for example where the project is taking place in other territories or is likely to be scaled-up at a later date. The purpose of the EIA Directive cannot be circumvented by the splitting of projects and the failure to take account of the cumulative effect of several projects must not mean in practice that they all escape the obligation to carry out an assessment when, taken together, they are likely to have significant effects on the environment within the meaning of Article 2(1) of the EIA Directive (see: – click on Environmental Impact Assessment of Projects – Rulings of the Court of Justice)

    The primary obligation imposed up on Member States is contained in article 2.1 of the EIA Directive:

    adopt all measures necessary to ensure that, before consent is given, projects likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue inter alia, of their nature, size or location are made subject to an assessment with regard to their effects.

    inter alia
    Latin, meaning: among other things


    Groundwater abstraction activities are deemed hazardous for the purpose of EIAs.

    Have your say

    At the moment an improved EIA Directive is under consideration. The European Commission’s proposals for an improved EIA Directive have not yet been released (03.02.13). A new EIA Directive not expected to be agreed until 2014 at the earliest. This is your opportunity to say what you want in it.

    What you can do

    If you are resident in the EU, you can send this document to your MEP requesting that the improved EIA Directive include all the new parameters set out in this document, so that communities can be empowered to make their own informed decisions. You can find details of how to contact your MEP here: (for UK MEP’s); (for all MEPs).

    Why this is important:

    EIA’s are the cornerstone of all project development. If the wrong questions are asked, key issues are often not brought to light. By letting your MEP know that you are calling for the right questions to be asked can lay down new law which will ensure all future projects are properly assessed.

    Key Enabler: support an International law of Ecocide

    Why this is important

    A law of Ecocide will end all major development that causes mass damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems. A law of Ecocide will trigger new business that causes little or no harm  and will prioritize by law projects that are beneficial to communities. A law of Ecocide is a major game-changer. You can read more about it here:

    What you can do

    Seed out and share links on twitter, facebook and through your networks. Ask your friends to map their support (see below). Write to your Head of State asking him/her to support this law.

    Key Enabler: vote for a law of Ecocide at EU level

    An Ecocide Directive has been proposed into the EU. Usually Directives can take many years to put in place, however under a new process called the European Citizens Initiative, an Ecocide Directive has been put forward by the citizens for the people of the EU to vote.

    What you can do

    if you are an EU citizen you can vote for the Ecocide Directive at

    Why this is important:

    This is a fast-track wedge of opportunity to putting in place the laws that will stop projects that can cause significant harm. This is your chance to make sure that your future and the future of others need not be one where communities face threat of harm. Once 1 million votes are reached this year, the draft Ecocide Directive can be tabled in the European Parliament and MP’s throughout Europe will be called upon to support it. Your vote counts!

    Key Enabler: Mapping

    Why this is important

    Mapping your vision of your better world is powerful. Likewise mapping your community’s values and local assets can help empower other communities to do the same.

    What you can do

    Map your vision here

    Why this is important

    By adding your support for an international law of Ecocide and mapping your support helps connect many people with the same vision. In addition, the map creates its own wedge of opportunity; when governments see how many people are supporting a law of Ecocide they are given the enabling conditions to speak out in favor of it being put in place at an international level.

    Finally, once all of the above has been followed, make sure to look back and celebrate the day you decided to make your community a better place!

    Annex 1


    Issued by the International Association for Impact Assessment and UK Institute of
    Environmental Assessment [now the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment
    The following are essential pre-requisites for a best practice EIA:

    The EIA process should provide for:

    • Screening – to determine whether or not a proposal should be subject to EIA and, if so, at what level of detail.
    • Preparation of environmental impact statement (EIS) or report – to document the impacts of the proposal, the significance of effects, and the concerns of the interested public and the communities affected by the proposal.

    EIA operating principles of good practice and performance

    EIA should be applied:

    • to all proposals likely to cause potentially significant adverse impacts or add to actual or
    • potentially foreseeable cumulative effects;
    • to provide timely and appropriate opportunities for public and stakeholder involvement, with
    • particular attention given to indigenous peoples and other vulnerable minorities whose cultural
    • traditions and way of life may be at risk; and
    • in accordance with the legislation, procedure and guidance in force and with reference to International standards of EIA good practice.

    EIA should be undertaken:

    • throughout the project cycle, beginning as early as possible in the pre-feasibility stage; and
    • to gain the inputs and views of all those affected by or interested in the proposal and/or its
    • environmental impacts.

    EIA should address, as necessary and appropriate:

    • all relevant environmental impacts, including land use, social, cultural, economic, health and safety effects;
    • cumulative effects and area-wide, ecosystem-level and global changes that may occur as a result of the interaction of the proposal with other past, current or foreseeable activities;
    • sustainability considerations, including the effects of depletion of non-renewable resources, of exceeding the regenerative and assimilative capacity of renewable resources and of reduction of biological diversity, taking account of relevant international agreements and commitments.

    EIA should result in:

    • systematic identification of the views and inputs of those consulted, including the balance of opinion on major issues and areas of agreement and disagreement;
    • comparison of the impacts of the main alternatives considered with an environmental justification for the preferred option;
    • feasible, cost-effective measures to mitigate the main impacts identified (often called an environmental management plan)

    EIA should provide the basis for:

    • informed decision-making and project approvals, in which the terms and conditions are clearly specified and implemented;
    • design of environmentally sound and acceptable projects that meet health and environmental standards and resource management objectives;
    • appropriate follow-up, including monitoring, management and auditing, to check for unforeseen impacts or mitigation measures that do not work as intended;
    • future improvements in EIA process and practice, drawing on the information from follow up activities.

    The EIA process should provide for:

    • Screening – to determine whether or not a proposal should be subject to EIA and, if so, at what level of detail.
    • Scoping – to identify the issues and impacts that are likely to be important and to establish terms of reference for EIA.
    • Examination of alternatives – to establish the preferred or most environmentally sound option for achieving the objectives of a proposal
    • Impact analysis – to identify and predict the likely environmental, social and other related effects of the proposal.
    • Mitigation and impact management – to establish the measures that are necessary to avoid, minimise or offset predicted adverse impacts and, where appropriate, to incorporate these into an environmental management plan or system.
    • Evaluation of significance – to determine the importance or acceptability of residual impacts that cannot be mitigated.
    • Preparation of environmental impact statement (EIS) or report – to document the impacts of the proposal, the significance of effects, and the concerns of the interested public and the communities affected by the proposal.
    • Review of the EIS – to determine whether the report meets its terms of reference, provides a satisfactory assessment of the proposal(s) and contains the information required for decision-making.
    • Decision-making – to approve or reject the proposal and to establish the terms and conditions for its implementation.
    • Follow up – to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of approval; to monitor the impacts of development and the effectiveness of mitigation measures; and, where required, to undertake environmental audit and process evaluation to strengthen future EIA applications and mitigation measures and to optimise environmental management.

    ANNEX 2

    European law: some key sections

    What you can do:

    Quote these sections when needed

    Why this is important

    These are key sections that can substantially alter the outcome of any cross-application or report that a community puts in place.

    The environmental impact assessment (“EIA”) is a procedure which was introduced to implement Council Directive of 27 June 1985 (85/337/E.E.C.) on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. The Directive recites that:

    the best environmental policy consists in preventing the creation of pollution or nuisances at source, rather than subsequently trying to counteract their effects [and] affirm

    the need to take effects on the environment into account at the earliest possible stage in all technical planning and decision-making processes…

    It goes on to recite that it therefore provides for the implementation of procedures to evaluate such effects

    The general principle is said to be that:

    Whereas development consent for public and private projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment should be granted only after prior assessment of the likely significant environmental effects of these projects has been carried out; whereas this assessment must be conducted on the basis of the appropriate information supplied by the developer, which may be supplemented by the authorities and by the people who may be concerned by the project in question.

    The recitals deal with the contents of the assessment in the following terms:

    Whereas, for projects which are subject to assessment, a certain minimal amount of information must be supplied, concerning the project and its effects;

    Whereas the effects of a project on the environment must be assessed in order to take account of concerns to protect human health, to contribute by means of a better environment to the quality of life, to ensure maintenance of the diversity of species and to maintain the reproductive capacity of the ecosystem as a basic resource for life.

    The primary obligation imposed up on Member States by the Directive is contained in article 2.1. It is to:

    adopt all measures necessary to ensure that, before consent is given, projects likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue inter alia, of their nature, size or location are made subject to an assessment with regard to their effects.

    For information on the current EIA Directive see:

    For information on the European Commission Proposals to Amend the EIA Directive see