Establishment and implementation of an effective consultative process with concerned groups of society would ensure that the formulation and decision-making of all programme components were based on a nationwide consultative process drawing on community meetings, regional workshops and national seminars, as appropriate. It would also ensure that views of women and men on needs, perspective and constraints were equally reflected in programme design and that solutions were rooted in specific experience. The poor and underprivileged would be priority groups in this process.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
Agenda 21 recommends that international efforts such as the Urban Management Programme, in cooperation with multilateral and bilateral agencies, should continue to assist the developing countries in their efforts to develop a participatory structure by mobilizing the human resources of the private sector, non-governmental organizations and the poor, particularly women and the disadvantaged.
Hameenlinna is a good example of the highly participatory approach to environmental health (EH) project implementation adopted in Finland. In 1996 the local public health federation started work on a local Agenda 21 project. One key aim was to increase community participation in EH activities. The work started with a programme of seminars for local associations, municipal officers, businesses and the general public. Following these seminars in the city, six groups were formed to give further consideration to six EH topics: biodiversity; land use and traffic; water; air and noise; wastes; and environmental awareness. Each group investigated its topic and set targets and measures to achieve sustainable development. It was found that this multi-partner approach yielded clear results and improvements, especially where the subject areas were clearly understood and activities were correctly implemented.