Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 433–452 | Cite as

Consensus Building and Sustainability: Some Lessons From an Adverse Local Experience in Greece

  • Kalliopi SapountzakiEmail author
  • Louis Wassenhoven


The paper focuses on the example of a local island community in Greece, to illustrate the difficulties of effective consensus building, in support of sustainable policies. In the first section the issue of sustainability and the importance of participation are discussed, before moving to a brief outline of the nature of participation and its sources since the 1960s. It follows an analysis of the epistemological framework of consensus building process which is considered as the most integrated and sophisticated version of participatory planning. This analysis serves as a background for judging the appropriateness of consensus building for the resolution of an environmental problem harassing a Greek island community. It is about the problem of water availability and management in the small Aegean island of Leros. The paper shows how illegal practices in the use of water, administrative fragmentation and confusion over knowledge of the problem and its solutions lead to divisions in the stakeholder groups and to obstacles in the way of participation. The intrinsic problems embedded in Greek (and probably not alone) society and political culture, which prevent collective action and participation, account in part for the anticipated risk of unwelcome, illegitimate outcomes of a potential consensus building process. Nevertheless, if communicative planning is to gain universal acceptance, it should first resolve some critical theoretical and practical shortcomings related to its normative, ethical and philosophical assumptions.


communicative planning communicative rationality consensus building Greece participation sustainability water policies in the Mediterranean region water shortage 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Agrawal, A. 1995‘Dismantling the divide between indigenous and scientific knowledge’Development and Change26413439Google Scholar
  2. Baker, S. 2000‘The European Union: Integration, competition, growth and sustainability’Lafferty, W.M.Meadowcroft, J. eds. Implementing Sustainable DevelopmentOxfordOxford University Press303336Google Scholar
  3. Brown, P., Mikkelson, E 1990No Safe Place: Toxic waste Leukemia and Community ActionUniversity of California PressBerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  4. Buttimer, A. 1972‘Community’Stewart, M. eds. The City: Problems of PlanningHarmondsworthPenguin195216Google Scholar
  5. Campbell, S.Fainstein, S. eds. 1996Readings in Planning TheoryOxfordBlackwellGoogle Scholar
  6. Carew-Reid, J,  et al. 1994Strategies for National Sustainable DevelopmentLondonEarthscan PublicationsGoogle Scholar
  7. Carpenter, S.L., Kennedy, W.J.D. 1991Managing Public Disputes: A Practical Guide to Handling Conflict and Reaching AgreementsJossey-Bass Management Series, Jossey-BassSan FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  8. Cockburn, C. 1977The Local StatePluto PressLondonGoogle Scholar
  9. Council of European Communities: 1993, ‘Towards Sustainability: A European Community programme of policy and action in relation to the environment and sustainable development’, Official Journal of the European Communities, NoC138/17.5.1993.Google Scholar
  10. Craven, E. 1978‘Issues on representation’Davies, R.Hall, P. eds. Issues in Urban SocietyPenguinHarmondsworth242267Google Scholar
  11. Darke, R.,  et al. 2000‘Public participation, equal opportunities, planning policies and decisions’Allmendinger, P. eds. Introduction to Planning PracticeWileyChichester385412Google Scholar
  12. Eddison, P.A. 1972‘Comprehensive planning for local government’Stewart, M. eds. The City: Problems of PlanningPenguinHarmondsworth409424Google Scholar
  13. Fagence, M. 1977Citizen Participation in PlanningPergamon PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Fischer, F.Forester, J. eds. 1993The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and PlanningDuke University PressNC and LondonGoogle Scholar
  15. Friedland, R. 1982Power and Crisis in the CityMacmillanLondonGoogle Scholar
  16. Gans, H.J. 1972People and PlansPenguinHarmondsworthGoogle Scholar
  17. Gibson, M.S., Langstaff, M.J. 1982An Introduction to Urban RenewalHutchinsonLondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Grindle, M., Thomas, J. 1991Public Choices and Policy ChangeJohns Hopkins University PressBaltimoresGoogle Scholar
  19. Habermas, J. 1981The Theory of Communicative Action: Reason and the Rationalization of Society (T. McCarthy Trans.)Beacon PressBostonGoogle Scholar
  20. Habermas, J. 1984The Theory of Communicative ActionBeacon PressBostonGoogle Scholar
  21. Habermas, J. 1989The Theory of Communicative Action. Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason (T. McCarthy Trans.)Beacon PressBostonGoogle Scholar
  22. Harter, P.J. 1997‘Fear of commitment: an affliction of adolescents’Duke Law Journal4613891428Google Scholar
  23. Haughton, G. 1999‘Environmental justice and the sustainable city’Satterthwaite, D. eds. The Earthscan Reader in Sustainable CitiesEarthscan PublicationsLondon6279Google Scholar
  24. Hill, M. eds. 1993The Policy Process: A ReaderHemel HempsteadHarvester WheatsheafGoogle Scholar
  25. Innes, J.E. 1990Knowledge and Public Policy: The Search for Meaningful Indicators [Transaction Books, Introduction]2RutgersNew Brunswick, NJGoogle Scholar
  26. Innes, J.E., Booher , D.E. 1999‘Consensus Building and Complex Adaptive Systems–A Framework for Evaluating Collaborative Planning’Journal of the American Planning Association65412423Google Scholar
  27. Innes, J.E. 1998‘Information in Communicative Planning’Journal of the American Planning Association645263Google Scholar
  28. Irwin, A.Wynne,  B. eds. 1996Misunderstanding Science? The Public Reconstruction of Science and technologyCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  29. McKay, D.H., A.W, Cox 1979The Politics of Urban ChangeCroom HelmLondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Moore, Ch.W. 1987The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict Jossey-Bass Social and Behavioral Science Series no. 11Jossey-BassSan FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  31. Municipal Water Supply and Sewerage Company of Leros: 2000, Statistical data on water consumption.Google Scholar
  32. NTUA (National Technical University of Athens)2001A Spatial Plan for the Sustainable Management of Water Resources in Northern Dodecanese Report of a research projectINTERREG IIC, Ministry for the Economy and FinanceAthensGoogle Scholar
  33. Ostrom, E. 1990Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective ActionCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  34. Rein, M. 1972‘Social planning: The search for legitimacy’Stewart, M. eds. The City: Problems of PlanningPenguinHarmondsworth425452Google Scholar
  35. Saunders, P. 1983Urban Politics: A Sociological InterpretationHutchinsonLondonGoogle Scholar
  36. Susskind, L., Cruikshank, J 1987Breaking the Impasse: Consensual Approaches to Resolving Public DisputesBasic BooksNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  37. Susskind, L., Field, P 1996Dealing with An Angry Public: The Mutual Gains Approach to Resolving DisputesThe Free PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. Wassenhoven, L.: 2002, ‘Is there still a theory of spatial planning?’, in Proceedings of the 10th Panhellenic Architectural Conference: Architecture and the Greek City in the 21st Century, Technical Chamber of Greece, pp. 393–399 (in Greek).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyHarokopion University of AthensAthensGreece
  2. 2.Research Laboratory for Spatial planning and Urban Development, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Faculty of ArchitectureNational Technical University of AthensAthensGreece

Personalised recommendations