The governance for SD principles “horizontal policy integration” and “participation” refer to (governmental and non-governmental) actor involvement throughout the whole policy cycle. The paper investigated the degree of actors’ involvement during the design and implementation of the respective NMS
6.2.1. Participation of Actors in Strategy Design
Depending on where mineral policy was situated in the administration of the respective country, the Ministry of Environment (GR: Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, PT: General Directorate of Natural Resources, Security and Maritime Services) or the Ministry of Economics (Austria, Finland and Sweden) had the main responsibility for the policy design process.
The five countries are characterised by different degrees of actor collaboration during the NMS design phase: (1) “exclusive”/”limited”; (2) “partially inclusive”/”medium”; and (3) “fully inclusive”/”broad” strategy development processes. These categories refer to the degree of involvement of: (i) “governmental organisation actors” (GO actors i.e., ministries); and (ii) “non-governmental actors” (Non-GO i.e., industry, academic and private research institutions, and civil society organisations, such as environmental NGOs). Figure 3
depicts the analysis categories in a two-dimensional graph.
NB: x-axis analysis category “GO (ministry) actor involvement”: Exclusive development (cooperation with only one other ministry); Partially inclusive development (two other ministries); fully Inclusive development (more than 2 ministries); SE was characterised by development process involving all ministries; y-axis analysis category “Non-GO actor involvement” (also including non-ministry government organisations such as local and regional authorities): Limited external involvement (industry; research—public or private; public body—only geological survey); medium external involvement (in addition other public bodies such as regional or local authorities, environmental agencies etc.); Broad external involvement (in addition other CSO stakeholders such as labour associations, environmental and social civil society organisations etc.).
The “exclusive” and “limited” design approach applied by the Greek Ministry of Environment involved only a limited number of GO and Non-GO actors. For example, only one industry association and two academic institutions have been involved in the NMS design process. The Greek interviewee explained that, because of the concentration of competences, the sole responsibility for developing the NMS was within one ministry: “[…] in the same ministry, we could solve the problems of mining from an economical, technological and environmental point of view”.
Contrastingly, the Swedish NMS is characterised as being fully “inclusive” and uses a “broad” design approach. Not only have all government ministries been consulted and involved, but also a broad variety of Non-GO actors, covering industry, academic and private research, as well as civil society and environmental organisations. Essentially, as pointed out by the Swedish interviewee, policy-making processes in Sweden are characterised by a strong focus on collaborative approaches in the sense that “it is never one ministry which takes the decision; […] in order to put forward a project like this, all the ministries have to approve”.
Given the variety of different GO and Non-GO actors involved, the respective responsible ministries developed different coordination mechanisms (i.e., negotiating the content, commenting on drafts and providing expertise). For example, Greece applied a rather lose form of coordination by establishing informal ad-hoc and on-demand meetings between public administrators and Non-GO actors involved. Contrastingly, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Portugal set up coordination mechanisms on a regular and pre-established basis (i.e., official meetings, such as internal working groups or plenary meetings). In the case of Sweden and Finland, decisions on high level political meetings, such as steering groups chaired by permanent ministry secretaries (FI) or ministers (SE), steered the work of these meetings. Essentially, interviewees from Sweden and Finland reported that high level political meetings positively affected commitment during later stage implementation, as “the steering group secured continued implementation efforts without budget allocation”.
Both Austria and Finland are characterised by a “partially inclusive” design approach, involving two ministries (FI: the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Employment and the Economy) in the process, but a varying degree of Non-GO involvement. Remarkably, in Finland, while not originally planned, Non-GO involvement increased considerably during later stage implementation: The Finnish interviewee described that during the policy design stage, the responsible ministry was not aware of the role environmental NGOs could play, for example, in facilitating a social license to operate. The interviewee explained that “[we thought], environmental issues were [sufficiently] covered by the Ministry of Environment and environmental authorities”. The major impetus for involving Non-GO actors in the later stage originated in public debate: “In the years following the adoption of the 2010 strategy […] the social license to operate principle became quite prominent in the public sphere—especially through the media—and, thus, NGOs and representatives of indigenous people have been involved in the further policy process (i.e., the 2013 action plan)”. On the contrary, the Austrian approach intentionally and ex-ante decided to involve a variety of Non-GOs, as “mining and mineral extraction affairs are a sensitive case in Austria and, thus, it was very helpful to bring nearly all stakeholders together on one table […] to facilitate required acceptance in long and intense sessions and negotiations”.
While Portugal, Austria, and Sweden all shared a “broad” participation of Non-GO actors, the means of involvement during the design stage varied: In Austria, for example, an institutionalised form of involvement of business/industry associations and labour unions in the policy decision-making process (“Sozialpartnerschaft”) played an important role for bringing in Non-GO perspectives. On the other hand, Sweden and Portugal engaged in a more deliberate and loose way of involvement: For example, the Swedish coordinating ministry organised four dialogue meetings and sent out requests for written feedback to 300 organisations, in order to “have as many people as possible attending and that anyone could provide input”.
According to Prno and Slocombe [64
] and Zhang and Moffat [5
], the reasoning and benefits behind such multi-actor approaches are manifold: Involvement of different actors, as in the case of Portugal, Sweden and Austria, has the potential to bring the most controversial issues ex-ante into the policy debate and problem formulation process and, consequently, anticipate or mitigate potentially conflicting developments. The Swedish interviewee also indicated that “of course there were conflicting opinions between ministries during the design of the strategy, but such conflicts had to be resolved before the strategy was adopted at the ministerial meeting and, thus, became a governmental decision”. Similarly, the Austrian interviewee reported that “reaching acceptance required long and intense sessions and negotiations with stakeholders”. However, broad actor involvement fulfilled a dual purpose with regard to: (i) expertise by “bringing experts of the respective stakeholder groups together to analyse the topics at hand”; and (ii) legitimisation by “bringing nearly all stakeholders together at one table, and, especially, those that are usually opposed to mineral extraction […]”.
6.2.2. Participation of Non-GO Actors in Strategy Implementation
The paper subsequently explored the extent to which Non-GOs are taken on board during the implementation of actions of the respective NMS. The author identified three different approaches for strategy implementation and the role Non-GOs play: (1) “on-demand collaborative implementation”; (2) “shared but differentiated implementation”; and (3) “consult-and-forget implementation”. With regards to “on-demand collaborative implementation”, the Greek NMS was mainly implemented by ministries (i.e., Ministry of Environment supported by other ministries where responsibilities overlap), while Non-GOs were involved on an ad-hoc and on-demand basis in consultation procedures or committees. The Austrian NMS presents a similar case: The interviewee argued that Non-GO involvement was limited to a supportive role during the policy design phase due to the fact that responsibility for implementing the main policy instrument (i.e., land use planning) was not located on national ministerial level, but rather on the level of the nine Austrian regions.
An implementation approach with a higher degree of Non-GO involvement, “shared but differentiated implementation”, was applied in the NMS of Sweden and Portugal: The Swedish government appointed other public authorities (e.g., geological survey innovation agencies, regional authority) responsible for implementation of individual actions, supported by a range of Non-GO actors. More specifically, the government provided the framework conditions (i.e., financing, goals and targets, time-frames, monitoring), whereas public authorities enjoyed a considerable degree of freedom and independence during the implementation process. However, the Swedish interviewee pointed out that the government advises the authorities to “[…] consult with the relevant stakeholders [...] and in some cases [we] mention with which stakeholders [we] want the authorities to collaborate with”. A similar approach was applied in Portugal, where GO actors are fully responsible for individual actions, while Non-GO actors play a supportive role during implementation.
In contrast to the design phase, Finland’s NMS allowed for the highest level of involvement and autonomy during implementation compared to the other four cases. Generally, the responsibility for implementing action proposals (outlined in the 2013 action plan) is split between different Non-GO actors. Government steering is limited, insofar as the action plan only comprises non-binding advice on the actors’ involvement and provides opportunities for new actors entering action proposals. Actors leading proposals make up a broad variety, such as industry associations or environmental NGOs. As outlined in the previous section, the major impetus for involving Non-GOs in the later implementation stage came from the public sphere and the media. Finland, Sweden and Portugal featured less inclusive actor participation during NMS implementation than design.
Since primary extraction challenges necessitate such multi-actor approaches (see also [4
]), these policy strategies, on the one hand, contribute to increased legitimacy for steering, and, on the other hand, facilitate implementation of individual actions. More specifically, as outlined by several authors [11
], establishing more inclusive participation can positively impact, for example, on public perception of mining or the social license to operate. Conversely, while the Greek NMS identifies conflicts with local communities for on-going and future mining projects as one of the major drivers for its inception, Non-GO involvement during both design and implementation remained limited. Following these arguments, this might have future ramifications on building trust for a social license to operate.