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Principles for decision making in complex issues

These are the Valdoc principles for decision making in complex issues:

1. A multi-perspective starting point

As issues are discussed in public, various points of view crystallize - they may even become congealed. Crystallization usually takes the form of "frames". Interests, emotions, values, cognitive styles and ingrained ways of thinking cause groups to frame issues by defining what each issue is really about. Once a person or a group has established a frame for a disputed issue, that frame affects the notions of what evidence is relevant and what considerations should be declared out of bounds. This often leads to a great deal of unprofitable discussion, premature closure, and lack of attention to minority views. Such narrow framing, which can be technical or social, should be avoided. Procedures should allow a wide range of participants to take part representing diverse perspectives on the issues at hand.

2. Stretching capacity

Opening stakeholders to new perspectives requires procedures for elucidating the issues from all possible angles. For example, the arguments of a proponent of a certain project must be tested from different perspectives and alternative solutions must be discussed, as well as alternative outcomes. The procedures should have the capacity to evaluate factual issues, uncertainties, value-laden and ethical issues. They should also offer the possibility to evaluate the authenticity of decision-makers, participating stakeholders and the experts, and to reveal hidden agendas. This is part of the Riscom Model. 

3. Impartiality and fairness

Procedures for awareness and transparency must be perceived as impartial – intellectually neutral as to ideology and with no vested interest. There is a danger that someone controlling the process can use it for concealed strategic action. Therefore, there needs to be a guardian of the process, being trusted  to maintain dialogue and transparency. Fairness also means that participants must have a real possibility to influence rules and agendas. Agreeing upon and making public the “rules of the game” among the parties involved as early in the process as possible, is an important element of transparency. Different viewpoints must be given opportunities to participate in the debate. Fairness also means giving the process sufficient time for the lay people to have a real influence and giving them recourses for participation.

4. Publicity

Without access to the mass media, public discourse for awareness creation and stretching can not take place. Public discourse should be a necessary means for political decision-makers to secure valid and relevant information.  It should also provide means for the public to gain insight and influence.  Finally, it would reveal the reasons behind decisions made, which means that the decision-makers themselves must participate openly.  Success in this respect would rely on the normative force of public opinion and on the capacity of the procedures to create social pressure to cooperate.