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Abstract

A trans-national public consultation on climate change was held in 38 countries to provide citizen input to the 2009 UN Framework on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP15) meeting in Copenhagen. The uniform process involving 100 citizens in the participating countries focused on the key policy questions debated by participating countries. Based on the Canadian experience with this consultation and interviews with 13 other project managers primarily from developing countries, this paper explores several areas of tension: the tensions between the goals of uniformity and standardization versus recognition and accommodation of cultural complexities; the global versus local contexts; public ‘deficits’ versus capacities and capacity-building; the importance of tailoring for policy impacts versus exploring the values behind policy choices; and the complexities afforded by the issue itself. The paper concludes that these tensions are unavoidable in public consultations in transnational governance contexts involving global issues. These tensions need to be explicitly recognized and accommodated, while acknowledging the continuing importance of public consultation experiments in these transnational contexts.

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