On the governmental use of multi-criteria analysis

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Abstract

Public decision making, especially about our natural environment, is inherently exposed to a high conflict potential. The necessity to capture the complex context has led to an increasing request for decision analytic techniques as support for the decision process. Multi-criteria analysis (MCA) is deemed to overcome the shortcomings of traditional decision-support tools used in economics, such as cost-benefit (CBA) or cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA). This is due, among other, to its ability of dealing with qualitative criteria (e.g. sensitive ecological factors), as well as with uncertainties about current or future impacts. Unlike CBA or CEA, MCA is rarely required by national laws or directives. Nonetheless, a number of recent MCA applications were supported by public authorities who either initiated or directly participated in such analyses. Given the theoretical assumptions about MCA's potential to support complex decision problems, as is often the case for environmental or sustainability policies, the key concern in our paper is to evaluate whether this potential has already been recognised in public decision making. The present work focuses on real-life case studies reported during the last decade with an insight in the initiation, the actors involved and the importance of the MCA results in the decision process.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-307
JournalEcological Economics
Volume62
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007

Keywords

  • Multi-criteria analysis, Cost-benefit analysis, Public decision making, Governance, Participation

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