Case study Reclaiming land from Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor The Public Demands a Voice

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  Case study: Reclaiming land from Hong Kong‟s Victoria Harbor: The Public Demands a Voice I. Overview of the case Through the years Hong Kong‟s economy and population have been growing in a rapid pace. During the British rule the executive-led model of decision making reigned and a whole generation was raised in an environment where there was little space for civic involvement in policy making.1 Prior to the handover of Hong Kong to China some measures were introduced to allow some more democrati
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  1 | Page   Case study: Reclaiming land from Hong Kong‟s Victoria Harbor: The Public Demands a Voice   I. Overview of the case Through the years Hong Kong‟s economy and population have been growing in a rapid pace. During the British rule the executive-led model of decision making reigned and a wholegeneration was raised in an environment where there was little space for civic involvement inpolicy making. 1 Prior to the handover of Hong Kong to China some measures were introduced toallow some more democratic mechanism that would act as a checks and balance on theexecutive-led government. 2  To foster the economic growth, the executive-led authorities of Hong Kong explored ways toexpand its land surface and further spur economic growth through investments in infrastructureand residential and commercial real estates. A dispute between the Government and civil societyorganizations about the extent of the reclamation of Victoria Harbor emerged and impacted theprimacy of policy making in Hong Kong.The case study shows how the Hong Kong Government indicated it was willing to make initialsteps towards moving away from a view of the issue of reclamation as a competitive issue to oneof a common problem. The solution of such a common problem would be in finding a balancebetween environmental protection and urban development. 3 The quest to such a solution shouldoccur through a process that is perceived as fair, transparent and participatory by the non-government stakeholders. In order to achieve such a status it is important that the Governmentchanges its perspective of unilaterally deciding what is good for the country to actually movingto a modus of operandi that not only informs the public about its plans but allows for meaningfulengagement that involves consultation in the policy making process. II. Sequence of events with an eye on the transformation of Hong Kong to a more opengovernment 4   The reclamation of the Victoria Harbor had been taking place for years. Besides spurringeconomic development, the reclamation has also been a major revenue source for the Hong KongGovernment. Already in 1983, the Government identified the need to reclaim even more of theVictoria Harbor to accommodate vital investments in Hon g Kong‟s infrastructure. The implementation of the reclamation started in 1993 and significant progress was already made in1998. Prior to the completion of the first two phases in 1998, the public‟s attitude towards reclamation started to shift. The shift was one from regarding reclamation as a public good toone in which the preservation of Victoria Harbor became a public good. Instrumental in this shiftwas the work of an advocacy group (Society for the Protection of the Harbor, SPH) which hadthe aim to protect Victoria Harbor from any unnecessary reclamation. 1 Accountability in Hong Kong Transiting from Colony to Democracy, Thomas S. Axworthy and Herman B. Leonard, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/apcity/unpan035102.pdf   2 Decision making was primarily confined to the discretion of the executive branch though in 1995 more accountability was introduced through the establishment of the Legislative Council (LegCo). The main function of the LegCo was “ to review and approve budgets and publicexpenditures, and monitor the work of the government  .” Susan Rosegr ant, Kennedy School of Government Case Program, Reclaiming Land from Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor: The Public Demands a Voice. J.F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. 3 -4. 3   K. W. Thomas, “Conflict and Conflict Management”, in M. D. Dunette (Ed.), Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology  , Chicago:Rand McNally, 1976, pp. 889-935 4   With an open government is meant a government that is “ more accessible, responsive and transparent in its operations.”  OECD, OpenGovernment  , Paris: OECD, 2003, p.21.T. Doherty and T. Horne, Managing public services, Chapter 6 “Managing groups and leading teams in public services”, London: Routledge, 2002, 167-203  2 | Page   Phase 1: Increased access to information but primacy on policy makingThe arrival of an advocacy group such as SPH meant that the executive-led Government wasconfronted with an opponent to its policies. The SPH‟s approach towards advocating for a change in government policies was one of developing alternative approaches to the plannedreclamation. In this phase civil society and the Government were opposed to each other and the government regarded SPH‟s activities as detrimental to the Government‟s interest and thus the general public‟s interest . The government responded to the opposition by sharing moreinformation about its plans with the public.Phase 2: Introduction of consultation but primacy on policy makingIn response to a more assertive civil society and the subsequent opposition it experienced againstits proposed reclamation plan, the Government decided to allow more stakeholders to beinvolved in the consultation process. However, by largely ignoring the issues raised during theconsultation phase it only did so halfheartedly and it did not give an organization such SPH theimpression that the government was serious in reaching a mutually beneficial agreement. Facedwith a zero-sum game situation, the SPH saw itself forced to undertake legal action which itended up winning. 5  Phase 3: Opportunities for participation in policy makingThe legal defeat by the Government spurred the Government to explore ways to increaseparticipation in decision-making. It did so through the establishment of an Advisory Committeecalled the Harbor-front Enhancement Committee (HFEC) that was to “ better involve the publicin the task of designing the waterfront  .” 6 The 30-head counting advisory committee, whichconsisted of government representatives and members of civil society, was a new kind of partnership and was to work together and reach consensus on the future of the Victoria Harborfront. III. Causes of Problem: An open Government on paper does not mean one in practice  The above-described sequence of events shows how the Government became gradually moreadaptive and designed measures for greater public participation through the creation of theHFEC and by informing the general public better about its intensions with the waterfront. TheGovernment thus created mechanism to enhance measures for information, consultation andactive participation in policy making. This indicated that some progress was made in transforming the Hong Kong Government‟s executive -led style of policy making to a graduallymore open form of government that allowed for more involvement in policy making fromexternal stakeholders such as civil society organizations and other stakeholders.However, in the eyes of civil society it only did so halfheartedly. Among civil societyorganizations the fear existed that the government was not looking for true participation and thatit continued to regard civil society as an opponent instead of a partner. In that light, theestablishment of the HFEC could even be regarded as a ploy to hush any opposition. Oneincident that reinforced this perception among members of civil society was the public release of reclamation plans that were claimed to be vetted by the advisory committee. However, the HFECnever did approve those plans and it reinforced the perception among opponents of the 5 The strategic contingency theory is helpful in explaining why the government pushed through with its planned despite strong opposition.Based on legal council it felt it was within its right and as such it ignored its earlier commitment to work closer together with otherstakeholders. 6   Susan Rosegrant, Kennedy School of Government Case Program, Reclaiming Land from Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor: The Public Dema nds aVoice. J.F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. P.13.  3 | Page   reclamation that the HFEC was being used by the Hong Kong authorities to gain legitimacy forits own plans.The Government also seemed to be unwilling to review its srcinal reclamation plans andcontinued to put proposals on the table of the new partnership that did not indicate it was actuallywilling to find a mutually agreeable solution. So the Government continued to exhibit a competitive orientation which “ represents a desire to win one’s own concerns at the other’s expen  se.” 7    Fed by the previous experience in dealing with the Government this reinforced the perceptionamong some civil society organizations that the Hong Kong Government was not seriouslypursuing a partnership. Evidence of this was an observation of one of members of the anti-reclamation movement on his expectation on how the government will deal with alternative views on reclamation: “ They are going to do everything they can to ignore us and to show usup ”. 8  The Government had expressed its willingness t o move towards “ a new partnership ” that wouldenable all stakeholders to “  find consensus ” . 9 It seemed that some difference in perception existedabout the role of the new partnerships as to whether it would allow active participation or activeconsultation. As noted by the OECD active participation is rare and in an executive-ledgovernment system such as Hong Kong this might potentially undermine the Government‟s  primacy of decision making. 10 Nonetheless to engage the public through involving them activelyin the consultation phase progress can be made towards a more open form of government.However the problem is that to reach such a stage, a sense of trust among partners needs to beestablished. Related to this is the need to have an extent of similar expectations about the role of Advisory Committees. As long as perceptions are fed that one of the parties is not truly willing tofind a consensus and collaborate, a real partnership is unconceivable. As long as this is the case atrue shift from an executive-led policy making style to a more open government form of policymaking cannot be made. IV. Solution and Implementation For the Hong Kong Government to truly adopt elements of the open government form it needs tobe aware that conflicts (read difference in views on policy directions) are not to be regarded asundermining its authority nor as an attack on the Government. So it needs to prevent to look atconflicts as an us (the Government) versus them (civil society). Secondly, the government should not regard conflicts over its planned policies as “ deviant behavior that needs to be controlled  ” 11  and be aware that a more open form of government needs to establish greater flexibility and “ avoid premature commitments to a given set of objectives ” . 12   7   K. W. Thomas, “Conflict and Conflict Management”, in M. D. Dunette (Ed.), Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology  , Chicago:Rand McNally, 1976, p.891 8   Susan Rosegrant, Kennedy School of Government Case Program, Reclaiming Land from Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor: The Public Demands aVoice. J.F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. P.15. 9   Susan Rosegrant, Kennedy School of Government Case Program, Reclaiming Land from Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor: The Public Dema nds aVoice. J.F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. P.14. 10   OECD, Open Government  , Paris: OECD, 2003, p.15 11 Doherty and T. Horne, Managing public services, Chapter 6 “ Managing Groups And Leading Teams In Public Services ”, London: Routledge, 2002, p.182 12 Hal G. Rainey, Understanding and Managing Public Organizations , 4 th ed. John Wiley, 2009, 178-179.  4 | Page   Furthermore, meaningful involvement of multiple stakeholders is not to be regarded as anerosion of the Government ‟s ability to get things done but rather as an extension of its ability toget things done right. As long as conflicts are not regarded as task-related conflicts and are notdealt with in a truly collaborating or compromising way the danger exist that it will result indistorted perceptions, decrease communication and feed antagonism among the variousstakeholders.The involved stakeholders should work towards a perspective that conflicts are an opportunity tofind better solutions. The problem-solving journey the different stakeholders have to go through together are to follow Watson and McKersie‟s three steps of problem -solving: 1) identify themain concerns of the parties; 2) search for alternative solutions and map out the possible consequences; 3) identify the solution that is “ most jointly satisfying ”. 13 Joint-solutions are morelikely to be found if all stakeholders have reached a stage of a commonality of interest inresolving common problems. One way of doing so is through the identification of superordinategoals . An example of this could be „ transforming Hong Kong into an economically vibrant greenliveable sustainable city ‟ . 14 The development of such a shared vision will bring the parties closertogether and is likely to result in a better understanding of each other s‟ positions. 15  To complete the switch from a competing perspective on conflict management towards one of collaboration a set of ground-rules need to be established. 16 These ground rules could be basedon the by the OECD proposed guiding principles for successful policy making mechanism thatwould allow citizens to be actively involved in the in policy making process throughinvolvement in the consultation phase. 17  What the Hong Kong Government furthermore needs to do is the development of a set of minimum standards that would define the exact roles, conduct and procedures of government-civil society advisory committees. The to-be-developed Minimum Standards of Government-Civil Society Collaboration should also include mechanisms on how the committees will befacilitated, how the recommendations from the advisory committees will be brought to theattention of the decisions makers, and how the stakeholders will receive feedback on the finaldecision of the decision makers. 18  The Minimum Standards should be the starting point for the actual formation and approval of theground rules for each Advisory Committee. It is important that all members of AdvisoryCommittees are involved in this. The drafting of such rules would already be a good startingpoint and would likely allow certain group norms to develop. An incident such as the release of  13 R. E. Walton and R.B. McKersie, Behavioral Dilemmas In Mixed-Motive Decision-Making, Behavioral Science, September 1966  , 11 , 370-384. As found in   K. W. Thomas, “Conflict and Conflict Management”, in M. D. Dunette (Ed.), Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology  ,Chicago: Rand McNally, 1976, 904. 14   With superordinate goals is meant: “ goals which are compelling and highly appealing to members of two or more groups in conflict but whichcannot be attained by the resources and energies of the groups separately  .” Muzafer Sherif, Superordinate Goals in the Reduction of Intergroup Conflict, The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 63, No. 4. (Jan., 1958), 349-356.http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-9602%28195801%2963%3A4%3C349%3ASGITRO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-6 Dr Johanna Wolf , “ Motivating transitions: The possibilities and pitfalls of modifying behavior”  http://www.globalcentres.org/projects/longhaul_pdfs/Wolf_Energy_transitions_and_behaviour.pdf   15 Hal G. Rainey, Understanding and Managing Public Organizations , 4 th ed. John Wiley, 2009. P.379. 16 T. Doherty and T. Horne, Managing public services, Chapter 6 “ Managing Groups And Leading Teams In Public Services ”, London: Routledge, 2002, 167-203. 17 OECD, Open Government  , Paris: OECD, 2003, 19. 18 This section is based on recommendations of Working Group 2a, “ Report Of Working Group «Consultation and Participation of CivilSociety» ” , June 2001, White Paper on European Governance Work Area n° 2 Handling the Process of Producing and Implementing CommunityRules.http://ec.europa.eu/governance/areas/group3/report_en.pdf  
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