De l'usage du principe de précaution en univers controversé

This article is published in Futuribles journal no.239, février-mars 1999

The Precautionary Principle in Controversial Universe
A new normative reference has emerged for a few years on the environmental scene, the precautionary principle. It started to get some acknowledgement by international law and even by some national laws. Some analysts see in this principle a source of new binding obligations for civil servants not to authorise an activity if there lies some doubt about a possible health or environmental threat. In that case, it would provide a straightforward tool to put an end to indecision and entangled loops of scientific and social controversies. But this interpretation is shown not to correspond to explicit law definitions and to be quite inappropriate.
In controversial universes the principle does not appear as a tool for reducing uncertainty but as a way to maintain it alive in society as a question calling for new collective procedures able to give a practical translation to precautionary requirements. The precautionary principle is there to lead social agents to explicitly address environmental risks. Two alternative ways can be followed: a process of decision-making based on expertise and one based on “democratic” procedures implying public debates and citizen participation. Is it possible to avoid to be lock in the old- time conflict between them? Looking at the roles experts are playing shows which issues should be made more accessible to democratic procedures and organised public debate.

#Environnement EN #Environnement. Ressources naturelles