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The Unintended Negative Consequences of Government Actions and Initiatives in Selected Environmental, Social and Economic Domains: Opportunities for Co-construction Approaches

Christopher R. BRYANT1, Chérine AKKARI2, Antonia D. BOUSBAINE3, Kénel DELUSCA4, Oumarou DAOUDA5, Mamadou A. SARR6, Madani AZZEDDINE7
1University of Guelph, Ontario Agricultural College, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, Ontario, CANADA
2 University of Montréal, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Montréal, CANADA
3 University of Liège, Department of Geography, Laboratory LAPLEC, Liège, BELGIUM
4 Institute of Science, Technology and Advanced Studies of Haiti, Cap Haitien, HAITI
5 United Nations Development Program, Program Analyst, Senior Technical Advisor, Brazzaville, REPUBLIC OF CONGO
6 Centre de Suivi Écologique, Dakar, SENEGAL
7 University of Djilali Bounaama Khemis Miliana, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, Department of Human Sciences, Khemis Miliana, ALGERIA
E-mail:,,, omardaouda@,,
Pages: 79-88

Abstract. Governments are frequently involved in dealing with major environmental, social and economic issues, often with the stated intention of improving the situation of population directly concerned. However, many government interventions have also led to unintended negative consequences. Using selected issues particularly relating to agriculture, coastal communities and adaptation to climate change and variability, a conceptual framework is first presented. This focuses on the types of unintended negative consequences as well as their underlying causes. Some of the underlying causes relate to the lack of governments’ understanding of how people in different territories have different priorities and act accordingly. A major approach for improving this situation is to develop co-construction processes leading to the creation of policies, programmes and initiatives. Co-construction involves integrating the extensive knowledge of the many legitimate actors who frequently have not been involved by governments in the development of policies, programs and initiatives. This involvement can involve citizens or their representatives, and should include the whole range of legitimate interests in what is being discussed, planned and put into action. In this article, brief reference is also made to unintended positive consequences of government action, but the focus is on the unintended negative consequences of government action. The article is based upon a wide range of research projects involving the different authors, including sequences of research projects in both developed and developing countries as well as drawing upon results from the research literature.

K e y w o r d s:  government intervention, unintended consequences, co-construction of interventions, agriculture, climate change adaptation, coastal communities