The main policy areas

MCA studies have been applied as policy formulation tools across a number of policy areas (see examples in Table 6.1), most notably environment,

Table 6.1 Examples of MCA: methods used, degree of stakeholder involvement and decision level

Examples of MCA: methods used, degree of stakeholder involvement and decision level

Source: Adapted from: Gamper and Turcanu (2007).

public transport, health, and natural and man-made hazards. Probably the widest application of MCA for public policy can be found in environmental decision making. It has been applied to water and forest use and resources issues in Germany, South Africa and China (Messner et al. 2006; Joubert et al. 1997; Ananda and Hearth 2005; Arondel and Girardin 2000; Wu et al. 2012), fishery governance in Australia (Dichmont et al. 2013), protection against natural hazards in Bangladesh (Haque et al. 2012), management of urban wastewater in Australia (Tjandraatmadja et al. 2013), evaluation of policy options for greenhouse gas emissions reduction in Peru (Borges and Villavicencio 2004) and energy policies in Italy and the USA (Cavallaro and Ciraolo 2005; Hobbs and Horn 1997).

Other public policy areas where MCA has been quite frequently applied are public health and infrastructure. For example, Bana e Costa et al. (2001) have analyzed the case of a Portuguese railway line, van Gennip et al. (1997) used MCA to rank the most common diseases in the Netherlands in order to come up with a prioritization strategy for the government's financing of public health, while Del Rio Vilas et al. (2013) applied MCA as a decision-support tool for the Veterinary Risk Group in the UK.

Formal Requirements Prescribing MCA

In contrast to other tools (such as CBA) which are frequently legally prescribed (for example in large infrastructure projects in the Netherlands or the United Kingdom especially) and for natural hazard management (for example, in Austria, Switzerland), MCA has not received such widespread legal backing. Gamper and Turcanu (2007) identify some of the difficulties linked to the application of MCA at governmental level, including the variety of MCA tools which makes standardization problematic; the difficult inter-comparison of case studies (different methods may yield different results) and the technical complexity of MCA modelling. A recent survey by Adelle et al. (2011) among 124 specialists in charge of Impact Assessment showed that only 6 per cent thought that the use of MCA is encouraged in their country, while this rose to 27 per cent for monetary evaluation tools such as CBA and CEA (see also Chapter 9, this volume).

Nevertheless, some notable examples of legal requirement for MCA do exist. For example, the Italian law for public works (ANAC 2011) stipulates that project selection should be done using a multi-attribute value method, ELECTRE, or any other MCA method recognized in the scientific literature (AHP, TOPSIS, and so on). Another example can be found in Spain where the acquisition of data-processing equipment by the central public administration offices has to be conducted based on MCA (Barba-Romero 2001). According to Joubert et al. (1997), MCA is also implicitly required by law in the USA for water resource planning. The increased focus on MCA is currently reflected by the inclusion of the tool in policy guidance documents elaborated at governmental level (Dodgson et al. 2000; Brooks et al. 2009). For instance, Brooks et al. (2009, p. 46) recommend MCA as 'particularly suitable for participatory decision making'.

A number of European Union and United Nations documents currently recommend the use of MCA. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), for example, recommends MCA if evaluation criteria cannot (easily) be accommodated in monetary evaluation (UNFCCC 2002) and FAO (the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization) proposes cost-utility analysis based on an additive utility model for the evaluation of food quality systems as an alternative to other tools such as CBA (Krieger et al. 2007).

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