The CNDP : Background and mandate

According to the law, the CNDP (National Commission for Public Débate) is involved in the planning of all major structural projects, on the condition that these are in the national interest and are socio-economically important, or significantly affect the environment or land planning. These projects can be sponsored by the government, by local authorities, by state-owned companies or by the private sector.

The CNDP’s mandate is to ensure that the public is able to participate in the planning of these projects.

Public Hearings

The introduction of public hearings into the French legal system was the result of Article 2 of the law of 2 February 1995 regarding the reinforcement of environmental protection, the so-called Barnier Law, and implementing decree 96-388 of 10 May 1996. Its importance has been reinforced  by Article 134 of the law of 27 February 2002 regarding democracy in proximity and by implementing decree  2002-1275  of  22  October  2002,  regarding  the  organisation  of  public  hearings  and  the National Commission for Public Hearings, amended by law 2010-788 of 12 July 2010, setting out the nation’s commitment to the environment.

A public hearing is therefore a procedure provided for by law , which allows the public to have a say in the decision-making process.

The rules for a public hearing are: direct expression by the public, a reply to every question, regardless of who asked it, and coherent replies.

Whatever the subject of the hearing, it must be clearly defined and the following fields must be left open:

  • discussion on the timeliness of the project,
  • examination of the variants,
  • discussion on every aspect.


The law of 27 February 2002 regarding democracy in proximity grants the National Commission for Public Hearings (CNDP) the status of Independent Administrative Authority (AAI). The purpose of this status is to establish the legitimacy and independence of the body, providing the public with guarantees as to the impartiality, transparency and sincerity of the public hearing.

Said independence is guaranteed simultaneously by the composition of the CNDP, the way in which it is organised and its procedural rules, as well as by the autonomy of its operating means.

The law does not grant the CNDP any legal powers to regulate or sanction, but it makes decisions which the Project Owners should take into serious consideration, issues opinions and puts forward recommendations; the mission entrusted to it is similar to that of issuing legal opinions in the  matter of public participation.

The CNDP's missions

The  CNDP's  primary  mission  is  to  decide  whether  a  public  hearing  should  be  held  regarding projects referred to it by the Project Owners.

Under the environmental code, it has several additional roles and missions:

  • to  promote  public  participation  in  the  process  of  preparing  development  and infrastructure projects that are of national interest to the Government, local authorities, public establishments and private individuals;
  • to determine the methods of public participation in the projects referred to it;
  • to ensure that good conditions are maintained in order that the public be kept informed while the projects are underway;
  • to advise the competent authorities and Project Owners, at their request, on any matter relating to the consultation with the public throughout the preparation and execution of a project;
  • to issue any opinion or recommendation of a general or specific nature with a view to encouraging and cultivating consultation with the public.

The objectives of the public debate

The public debate is a proces which provides citizens with new means of participation. its role is :

  • To inform the public about the project submitted for public debate
  • To allow the public to express itself
  • To brief the project management team

The goal of the public debate is to to socialize and endorse decision-making.

The running of the CNDP: the public debate process and the means for public participation

To know more about the CNDP, download the brochure of the National Commission

A public hearing is not a public inquiry