The concept and practice of participation has travelled a long distance, since its modest introduction to the development discourse. A lot has been learnt on participation from the practices of Civil Society Organisations and Voluntary Development Organisations over the last four decades. Reckoning with this practice based knowledge the governments, donors, corporations and other actors have also engaged in supporting and promoting participation. Notwithstanding that a lot has been achieved in institutionalisation of participation, still a lot has remained as rhetoric.
In the decades of 70’s and 80’s much of the participation was expressed through many popular movements on the issues of environment and access to and control over natural resources like land, water, forests and other mineral resources, which was often called ‘popular participation’. The decades of 80’s and 90’s experienced the practice and discourse on participation in projects and programmes of the governments as well as those of international development agencies often implemented by the Voluntary Development Organisations. These decades also experienced engaged and vociferous advocacy by the practitioners of participation for the scaling up, mainstreaming and institutionalising participation in development policy, programmes and institutions. Since the middle of 90’s and throughout the last decade of 20th Century the discourses on governance, citizenship, civil society, and so on influenced the discourse on participation. Many practitioners viewed this as forward movement of the discourse on ‘participation in project’ to ‘participation in governance’. The introduction of decentralisation and revitalisation of local governance institutions deepened this discourse to a large extent. The first decade of the millennium experienced somewhat a ‘resurrection’ of the discourse on ‘deepening democracy’. The vitality of this discourse is of critical importance to the practitioners and advocates of citizen participation for a variety of reasons:
First, the citizens are increasingly getting disillusioned with the institutions of representative democracy, particularly those which are represented by the political parties. These institutions are increasingly being viewed as unresponsive and incompetent to fulfil the aspirations of citizens.
Second, in recent times, there has been an upsurge of ‘eruptions’ of citizen movements often supported by civil societies. As many public institutions are failing to ensure safety, security, justice and transparent and accountable governance, the citizens, particularly women, youth, dalits, tribals, are expressing their agony, frustrations, and anger through these ‘eruptions’ of movements.
Third, a considerable number of citizens and civil societies, equipped with new information and awareness, are increasingly becoming vigilante of the state and private corporations. Democracy, according to them, is not only casting on the ballot once in five years, but it’s a 24x7 initiative. The realisation of citizenship rights and entitlements cannot be left to the state alone. The state and private corporations must be held accountable for their performance, conducts and outcomes.
In light of this discourse, Logo Link - Learning Initiative on Citizen Participation in Local Governance has initiated the formulation of a “Global Charter on Right to Participation in Local Democracy”. It is envisaged that the Global Charter will enable deepening of citizen participation in local democracy by scaling-up, mainstreaming and institutionalising citizen participation in all spheres of democratic governance. The preparation of Global Charter will catalyse numerous deliberations involving a range of stakeholders – citizen leaders, practitioners, civil society organisations, policy makers, elected representatives, media, academia, and so on. This will act as bridging initiative between civil society, local, sub-national and national governments, political society, private sector, bilateral and multilateral institutions and other stakeholders.
Logo Link is a global network of practitioners from civil society organisations, research institutions and governments created to stimulate and support civil society organisations and networks to engage in citizen participation and social control of public policies at the local level. During its 10-year existence, it has contributed to the achievement and consolidation of citizen participation and social control in processes and in public institutions (www.logolink.org).
With this backdrop, PRIA (India), Wave Foundation (Bangladesh) and Logo Link –jointly announce the “Consultation on Right to Participation in Local Democracy” to be held on 6 June 2013 at Dhaka.
It is expected that the Consultation will explore answers to various complex issues and questions including:
What is the meaning of real participation and why is it important to local democracy? What motivates citizens and civil society to participate? What are the pre-conditions of authentic participation? Where are the spaces for participation? How are the voices of marginalised women, youth and other excluded incorporated in the local democratic processes?
The consultation will provide a platform to civil society, activists, and citizen leader’s to share their experiences and insights to the critical issues and challenges of citizen participation.
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