27, March, 2014

ELLA Learning Alliance on Citizen Oversight – Module 3: Improving Government Accountability through Mechanisms for Citizen Participation

Module 3 discussed how Latin American participatory mechanisms have improved government accountability, increased involvement of civil society in decision-making processes and strengthened alliances between citizens and their representatives.

This document summarises conclusions drawn from the third module of an ELLA online Learning Alliance (LEA) on Citizen Oversight of Public Policies, during which participants andexperts discussed how citizen participation mechanisms can strengthen the social contract, a crucial element in any democratic system. Several Latin American case studies were shared to demonstrate how mechanisms such as ICTs and Citizen Report Cards can facilitate citizen oversight of public institutions and policy. A second set of case studies was also shared, including experiences of participatory budgeting and multi-actor dialogue that have enabled citizens to become more involved in decision-making processes. These mechanisms have brought about improvements in government accountability, thereby helping to bridge the gap between the public administration and the social reality.  By building greater transparency and citizen participation into public institutions and their policies, these mechanisms are also helping to enhance social justice.

The LEA was moderated by experts from FUNDAR, with guest experts from Latin America invited to share their perspectives and experiences during the online debate.

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Key Conclusions:

  • Citizen participation mechanisms can enable public institutions to maximise the impact of public policy by highlighting inconsistencies or mismanagement in design and implementation.
  • Although legal frameworks for access to information and transparency play a critical role in the success of these mechanisms, of equal importance is the readiness of governments and public officials to collaborate with civil society, take into account its recommendations and disclose information.
  • Citizen participation culminates in the real inclusion of civil society in decision-making processes resulting in the expression of public perceptions and opinions in public policy priorities.
  • The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can enable citizens to expand their knowledge of government work and communicate directly with their representatives.
  • Implementing citizen participation mechanisms at the local level before rolling them out nationwide may serve as a good starting point to test and strengthen these tools, thereby increasing their potential impact.

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