Community participation in local governance plays an important role in strengthening democratic practices and promoting effective and accountable local governance. The purpose of this blog is to assess the importance of public participation in the effective functioning of local government. In addition, it will highlight different forms and ways of public participation in the governance process, showing the positive impact of public participation on local decision-making in the example of sharing the experience of European countries. Community participation is critical in local government for several reasons:
First, it enables citizens to actively participate in decision-making processes that directly affect their lives and well-being. By participating in local government, community members can voice their concerns, offer their ideas, and collaborate with local government.
Second, public participation increases the accountability and transparency of local government. When citizens are actively involved in the decision-making process, it becomes easier to track the actions and decisions of local government officials. This transparency reduces the likelihood of corruption and promotes good governance. With informed and engaged citizens, local government officials are more likely to act in the public interest, knowing that their decisions are subject to public scrutiny and participation.
Third, community participation promotes social cohesion. Through active participation, citizens have the opportunity to connect with each other, share common goals, and work to improve their community. By promoting collaboration, community engagement builds trust and strengthens social bonds.
Forms of community participation in local self-government:
Community involvement can take many forms that contribute to the democratic functioning of local government. These forms include:
Public Consultations: Local governments can hold public consultations with members of the public to obtain input on specific policies, plans, or projects. This ensures that public opinion is heard and taken into account in the decision-making process.
Citizens’ Advisory Committees: Local governments can establish Citizens’ Advisory Committees to provide input and recommendations on various issues. Such committees are composed of community members with relevant knowledge and experience who collaborate with local government officials to develop policies and make decisions.
Collaborative budgeting: This approach involves the direct participation of community members in the distribution of public funds. Through deliberative processes, citizens jointly determine budgetary priorities, which ensures the distribution of public resources in accordance with the needs of society.
Community Development Initiatives: Local governments can support a variety of community-led development initiatives.
In terms of sharing international experience, one of the prominent examples of community involvement is the Netherlands. In this regard, it should be noted that the Dutch practice “Dorpsbelangen” (village interests) are international interest groups or committees consisting of local residents who actively interact with the municipality’s representatives to make decisions affecting their villages or districts. In the Netherlands, local authorities recommend by law such types of engagement and participation as urban discussions, statistical reviews, and social policy considerations. This ensures that views and needs are taken into account in the decision-making process. The Dutch government recognizes that citizen involvement and participation strengthen the democratic legitimacy of local government and ensure more effective and sustainable outcomes. It is significant that by sharing international practices, the participation of the public in the decision-making processes of local self-government can be increased in the example of Georgia.
Based on the above, it should be noted that public participation in self-government is necessary for accountability and social cohesion. The participatory process actively involves citizens in decision-making processes, local authorities can use common views and experiences of the community.