Boosted in part by the region’s democratic transitions, citizen
participation initiatives in Latin America have become increasingly
common throughout the region. These initiatives, promoted both by
governments and civil society, have sought to strengthen governance,
enhance accountability and control, and improve social justice, ensuring
that governments’ funds and policies address relevant social issues and
benefit socially excluded groups. Citizen observatories, social control
mechanisms, social audits, citizen consultations, local citizen
councils, citizen assessments of service delivery: these are just some
of the mechanisms enabling citizens to actively participate in public
life throughout Latin America. This Guide presents some of the key
citizen participation initiatives in the region, including analysing
their outcomes, lessons learned and the contextual factors enabling
them, while also highlighting key publications and organisations to help
connect readers with additional resources to learn more.
Legal frameworks favourable to citizen participation, such as provisions
in constitutions as well as specific laws governing decentralisation,
municipal management, public budgeting and citizen participation, are
useful as the foundation for the design and implementation of specific
citizen participation mechanisms. The Latin American experience
underscores the importance of pushing for their enactment.
The Latin American experience also shows that government and public
officials' political will is crucial for ensuring that these citizen
participation mechanisms exist, are properly funded, and above all are
effective, meaning that the citizen input is indeed used to improve
policy design and implementation.
Likewise, as the existence of legal frameworks does not always translate
into empowered citizen participation, it is often necessary for civil
society to keep advocating for the implementation of effective citizen
participation mechanisms to bend political resistance and to leverage
public authorities into taking into account of civil society's voice in
their decision making.
Oropeza, J.; Perron, M. ELLA Guide: Citizen Participation in Latin America: Innovations to Strengthen Governance. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2013)