Local citizen participation has long been acknowledged as a useful tool
to enhance public policies: it improves policies’ responsiveness to the
population’s needs and quality as citizens make creative and innovative
proposals to solve development challenges. In the last two decades,
countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru
have developed new mechanisms to foster citizen participation at the
local level by creating citizen participation bodies, or what we term
here, local councils. These are institutional spaces where citizens -
represented by civil society or community-based organisations, academics
and the private sector - come together with municipal authorities to
discuss and make decisions about local development and governance
issues. In particular, by allowing greater participation of groups that
were historically left out of decision making processes, such as women,
youth and indigenous populations, these local councils have made local
governance more inclusive and representative. This Brief analyses the
experience of local councils in Latin America, highlighting key
outcomes, design features and contextual factors that enabled their
Local councils have a greater chance of improving public policies’
responsiveness to the population’s needs when they are plural
organisations, where different groups of the community or municipality
are represented and where decision making is equally shared between
political authorities and citizens.
These bodies’ success is more likely if both local government and
citizens are fully committed to strengthen citizen participation and
allocate time and efforts to these mechanisms.
A comprehensive law providing a strong framework can facilitate active
and influential local councils.
Perron, M. ELLA Policy Brief: Increasing Citizen Participation in Local Governance: Latin America&#8217;s Local Citizen Councils. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2012) 6 pp.