Citizens’ participation in local-level policy- and decision-making: Comparative analysis of the Southeast Planning Region
Set within the framework determined by the municipal statutes and the laws regulating the work of the local self-government, and thus the basis of civic involvement in the decision-making processes and policy-making at the local level, in the focus of the Impact Institute for Research were the ten municipalities from the Southeast planning region of the Republic of Macedonia. Impact analyzed the practices of involving citizens, civil society organisations and the business sector in these processes.
The research, conducted through desk analysis and focus groups in the ten municipalities, indicated that the most efficient way of inclusion currently is through direct communication, individual or collective, with councillors, mayors and local self-government employees. At the same time, the findings also point out that out of the existing legally envisaged ways of involvement, most commonly used are public gatherings, community fora, public discussions, and in 2017 local referenda as well. In addition to them, in some municipalities, the establishment of advisory local economic and social councils is noteworthy as a positive practice, as well as local action groups as an additional type of inter-municipal cooperation involving citizens, civil society organisations and the business sector. Neighbourhood and urban communities, however, were mentioned as examples of mechanisms whose potential is far from being used.
While the cooperation with the citizens; associations and the business sector has been faced with challenges in most of the municipalities, the focus group participants have particularly highlighted the efforts of the local government in communicating with the public and ensuring transparency, even when it is reduced only to the legally prescribed minimum.
The overall conclusion of the research is that there is room for improvement of the various existing forms of cooperation and direct involvement of the citizens in the processes of local governance, as well as for introducing new forms of inter-municipal learning and sharing experiences of positive practices. Recommendations based on this analysis are aimed towards several different stakeholders, including the central government, the municipalities, civil society organisations and the business sector.
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