Day 67 of #100dayproject: Citizen’s Participation

Today I went with my husband to vote at the Citizen’s Consultation of Santiago Municipality. The poll was about a series of citizen’s thematic like garbage disposal, liquor store open’ hours and noise prohibitions.

The importance of citizen’s participation is a theme particularly recent for politic sciences and environmental issues[1]. The public policies must look the participation of all citizen in the steps of them:

  1. feedback
  2. idea
  3. design
  4. execution

Obviously, the public authorities doesn’t like the idea of people’s participation, especially for three pragmatic prejudices:

  1. “people don’t know what they want/need”
  2. “people make the process of design/execution of projects more slowly”
  3. “people’s expression are guaranteed only in the feedback step”

All the guessing above are a “secret law” in the public authorities: they guarantee the citizen’s participation, but they uses a series of methods for keeping it out like a public survey in reality. For example, in the citizen’s consultation that I voted, the authorities ask me about topics pre-chosen by them.

My voice wasn’t listen, because I don’t choose any topic in public policies in the municipality or national government. The citizens are really like shadows for the authorities, and the shadows only came alive on the polls or voting day when the authorities want. Actually, we figured at simple numbers for the authorities. We are another brick in the wall, like Pink Floyd says.

The theories about public participation are so different and there are a lot of scientific papers[2] who shows different experiences of citizen participation, especially in green infrastructure projects: “Decision-making powers and management authority were vested in municipal governments and professional park managers. Technocratic green space planning and management emerged with citizens viewed as users, rather than stewards or active co-producers of nature[3].” However, all agrees with in some main points:

  1. Democracy is necessary in every step of public policies.
  2. Participation of residents, corporations and authorities are completely necessary for successful projects.
  3. Dialogue promotes the equality of every stakeholder.
  4. The residents shows more appraisal to the projects with more citizen’s participation.

When the authorities takes the role of facilitator of dialogue, the projects are beneficiated with the respect and appraisal of residents and enterprises[4], including the majority of citizens, even the children[5] and elderly people. We see all the wealthy relationships in a virtue circle.

[1] Dam, R. Van, Duineveld, M., & During, R. (2014). Delineating Active Citizenship: The Subjectification of Citizens’ Initiatives. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 1–18. doi:10.1080/1523908X.2014.918502

[2] Bond, A., Langstaff, L., Baxter, R., Kofoed, H. W. J., Lisitzin, K., & Lundström, S. (2004). Dealing with the cultural heritage aspect of environmental impact assessment in Europe. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 22(1), 37–45. doi:10.3152/147154604781766085

[3] McLain, R. J., Hurley, P. T., Emery, M. R., & Poe, M. R. (2014). Gathering “wild” food in the city: rethinking the role of foraging in urban ecosystem planning and management. Local Environment, 19(2), 220–240. doi:10.1080/13549839.2013.841659

[4] Guy, S., & Marvin, S. (2001). Constructing sustainable urban futures: from models to competing pathways. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 19(2), 131–139. doi:10.3152/147154601781767113

[5] Swart, J., & Chawla, L. (2002). “We know something someone doesn’t’ know”: children speak out on local conditions in Johannesburg. Environment and Urbanization, 14(2), 85–96.


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