Participatory Governance: Political and Societal Implications

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Development, good governance, and local democracy

Amman 25 September Nairobi 25 September Port-au-Prince 25 September Monrovia 25 September Cairo 25 September Lusaka 25 September Maputo 25 September Dar Es Salaam 25 September Antananarivo 25 September Karachi 25 September Dhaka 25 September Manila 25 September Participatory Governance in Africa Summary In research commissioned by the African Development Bank AfDB , ThinkWell studied civil society-initiated participatory governance methods across Africa, cataloguing the range of methods in use and factors that influence their effectiveness.

Breaking New Ground Recent decades have seen a growing civil society engagement in government accountability mechanisms, which is often termed social accountability. Challenges Africa is arguably a region where the impact of nonresponsive governance continues to prohibit public service delivery and progress on human development goals.

Approach ThinkWell used a team of researchers with diverse backgrounds, ranging from political science to public health, to conduct a comprehensive landscaping review of civil society-led participatory governance methods in Africa. Results The results from this study are working to shift the accountability paradigm. To write a letter, work with a community group, post a political blog or boycott environmentally damaging products requires more than just showing up on election day to mark a ballot and leave.

So the expanding repertoire of political activity widens the SES participation gap. The participation gap is also widening over time.

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Evidence from several nations shows that the decline in voting turnout is concentrated among lower-status citizens, while the better off continue to vote at roughly the same levels as the past. Given the centrality of elections in selecting the officials who govern, this widening participation gap in turnout implies unequal representation with all the implications that this signifies.

For non-electoral participation, the increase in activity has come disproportionately from better-educated and higher income citizens who possess politically valuable skills and resources.

Protest activities often display the widest social status participation gap. The sum result is a widening in the SES participation gap in overall terms.

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The two views of citizen participation summarised at the start of this post offer contrasting assessments of whether an active citizenry improves or harms the functioning of democratic governance. I directly consider the basic Tocquevillian logic that democracy will benefit when more citizens participate. There are many potential ways to test this thesis, and I turn to the simple example of the quality of governance. Does government function better if the public is more involved? There is no explicit item on participation in the index. The ISSP provides overall participation levels for about a dozen and a half nations, plus Belgium and Iceland from the survey.

I test whether an active citizenry correlates with good governance. Nations with higher overall political participation also have better performing government Figure 1. Conversely, the four lowest levels of participation occur in nations that are below average in the functioning of government. This supports the general logic that an attentive and involved public press the government to be more responsive and effective.

Simply put, good citizens make for good democratic governance. We can go one step further: does inequality in participation detract from democratic governance?

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Voices are unheard, needs are unmet, and government acts without full information when inequality is substantial. Figure 2 displays the independent effects of overall participation level and the inequality of participation on good governance. Inequality is the total strength Multiple R of four social status traits in predicting participation levels. The contrasting — and independent — effects of both aspects of participation are quite clear.

Benefits and costs of public participation

The overall level of citizen participation is positively related to both measures of good governance. Even with a small number of countries, these are significant relationships. Equally important, when there is large SES inequality in overall participation, good governance is lower. In sum, the best democratic governance generally occurs with citizens are more active and the participation gap is smaller.

I recognise that a more active citizenry makes governing more complex. Few civil servants sit at their desks hoping to hear from dissatisfied citizens. Public hearings and transparent government can slow the decision-making and administrative processes. It is easy to understand why there are concerns about the complications of governance if more citizens participate in more ways. The human, social and economic costs of deindustrialization are greater in the long term if they are ignored, rather than addressing the needs of displaced workers.

The lost productivity, life quality, and diminished societal contributions that may follow from the participation gap are substantial. And with a deficit of political representation, some citizens may turn to populist or extreme options that offer them voice.

An active and relatively equal public go together with good governance. This is painting on a large canvas with broad, imprecise brush strokes.


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Even multi-indicator measures of the functioning of government are imprecise. More sophisticated modelling is needed to assert causality.

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Do good citizens make good governments, or do good government make good citizens? To some extent, both are true; these things go together regardless of the direction of causality. Yet, while others theorise and write op-eds on the perils of citizen participation in the democratic process, the empirical evidence suggests otherwise. The dilemma for democracy is to embrace a more active public, while ensuring the equality of political voice at the same time. Great post! Thank you, you have explained it so nicely.


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This in contrast in the UK, where central governmetn can choose to cut, bully or divert funds from local government county government, and local authorities , and local elections mostly matter for issues related to planning laws, building laws, roads and rubbish collection as effectively services are run by central government and many are privatised.

So citizen participation in Finland is much more about lobbying your representatives directly, as a they are likely to share your values, and b they have the power to take decisions on your behalf. Dalton publicou recentemente um artigo no Democratic Audit, depois reproduzido pelo blog da London Shcool Economics and Political Science, no qual apresenta alguns dados e argumentos do seu novo livro The Participation […]. Any kind of system models should evolve in order to meet with human life evolution expectations and needs.

Democratic models in countries who are the most advanced in socioeconomic performance and governance, are being constantly revised for ongoing improvement. Thus, for the sake of democracy preservation, political sciences are to be revamped. Very analytic, convincing and well-researched piece of reading.

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