Guide to participatory democracy in Bulgaria and Romania (2006)
The participation of citizens in local public life is an essential element of effective and democratic local government. It reinforces accountability and underpins the legitemacy of local government. It gives a real say to the citizens in the management of their communities and helps deliver better services at a lower cost.In recent years, a wide array of mechanisms of citizen participation has been developed by many European local authorities. However, the distance between the citizens and the government is still growing. The erosion of democratic interest has not stopped yet.How can one respond to this challenge? How can citizen participation be effectively strengthened? How can a local authority learn from its own experience and that of its peers? These are but a few questions which are addressed in the present guide.Starting from concrete examples of three pilot projects implemented with the assistance of the Council of Europe and the financial support of the Irish and Norwegian Governments, the authors of the present guide make an attempt to identify the critical success factors of a working project strengthening citizen participation and formulate recommendations for central government officials, local leadership, national local authority associations and researchers about starting a mutual learning process for municipalities engaged in innovation and experimentation.