Insufficient Citizens’ Participation in Policy Planning Process

Local self-governments in Montenegro reduce strategic planning to a wish list without measurable results, and citizens’ participation in the policy-making process is almost completely disregarded, as concluded at the panel discussion “Governance for Results in Local Self-Governments”

Our researcher, Aleksandra Vavić, participated at the closing event of the Center for Democratic Transition, which was organized in the framework of the same project through grant program provided by the regional WeBER project, and implemented by six research centers in the Western Balkans, including Institute Alternative.

The Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) project “Governance for Results in Local Self-Governments” aims at enhancing transparency, accountability and efficiency of two local self-governments – Kotor and Nikšić, through increased citizens’ participation in policy making affecting them directly and in controlling its implementation.

The research showed that citizens are not sufficiently involved in the policy planning process at the local level. This is also confirmed by the results of the public opinion survey conducted by IPSOS agency for the needs of Institute Alternative, within the framework of the project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account!”. The results showed that 60% of Montenegrin citizens are not at all informed about public consultations, which represent one of the basic forms of civic participation. About 34% heard of at least one public consultation, and out of those, only 2% participated in it.

“We know that the situation is not good at the central level or at the local level, but the poor situation at the local level should maybe worry us more as it concerns public policies at the decision-making level closer to us physically. At this level of democracy, a real, direct dialogue between citizens, civil society and political representatives is created and maintained,” said Aleksandra.

She also reminded that the Government of Montenegro set as the main objective of the Strategy for the Public Administration Reform establishment of administration characterized by growth of citizens’ trust.

But the trust is not growing at all. Citizens of Montenegro generally have no trust in state or local administration. Data from the above-mentioned survey show that only 12% of citizens have great trust in state administration, while slightly more, 13% of citizens have great trust in local self-government.

“Tendency to not consult citizens on topics of crucial importance is a reflection of undemocratic work of the administration, which is completely contrary to good governance practices. If the government “does not listen” to the citizens and if this is constantly repeated, a vicious circle is made which leads to alienated institutions and decline of trust in the administration, “she added.

The possibilities are enormous, and the administration cannot consider sufficient to publish a public call on its web site or in one of the newspapers with low readership. Administration, whether state or local, is the one that has the resources and capacity to involve citizens in the decision-making process, ranging from discussions in local communities and broad consultations to targeted use of information technologies.

IA Team

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