International Workshop for Champions of Participation in Local Government
Two recent UK government policy documents highlight the central place of citizen empowerment in the current government’s policy framework, and the vital role that local governments play in realizing this agenda. As national and local governments move to translate policies and commitments into practice, getting more actors to subscribe to these ideals and promote greater citizen participation in local governance processes remains a challenge for the UK.
Despite the many good examples, and despite the centrality of citizen engagement and empowerment in national and local government policy, many citizens still do not feel they have a say. There are cases where trust is lacking between people and their elected representatives. This situation creates a barrier to participation and poses questions about how to implement policies for sharing and devolution of decision-making, delivery and scrutiny of services to local neighbourhoods.
In many other decentralised democracies in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, local governments have experience of engaging with citizens, have developed innovative methods for doing so – and have faced some of the same challenges as their counterparts in the UK. As the UK seeks to revitalise local democracy, strengthen civil society and engage and empower citizens, there are many useful lessons to be gained from dialogue and exchange between the ‘champions of participation’ in the UK and those working in other parts of the world.
In response to this, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), which has extensive experience of working on citizen participation and local governance internationally and across the UK, has co-organised an international workshop with UK partners. These include the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID), Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG), and Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA).
At the workshop 45 participants from local governments and citizens’ groups across the UK, North America, Europe and other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, brought together experiences and good practice, as well as the dilemmas and challenges they face. The workshop took place on in June 2007 in Brighton, London and other locations in the UK.