One of the important roles for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) both within the EU and globally is the facilitation of citizens’ participation in decision-making processes, whether they be at the local, provincial, national or even international level. However, this is a role that CSOs often struggle to fulfil effectively and it is a particular capacity challenge for CSOs in countries in transition.
The participation of citizens in the decision-making process, regardless of social class, ethnic group or gender, is a key cornerstone of good governance. CSOs may play a part in involving people in the processes of planning and decision taking, and fighting for their interests. They are also able in cooperating with authorities, providing services to support their positive initiatives. Active involvement in the development of environmental plans and policies is a way to influence development at the local, national and regional levels.
What is the Decision Making Process?
The ‘decision making process’ basically refers to the mechanisms and the specific stakeholders within public authorities, be they at national or local level, that determine the public policies that are to be enacted and the means for doing so. These mostly involve formal and explicit procedures, carried out at specific times. However, there are also many informal processes that can influence decision making and the process itself. Thus, whether working at either national or local level, CSOs need to undertake mapping exercises in order to have some understanding of the various steps in the decision making process of the public authority and of the actors involved. As part of the mapping, it is useful for CSOs to differentiate between pre- and post-decision-making processes.
Entry points for engagement in citizens participation
Some of the activities that can be conducted to facilitate the citizens participation in decision-making processes can be summarized in three main categories: