"Missing the Rules of Engagement: An Overview of Legal Frameworks for Citizen Participation in Local Decision-Making Processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro," is a report published by Analitika - Center for Social Research and authored by Mirna Jusić. The report provides a comprehensive overview of legal frameworks and policies for citizen participation in local-level decision-making in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro.
The report finds that in all three countries, legal frameworks for citizen participation that higher levels of government adopt are often too ambiguous to really set a minimum of standards for participation. While legal frameworks do declaratively promote principles of participatory democracy in all three countries, they usually fail to regulate in enough detail individual citizen participation mechanisms. Laws and policies also do not sufficiently promote some of the principles of effective participation processes, such as inclusion and representation of different groups, true evaluation of participation or feedback to citizens on the outcomes of participatory processes. While some countries have gone a step further than others to provide operational guidance on how to organize participatory processes, especially with respect to consultations, the general absence of policies and programs that would seek to enhance local-level participatory practices and build up the capacities of local governments to that end cast a doubt on the true determination of higher levels of government to mainstream participatory decision-making.
The report gives the following, general recommendations with respect to the institutionalization of citizen participation practices:
- Potential restrictions and ambiguities posed by current legal provisions pertaining to different mechanisms of citizen participation need to be examined in more depth and tackled, with reference to international standards.
- Higher levels of government in all three countries should provide municipalities with detailed guidance on the procedural aspects of implementing different participatory mechanisms, which are currently to be regulated by local acts (and usually are not).
- The modalities of such guidance may differ, but it should certainly be a part of wider efforts to build supporting structures for citizen participation in local authorities, such as educating designated staff or introducing evaluation procedures.
- Last but not least, any such efforts, i.e. policies and programs for enhancing local-level participatory practices, should be created in consultation with local authorities and the local population, in line with international standards and literature on citizen engagement.
This report has been prepared as part of the regional project "Effective and Sustainable Citizen Participation" with the financial support of Open Society Foundations. Partners on this project were the Center for Management, Development and Planning – MDP Initiatives (Doboj, Bosnia and Herzegovina), Delta (Rijeka, Croatia) and the Citizen Information and Education Centre (Cetinje, Montenegro).
The report in English language is available HERE.
The report in local languages will be available soon.