CITIZEN PARTICIPATION IN DECISION-MAKING
1. What does citizen participation in decision-making mean?
Citizen participation means an individual or collective action, with an aim of identifying and addressing issues of public interest. Citizen participation is a process where citizens organize themselves and their goals at the grassroots level and work together through non-governmental community organizations to influence the decision-making process. Participation in decision-making means an opportunity for the citizens, CSOs and other stakeholders to influence the development of policies and laws that impact them.
2. Can citizen participation replace constitutional responsibilities of public institutions?
Citizen participation does not suspend constitutional and legal competencies of the representatives of the executive and legislative branch in the procedure of approving and implementing laws, as well as of the instruments of public policies, but rather enables authorities to implement these competencies more efficiently.
3. What are the main levels of citizen participation?
There are four levels of citizen participation, from the one with the lowest participation to the one with the highest participation. These are: information, consultation, dialogue; and partnership.
4. What is information?
Access to information is the basis of all the following steps in the inclusion of CSO in the process of political decision-making. This is a relatively low level of participation that is related to the one-way flow of information from the public authorities and interaction or inclusion of NGOs is neither requested nor expected. Information is relevant to all the steps of the decision-making process. Without being informed beforehand on the plans and the work of public institutions, the citizens cannot participate in any of the later stages of work of the respective institution.
5. What is consultation?
Consultation is a form of participation where public authorities ask the opinion of the citizens and CSOs relating to a specific topic of policies or developments. Consultation usually means information provided by the authorities to the citizens and CSOs relating to various political developments and the request for comments, stands and reactions. Initiatives and topic come from the public authorities and not from the citizens and CSOs.
6. What is dialogue?
Dialogue is an ongoing process of consultation between the public authorities and CSOs which takes place throughout all the stages of drafting and implementation of policies, starting from determining the agenda and all the way to the assessment and reformulation of the policy. The dialogue may be extensive or specific. An extensive dialogue is not related to any specific process of policy development, but remains generalized and is mainly aimed at setting the agenda. A specific dialogue is built on common interests for the development of a particular policy, whereas it results in recommendations and concrete actions.
7. What is a partnership?
Partnership implies shared responsibilities between the public authorities and CSOs at every step of the process of political decision-making, starting from setting the agenda, drafting, decision and implementation of any political initiative. This is also the highest form of participation. At this level, CSOs and public authorities start a close cooperation, but by ensuring that at the same time, CSOs continue to remain independent and have the right to campaigns and actions regardless of the partnership situation.
8. Do public institutions in Kosovo have an obligation to include citizens and CSOs in their work?
All public institutions in Kosovo have a constitutional obligation to include citizens in their work, whether in drafting or implementation of their policies and programs. The municipal level has the biggest obligations, where each municipality must inform its citizens on ‘plans or programs of import to the public interest’. Citizens of a municipality have the right to participate in the activities of the respective municipality, the right to petition, citizens’ initiative, local referendum whereas the municipalities are obliged to establish consultative committees within sectors, where CSO representatives also need to be invited into. At the government level, all government acts (except decisions of an administrative character) must be consulted with the public in advance, whereas the government is obliged to provide sufficient information on the document that is being consulted, sufficient time to contribute as well as to report on the results of the consultation. Public hearings may be organized for all the laws that are approved by the Assembly of Kosovo, whereas CSOs may also participate in the meetings of parliamentary committees.
9. What does volunteering mean?
Volunteering can be defined as the practice of people that work for others or for a common good without being motivated by financial or material gain. Volunteering is mainly related to an altruistic activity that has a goal of promoting better quality of life for the people. Also volunteer work helps people gain practical skill for the work that they do.