Panel discussion „Citizens know best“ held in Zagreb

With panel discussion about citizen participation in decision-making processes, held on 22nd of December 2016 in HKD Napredak, we have marked the end of the project "For good governance at local level: education, support, promotion." The aim of the discussion was to examine the models and the need for citizen involvement and their active participation in local development.

64 participants attended the gathering ; representatives of the local government, civil sector, public institutions, business sector and media.  The results of the project were presented at this event, and short animated film "Citizens know best - participation of citizens in the decision-making processes." This was simultaneously an opportunity to present new revised edition of ODRAZ's publication" New challenge - Global Sustainable Development Goals until 2030"

Following participants took part in the discussion: Vesna Lendić Kasalo - Office for Cooperation with NGOs, Slađana Novota - SMART, Antonio Matković - Selectio d.o.o., Nives Kopajtich-Škrlec - Association of Cities of Croatia. The discussion was moderated by the ODRAZ director Lidija Pavić-Rogošić.

Vesna Lendić Kasalo shortly shared national level experiences, contributing to democratic processes and the development of the civil society. In that manner, she reminded us of the enactment of the The Code of Practice on Consultation with the Interested Public in Procedures of Adopting Laws, Other Regulations and Acts (NN 140/2009) which was adopted on the closed session of the Government of the Republic of Croatia in the year 2009. After the Code the Act on the Right of Access to Information was also adopted in the year 2013. This Act enables citizens to access information which are owned by the public administration bodies, which fulfilled measures from the National strategy for the Creation of an Enabling Environment for the Civil Societ Development 2012.- 2016., as also the measures of the Action Plan for the implementation of the Open Government Partnership initiative in the Republic of Croatia.

Two years later, in the year 2015, the legislative framework for the system "e-Consultations" was eastablished, which uses the central state Internet portal for public consultations. The portal is now functional for more than a year and the Consultations are accessible to everyone.  It has 8000 users of the portal registered and more than 15 000 comments left on 908 of conducted consultations, which were initiated by 42 bodies of public administration. Among registered users the largest proportion is comprised of individuals. Lendić Kasalo emphasized that the accomplishments of the central state portal have been recognized on the international level also, saying that the project of the Croatian Government "e-Citizens" won the first place for the European area on the Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Mexico City. It is also important to lower the consultations on the local levels, on which users can consult the recently presented  Handbook on implementation of consultations for the units of local and regional self-government (available HERE in Croatian).

Slađana Novota from the SMART Association talked about the readiness of the citizens for involvement, that is, favorable trends and obstacles regarding the citizen participation in decision-making. Civil society organizations have an important role in the opening of the space of dialogue and a process of democratization of society with the aim of transformation of the attitudes of closedness and exclusion into openness and inclusion. It is necessary to work on connecting and informing of citizens in order to activate citizen activism. NVOs participate in decision-making processes not only through the establishment of acts, but also through their implementation. It is important to emphasize that 800 representatives of NVOs are members of around 100 advisory bodies in Croatia. At the end she emphasized that consultative process is not just a meeting and that the process of the establishment of certain acts should include the process of deliberation with the interested public.

Antonio Matković spoke about the inclusion of the business sector in decision-making processes and how business sector can be motivated to be included more. He expressed two aspects important for business sector: participative decision-making should be integrated into the business processes of the company and greater promotion, particularly of the field of the human resource management. Participation in the processes of the establishment of public policies related to the business processes of companies is important for companies, with Croatian Chamber Economy having the key role in this aspect, together with its associations and communities according to the field of economic activity. Consultative process for a certain act should be introduced to business sector a lot early in order to have more time for high-quality participation of all sectors in establishment of acts. This would further lead to better acceptance on behalf of public. He also emphasized that the interest of business sector for participation in the establishment of strategic documents and acts on the level of law is lower than the one regarding operative level, that is, the application of legal provisions through executive documents, and business sector participation for their establishment is low.

Nives Kopajtich-Škrlec talked about the experiences of citizen consultations, implemented by units of local self-government i.e. cities. From the experience of the Association of Cities of Croatia she sees raising of awareness of the benefits of involvement of citizens as key for encouragement for local citizen involvement. Consultations and the use of lots of concrete data are needed in order for cities in Croatia to include citizens more in the establishment of their acts. Association of Cities of Croatia works a lot on the enlargement of the perception of importance of appreciation of citizens at the local self-government. The practice of cities in consultations with citizens is evolving and there are already good practice examples such as cities of Crikvenica and Pazin.

After the presentation, the discussion on the above mentioned topics developed, ending with following conclusions:

  • Citizens are different and some need only awareness-raising, while some need to be educated, and some are driven only by norms. The educational system should make citizens more aware and therefore full support for civic education should be given
  • It has to be brought to awareness within the educational system that young people can actively and responsibly participate in the creation and implementation of different policies. Involvement of citizen on each level should be further promoted, and young people should be educated on the benefits of participation.
  • In order for the business sector to participate, more work on evaluations of the effects of public policies is needed, which would ensure greater visibility of concrete influence of policies in certain business areas.

Photo gallery from the event is available HERE.

More on the project is available HERE.

ODRAZ projects