Consultation, active participation and evaluation beyond election day

Periodic elections are a mandatory but not a sufficient condition for a culture of open and democratic local governance to materialise. This requires the daily commitment and effort of local representatives, civil servants and civil society actors to bargain and seek compromises. A healthy democratic culture rests on a vibrant civil society and active citizens to ensure a “living democracy” in which opportunities for citizens to access information and participate in consultations (e.g. open consultations, citizen fora, advisory sessions, use of e-participation tools) go hand in hand with mechanisms to monitor government performance. As local governments come closer to citizens, the potential of open consultations, new forms of engagement and partnership approaches is highest at the local level.

The Executive Development Plan 2016-18 acknowledges the need to organise awareness raising activities among and build communication channels between local authorities, CSOs and citizens. However, general optimism towards the objectives of the reform cannot disguise the scepticism among civil society representatives as to whether or not the government is indeed serious about allowing a bottom-up approach. So far, many CSOs have been present in a merely symbolic way in the absence of a structured dialogue.

There are good practices for successful deliberative approaches in the day-to-day activities of the municipalities in Jordan. In Deir Alla, the decision of where a school should be built was prepared in collaboration with a voluntary committee, which featured representatives from the local community. The voluntary committee was given the right to set the priorities, which resulted in building up mutual trust and the acceptance of local authorities and community members. The challenge for governorates and municipalities in Jordan is to institutionalise this kind of citizen participation and engagement in the development process to ensure sustainability and build trust, in particular in the interaction with the newly elected bodies at the governorate and district level.

In most Latin American countries, for instance, local citizens councils were established for this purpose. Councils usually have a mandate to advise the elected council on specific issues, such as planning, housing or selected policy areas (education, social affair). The implementation of the plans and policies falls under the responsibility of the municipality (see Box 4.10). Evidence from Latin America illustrates that the performance of the councils depends on the availability of sufficient capacities and the openness of local officials to take their advice into due account.

Box 4.10. Latin America’s local citizen councils

Since the 1980s, governments in Latin America have developed a new relationship with their citizens in which they can participate more actively in the decision-making process. They have achieved this, in part, by creating local citizen councils.

Although local councils take on different names and forms across the region, they share common features. Generally, they gather different sectors of civil society, such as academics, civil or community-based organisations and the private sector, and join them with local political authorities in a single body, where they collaboratively make public policies or design development programmes. They also typically share a common goal of strengthening democracy and the quality and responsiveness of public policies at the local level.

In some cases, the creation of local councils is mandated by the constitution (e.g. Peru’s Constitution - Title IV, Chapter XIV on Decentralisation) or a national law (e.g. Mexico’s National Water Law mandating the creation of Basin Councils), while in others they have emerged at the initiative of local governments and citizens (e.g. Colombia’s Medellin’s Youth Municipal Councils).

In general, local councils in Latin America are formed by elected representatives of various social, political, and sometimes economic sectors, which shows the importance of the capacity and will of the actors involved in the councils, especially the local governments’ open attitude towards citizen participation.

Local councils in Latin America follow two basic models in terms of the variety of thematic areas they tackle. They can debate and decide on comprehensive development plans that cut across many sector-specific concerns, such as the Peruvian Participatory Development Plan (Plan de Desarrollo Concertado). In other countries, local councils are created to deal with specific thematic areas, such as social policy, environmental preservation, urban governance or public service provision, such as Local Health Management Councils in Paraguay.

Source: OECD (2016a), Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward, OECD Publishing, Paris,

The example of the provincial Council of Biscay in Spain (Box 4.11) illustrates how the use of innovative tools has resulted in more accountable, transparent and efficient service delivery. This could be of great interest for Jordan given its young and tech-savvy population, as well as the e-Government Strategy 2014-2016 which calls upon the government to be proactive in soliciting citizens’ opinions and feedback through social media, discussion forums, web logs, surveys and polls and live chats. According to Internetworldstats, 5.7 million people in Jordan used the Internet in June 2016 (72.4% of the population) and there were 4.8 million Facebook subscribers in June 2016 (62%) (Internetworldstats). The World Bank estimates that around 54% of the population in Jordan uses the Internet, compared to an average of 44% in MENA countries.13

Box 4.11. Opening municipalities in the province of Biscay in Spain

The provincial Council of Biscay in Spain has developed an innovative approach that regroups all of the province’s municipalities, and grants citizens a decisive role in improving local policies and contributing to the quality of services in the region. Based on the concept that "a modern institution has to be close and accessible to its citizens", the council commits itself to "continue working on spaces of co-operation and social participation in order to be able to be systematically accountable, transparent and efficient."

The provincial Council of Biscay developed an easy-to-use website ( as well as a smartphone application, called "Udala zabaltzen" (Opening Municipalities), which allows citizens to report flaws in infrastructure, for example potholes or sanitation facilities in improvable conditions. The website and application offer citizens the possibility to provide a detailed localisation of the reported problem, which facilitates a swift transfer of this information to the office responsible. Each of the reported required improvements is updated as soon as the problem is solved, which exposes the provincial council, the municipality and the office in charge to public scrutiny.

As one of the first local administrations, the province of Biscay moved from e-government to open government, which, according to the provincial Council of Biscay's definition, is based on the three pillars of transparency, participation and collaboration. Among the features available on its website, citizens can exchange opinions directly with the mayor of each municipality and make their needs and suggestions heard in a direct exchange. On some occasions, the provincial council has opened online surveys to all citizens to identify the need for new infrastructure facilities or other potential improvements. In order to enhance transparency and accountability at the local level, the province publishes information on public procurement.

Source: BiscayTik (n.d.), “Diputacion Foral de Bizkaia”, CAST.pdf.

With the upgrade of the local level and the role of non-governmental stakeholders in the national planning and development process, existing e-participation and m- government tools could be mainstreamed and used across all municipalities with a view to benefit citizens with low or no income, seniors, disabled and persons who live in rural and non-serviced areas (e.g. the existing Mobile Gateway, which offers 40 informational and interactive services to citizens and businesses including inquiries regarding utilities, airline schedule, traffic violations, property tax, vocational license, and weather condition).

The first steps towards facilitating participatory planning at the subnational level in Jordan have already been undertaken. According to the Ministry of the Interior, a regional electronic information system was developed with USAID three years ago, which will be accessible online to all communities and encourage participatory planning. The system is currently being tested in Irbid governorate. In addition to effective (information and communication) tools, examples from Indonesia and Costa Rica point to the importance of strong legal and institutional frameworks to encourage popular participation with the involvement of local communities in national planning and development (see Box 4.12).

Box 4.12. Engaging citizens at the local level in the national planning and development process

In Indonesia, the primary legal vehicle that supports citizen participation is Law No. 25 of 2004 on National Development Planning, which seeks to “optimise public participation.” The law establishes the national development planning system and delineates the public’s ability to participate formally in the process via the Multi-Stakeholder Consultation Forum for Development Planning process (Musyawarah Rencana Pembangunan, or musrenbang). While the musrenbang process is an important opportunity to involve the public in determining development priorities across all levels of government, both government and CSO representatives have noted its limitations, primarily around ensuring public inputs are taken into account and in identifying the correct CSO partners.

The Tejiendo Desarrollo programme in Costa Rica, promoted by the office of the First Lady, provides a good example of how citizens can be involved in all stages of the policy cycle at the subnational level. The main components of the programme are the creation of development processes in specific territories, and the elaboration of a National Policy for Regional and Territorial Development with the participation of citizens. The programme is anchored in a solid legal framework for citizen participation in local affairs. The Municipal Code establishes the municipal council’s obligation to promote the active, conscious and democratic participation of the people in the decisions of the local government, and gives a prominent role to popular consultations, such as popular initiatives, referenda and town hall meetings (Cabildos). These activities are protected in the bylaws to the Constitution (Laws 8491 and 8492 from 2006), which include the right to referenda, popular initiatives and petitions.

Sources: OECD (2016d), Indonesia, OECD Open Government Review, Highlights, OECD, Paris,;

OECD (2016e), Open Government in Costa Rica, OECD Publishing, Paris,

The 2015 DL and ML foresee a more prominent role of the subnational layers of government and non-governmental stakeholders in shaping the development process. A new set of skills and competencies is required to ensure that both local populations and local public officials can exercise their new mandate effectively and in a partnership approach (active citizenship, use of planning tools, etc.). In the northern region of Morocco, support programmes for participatory planning were carried out in more than 230 rural communes and municipalities to streamline the new administrative approach and improve the operations of municipal staff and local civil society actors involved in drawing up communal development plans (see Box 4.13).

Box 4.13. Participatory planning as a performance catalyst in the north of Morocco

In the northern region of Morocco, participatory planning is part of an approach that emphasises the involvement of local populations and local public officials in local development and decision-making processes.

This policy has been driven forward by several initiatives, in particular:

• The launching of the National Initiative for Human Development (NHRI) in 2005, based on local development which is strongly associated with a participatory approach.

Box 4.13. Participatory planning as a performance catalyst in the north of Morocco (cont.)

  • • The policy of decentralisation by the state that aims to reinforce the role of regional governments (collectivites territoriales) and elected local officials.
  • • The 2009 Municipal Charter, which strengthened the role of communal councils (conseils communaux) in decision making regarding local socio-economic development and in the management and development of their territory.
  • • The 2011 Constitution, which highlights fundamental principles of decentralisation, such as subsidiarity, free administration, co-operation and solidarity.

Support programmes for participatory planning were carried out in more than 230 rural communes and municipalities with fewer than 35 000 inhabitants between 2009 and 2015 by the General Directorate for Local and Regional Authorities of the Ministry of Education, in conjunction with the Northern Development and Promotion Agency and the Targa-Aide Association. The departments of local governments (collectivites locales) in the prefectures and provinces concerned have also benefited from this support.

The programme focused on streamlining the administrative approach and improving the level of operationality of municipal staff and local civil society actors involved in drawing up communal development plans. This was done through the strengthening of municipal capacity in strategic and participatory planning, and the affirmation of the transparency of the municipality's action regarding its citizens.

The different stages of the programme are presented below:

Through this approach, knowledge and capacity in strategic planning have been strengthened. All municipalities prepared a six-year Municipal Development Plan (MDP) with two triennial programmes and a mid-term evaluation. In addition, municipalities have gained a better knowledge of their territory thanks to the preparation of communal maps (road networks, the douars - the villages forming the commune, the location of social facilities, etc.).

The collaboration between the three layers of subnational government (municipality, province/prefecture and region) promoted by the new organic laws covering regions and municipalities (July 2015) is expected to further improve territorial planning and co-ordination between the development policies to increase the efficiency of deployed resources.

Source: OECD (2017), Guide de pratiques sur la gouvernance locale au Maroc, Paris, forthcoming.

As the concrete mechanisms for popular participation in the service delivery and national planning cycle still need to be identified, it remains to be seen at what point CSOs and citizens will be able to shape the process. Low levels of satisfaction with the quality of public services in the municipalities suggest that under the new legal framework, citizens could play a more active role in exercising scrutiny over the performance of service providers, and hence increase transparency and accountability. Independent local media outlets and independent state institutions can act as partners in raising awareness, avoid the misuse of resources, and ultimately contribute to improving the access to and the quality of education, health and other services.

The creation of a system to assess the progress made in implementing the governorate plans is expected in the near future. As Jordan advances in translating the new legal framework into practice, it should consider how to move from ad hoc consultation with the public to more comprehensive forms of interaction, including how to enhance the role of CSOs and citizens in monitoring public service delivery at the subnational level. The need of a substantial investment in building capacity amongst participants and methodological support in participatory evaluation can be offset by higher legitimacy and the acceptance of decisions (OECD, 2009).

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