New partnerships between local authorities and community members

In addition to an enhanced representation and deliberative participatory approaches, the current reform process holds the potential to foster direct democratic procedures in Jordan. Direct democratic elements of decision making can refer to citizen engagement through methods such as referenda, citizen initiatives, petitions or participatory budgeting schemes. While this approach is not meant to replace local authorities as the final decision maker, it can usefully complement representative and deliberative approaches, and create trust between local authorities and community members.

In a pilot programme with three municipalities, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has implemented participatory budgeting in practice with what it says are satisfying results. As the examples from the municipality of Sfax in Tunisia and the city of Paris in France show (see Box 4.14), involving citizens in the allocation of a share of the city or district budget to concrete projects can increase the legitimacy of government action and even result in decreasing levels of tax evasion. It ensures that public money is spent in line with the priorities of the (active) electorate and provides a training ground for turning transparency, efficiency, accountability and civic engagement into practice.

Box 4.14. Participatory budgeting at the local level: Experiences from Sfax (Tunisia) and Paris (France)

The 2015 OECD Recommendation on Budgetary Governance explicitly calls on governments to "ensure that budget documents and data are open, transparent and accessible" and to "provide for an inclusive, participative and realistic debate on budgetary choices".

Over recent years, the trend towards participative budgeting has extended internationally and has been taken up with success in a number of OECD member countries and non-member economies. In practice, progress at the national level has been limited to date, with more activities and innovations emerging at the level of cities and municipalities.

Box 4.14. Participatory budgeting at the local level: Experiences from Sfax (Tunisia) and Paris (France) (cont.) Sfax, Tunisia

The allocation of public budgets at the level of municipalities has traditionally been decided by local authorities behind closed doors. This has caused the increasing disengagement of community members from local politics, and fuelled the feeling that elected officials were disconnected from their reality. In light of the lack of trust in local authorities, many citizens refrained from paying local taxes, stressing that they were unsatisfied with the quality of public services and the lack of transparency in financial matters.

In 2015, the municipal council decided to release three million dinar (around USD 1.3 million) to be allocated to investments in roads, street lighting and pavement construction through a participatory budgeting approach. This exercise built on three phases:

  • 1. Communication and awareness campaign (e.g. press release) in collaboration with Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and a local NGO.
  • 2. The municipal territory was divided into residential areas. In each, citizen fora, animated by a neutral facilitator and featuring a diverse representation of societal groups, were organised discuss concrete projects. In each residential area, one man, one women and one young person were elected to represent the area in the forum of delegates. Almost 2 000 citizens participated in the fora.
  • 3. Forum of delegates: The forum agreed on a total of 25 projects and set up priority criteria for their implementation. The projects selected by the citizens were included in the draft budget for 2016, which was voted on by the municipal council in July 2015.

On a global level, various cities and municipalities have experimented with different forms of participatory budgeting schemes, including in Porto Alegre (Brazil), Paris (France), New York (USA), Toronto (Canada) and elsewhere (OECD, 2016a). In Newcastle (United Kingdom) and Boston (USA), efforts to involve citizens in the allocation of a share of the city’s budget were specifically designed for teenagers and young adults. In many cases, the voting process brought young people for the first time to the ballot box (OECD, 2016b).

 
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