Local Governance and Public Participation
Today more than ever Local authorities have clearly recognized the benefits of engaging the public in municipal affairs and in particular involving citizens in local decision makings. The future of Local Governments is highly depended on its ability and capacity to work along its citizen in order to achieve social and economical benefits. One of the main roles of local governments is to make the public realize this capacity and look for new and innovative ways to involve the public through different approaches such as seeking the views of the citizen, and increasing involvement in objective decision makings.The issue of public participation has gained much attention at both Local government and civil society sector in recent years; it has been seen as a tool for enhancing development as well as improving governance. There are many different approaches to engaging the public – from traditional methods such as public meetings and consultation documents, which have been used by local authorities for some time and are considered primarily customer-oriented (ex. service satisfaction surveys, complaints/suggestions schemes) and are most often used in relation to service delivery, to the more innovative approaches and methods which encourage citizens to deliberate over issues (ex. visioning exercises which the purpose is to establish the ‘vision’ participants have of the future) and the kind of future they would like to create for their city ,Public participation shall be promoted to make development plans and services more relevant to local needs and conditions, in order to hand over responsibility for services and promote community action and to empower local communities to have control over their own lives and livelihoods. Municipalities shall ‘develop a culture of municipal governance that complements formal representative government with a system of participatory governance policy on public participation. The first policy to be adopted relevant to public participation is Performance management, considered a key factor when discussing about public participation, giving defined roles to communities creates more motivation and encourages the public to participate in local affairs. Public participation is currently practiced mostly as community participation. More effort needs to be placed on public participation as involving civil society organizations as these can play a leadership role in the community. Given the weak state of much civil society, municipalities can assist civil society by creating constructive partnerships. International institutions or centers working on public participation and NGOs can also play an active role in promoting the interest of citizens through assisting local governments to face challenges and difficulties with regard to the issue of public participation. With this regard, Asian Mayors Forum established in 2008, has made efforts to facilitate this trend by providing the opportunity for Asian municipalities to share their experiences and efforts on public participation with the aim of “integration for better life” and improving living standards of Asian citizens.