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PA 125




21st January, 2013

With the help of appropriate examples, critically discuss citizen participation in public affairs in



they are usually more supportive and proactive in helping the stakeholders to achieve the ultimate outcome of the government plan. Citizen participation is critical to government leaders and bureaucrats at all levels to ensure that they know the intensity of challenges facing and affecting the citizens. few citizens appear at meetings and not many participants know a meeting’s issues or rules. if the citizens disagree and they push hard for the policy/program to be changed the resulting actions could drain the agencies’ resources. The government may discover that a person who from the start encourages dialogue. and encourages change for the better may help much more than a person who does this late in the process (Goodsell. If citizens are involved in the decision-making process from the start. development. civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media and these are explained below. At this point. Public affairs combine government relations. the agencies usually arrange for a meeting after the agencies’ policy/programs are nearly complete. corporate and social responsibility information dissemination and strategic communications advice. Active citizen participation helps ensure that the governmental decisions and policies reflect the public interest (Boris and Krehely. 1998). late or delayed citizen participation can be very expensive and very time consuming. evaluates programs. 1994). the social benefits of timely . Public affairs relates to business matters that are made known to the public and have to do with the general population of a country. media communications. Many administrators claim citizen participation may be unproductive and costly because it disrupts the government routine. issue management. Thus. Thus. the agencies are really only asking the public for political support (King and Stivers. many government agencies choose to exclude citizen participation. When government agencies must consult with citizens. Citizen participation is necessary as well for decreasing citizens’ doubts and distrust of the government. Some of the activities which Zambian citizens actively participate in include politics. 2002). Because this meeting is so late in the process. Even though public input is meant for citizens to have a direct role in governmental decisions.This essay will seek to critically discuss the nature and impact of citizen participative phenomenon in public affairs in Zambia.

Also typical top-down managerial method of decision-making. This may be attributed to improper responses by government to attempted public participation. 1998). Every person needs to be able to participate in an open discourse so collaboration and consensus building can evolve. Each person needs to know all the rules of the participation so discussion is on a level playing field. are worthwhile to citizens and government. inhibits citizen participation. 2004. notices or mail may prevent people from being able to plan to attend or may dissuade them from thinking their ideas are important. in which the officials dictate decisions and then pass them down to the front-line operators. long-range goals of citizen participation. in which the front-line operators pass ideas to the . Regularly scheduled meetings that are well-publicized help citizens arrange their time to be able to attend. they may not strive to educate. which corresponds to the overall. each side may understand each other’s points and reasons and be able to move forward to a consensus about a potential result.citizens or government employees . In other instances citizen participation is disadvantaged. the basic ethical principles of fairness.citizen involvement. it is even more necessary for government staff and citizens to be free from this kind of domination so they can truly participate for the good of the public. When government agencies or interest groups are against viewing any side of an issue that is opposite to theirs.are clearly necessary. Advantages range from educating citizens about the pros and cons of an issue to improving policy and implementation to building commitment and stronger trust on both sides. An effective bottom-up approach. general advantages and disadvantages to citizens and the government also grew (Irvin and Stansbury. After intense discussion and education. Regular meetings also indicate the commitment that government has to the process. King and Stivers. Nevertheless. investment and commitment to public participation by all involved can help tremendously when creating and implementing local policy and laws. Irregular or one-time meetings that are not well-advertised through fliers. In these cases. negotiate or encourage citizen involvement. competence. Consequently. As citizens participation in public affairs has increased over the decades. and equal participation for all participants .

having adverse effects on the representation of the whole population in the local assemblies. Among the causes for insufficient direct citizen participation. Ignorance about an issue may not help a discussion. tends to be more accepting of the citizens who usually only meet with the agency’s front-line operators. except to point out that education is clearly lacking and needs to be done on a far broader and deeper scale. Ignorance among citizens also can deter government officials from encouraging citizen involvement. Some citizens may not see the importance of participation in public affairs. “The more secretive a government. the lack of a clear national strategy regarding the participation of citizens at the local level. McMasters pointed out.  Lack of citizen interest in public life caused by poor living conditions. and low financial capacity of local governments. the most prominent ones are:  Domination of a political culture that is not affirmative towards the citizen participation.officials. the more distant it becomes from its citizens and their wisdom. lack of time. .  Insufficiently developed legal and political framework for a larger citizen participation. This is usually evident when it comes to voting were voter apathy is experienced. Passive citizens tend to keep participation at a low level. and of the competencies of particular levels of government. ingenuity and support (2005). since they do not see how their actions or opinions could be important or could change the direction of the government policies.  Insufficient decentralization of power. and a low level of knowledge and awareness among citizens as to their rights and freedoms. in particular. and. and their large dependence on the bodies of the Republic and  Inadequate local electoral system. Assisting citizens in learning about important issues can raise interest and more actively engage in participation.  Undeveloped and ineffective practice of direct citizen participation. information and knowledge. and concrete obligations of local authorities towards citizens.

and deprived people because their experience and needs are part of the groups’ goals. first of all. Zambian citizen participation in public affairs ranges from public meetings to advisory boards to protests to voting. requires raising awareness and creating conviction in the citizens that their participation is necessary and desirable. and it demands a wider formal education (civic education). Overcoming the causes and problems. 2003). educational campaigns. whereas advisory committees can be the most cost-effective. It allows government to tap new sources of policy-relevant ideas. raising the quality of democracy and strengthening civic capacity which in turn helps strengthen representative democracy. Citizens are usually comfortable attending meetings that focus on the citizen input than rules of participation. as well as closer cooperation with organized forms of civic activity. Raising awareness should be the foundation of the national policy. Public hearings tend to give administrators the greatest amount of control of which information is provided and how citizens participate. powerless. Even though public hearings are considered wasteful and worthless (Burby. Strengthening relations with citizens through public affairs is a sound investment in better policy-making and a core element of good governance. Because these variables can have a positive or negative effect on citizen participation. no access to computers/email. and other forms of communication with citizens. information and resources when making decisions. Community members who lack access to the rules can be frustrated that their concerns are not truly listened to and feel the reason for the public meeting was not valid. the creation of a program for education of older population through seminars. in which parliaments play a central role.Representation on every facet of an issue or affected group is important for discussion of agenda items at an appropriate level of understanding. . Thus fewer citizens would probably attend the meeting on the issue or on future issues. there must be need to focus on which variables could encourage the greatest participation. such as non-governmental organizations. Some reasons people resist becoming involved include lack of transportation. Some groups need to seek out disadvantaged. and fear to state opinions. it contributes to building public trust in government. Also important. they should be used as long as the law requires citizen involvement. difficulty speaking the language.

Also. Government authorities should understand the value of the existing non-governmental sector. Associations of citizens and non-governmental organizations have a great influence on the development of a society as a whole. Moreover. as well as for their information about the issues important for their local communities. and for raising awareness of the necessity of their participation in the public life. and should do whatever is necessary to support it. Active political participation can also be important particularly in countries that are in the process of creating a modern. non-governmental organizations are significant for broader education of citizens. Non-governmental organizations support the prevention of the passivity of citizens. with active participation in non-governmental organizations. and particularly in the decision-making process. Zambian citizens also participate in politics. Raising awareness of civic activism and cooperation of government authorities with civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations has a very significant role in making the citizens’ voices heard in the running of national affairs. Participation of citizens in the process of creation. can lead to more equality and provide more legitimacy for the decisions of the government authorities.Citizens also participate in public affairs through their associations with different CSOs and NGOs. the recognition of the needs and interests of the citizens. and offer to citizens the opportunity to voice what they deem important for the development of the local environment. adoption and implementation of decisions produces an active civil society of responsible and involved citizens. The obligation of the authorities to secure transparency of their activities. and to provide information about their work. Increased participation of Zambian citizens in public life. political and economic system. the articulation of these needs and interests and their subsequent public representation through associations of citizens is significant for raising awareness and useful for harvesting the energy existent in every community. are just the basic and initial steps in the realization of. Therefore. in terms of . citizens can overcome the barriers related to inaccessibility of public institutions. This is of great significance because it promotes promotion democracy in the country. and especially on direct participation of citizens in local public life and the decision-making process.

criticisms and complaints to the government bodies.e. a broad circle of citizens. They may also propose the method for resolving an issue of public importance. public debates happen solely when they involve the broadest public. Citizens may. There must be institutional set-up is in place to elicit and encourage citizen participation in national political life. they must have access to information available to these bodies and this is one of the basic principles that encourage citizens to participate in the political decision-making process. submit requests and suggest the resolution of a specific issue or the issuing of an individual act. and are an important form of citizen consultation about their priorities. While assemblies of citizens. suggestions. . i. they exist in democratic countries.e. are organized for a closed circle of citizens living on that territory. or direct criticisms and submit complaints on irregular and illegal acts of government bodies towards them. The right to petition and the right to public criticism of authorities imply the right of every citizen to submit proposals. As such. The political space for participation should be equally distributed among different groups and communities so that they can assemble freely. far broader rights of citizens to direct participation in the process of governance.volume and meaning. i. People's participation as an integral element of change and development has long been acknowledged. community affairs or. These institutions and practices should be accessible to all people without discrimination. Public debate provides an opportunity for every individual to discuss all issues and to critically re-examine them for the purpose of finding adequate solutions. for that matter. local decision making. which the authorities must fully take into account in order to perform their duties in accordance with the expectations and needs of the citizens in their local communities. make informal proposals through a petition for adoptions or changes of regulations. individually or collectively. In order for the citizens to be able to take part in the democratic process of performing public affairs and be truly active subjects in the control of the governmental bodies. requests. in the economic market place. for example Zambia. political gatherings.

It is such participation that also ensures fair distribution of rights. And.. The leaders of political parties have thus been free to interpret devolution and decentralisation in a manner that suits their parochial interests. responsibilities and returns for the diverse membership of the society. Civil society organisations and non-governmental organizations have been working with communities in which they operate from in the areas of development and education for the economic well being of the nation. Citizens have participating in exercising their democratic right of voting hence enhancing democracy in the country. it is rather silent on many critical domains of participation. The government’s responsibility may be that of maintaining democracy in the country through wider participation of the people in governance through the medium of decentralisation of power. local bodies still exist as extensions of the central administration rather than as autonomous institutions of local self-government accountable to the electorate. The actual representative character of a nominally representative government depends upon such participation. . This essay has adequately critically discussed citizen participation in Zambia. As a result. A broad based development is predicated on it. Citizens have been encouraged to take part in different public affairs activities of their country. is central to the attainment of the liberal and egalitarian goals set forth in the constitution. A vibrant democratic community provides for a free and willing participation of its members in all aspects and levels of public and community life. local self-government and devolution of power. e. even the market economy cannot really function or sustain itself -as theoretically envisaged without it. at all levels.g. It is such participation that ensures fair play in a liberal society by requiring accountability in governance at all levels and eliciting civic and community interests from all citizens. The concept of people’s sovereignty becomes a farce without it. While the constitution as a whole provides a framework for democratic governance at the macro level.People’s participation in national affairs.

E. 2003. Handbook of Public Affairs. 2002. & Stivers. J... C. P. Government Is Us: Public Administration in an Anti-Government Era. Washington. The Case for Bureaucracy: A Public Administration Polemic. King. C.S... Phil Harris. McMasters. St. R. 2005.. C. Civic participation and advocacy. Thousand Oaks. 1998. DC: Brookings Institution. Burby... Journal of the American Planning Association. Sage Publications. Citizen participation in decision making: is it worth the effort? Public Administration Review. 1994... C. J. R. Irvin. Secrecy in an open society. 2004. Petersburg Times. Stivers.. CA: Sage Publications. 2005. & Stansbury. London. . T. Making plans that matter: citizen involvement and government action. & Krehely. Goodsell. Administration and Society. 1990. Craig S Fleisher.T.. New York: Chatham House Publishers.REFERENCES Boris.A. The public agency as polis: Active citizenship in the Administrative State.