Participatory budgeting as a tool for citizens participation at the work of the local government

The Participatory budgeting is an innovative tool for citizens participation, enabling citizens to determine how part of the local government or state budget is spent.

The Participatory budgeting as an approach was launched in Brazil in the 1990s. Currently, the Participatory budgeting is implemented in more than 1000 municipalities across the world and their implementation forms vary greatly: in some places, the Participatory budgeting is implemented on a national scale and the budget can reach several million euro, but elsewhere it takes place on the scale of small neighbourhoods or villages with a budget of some thousands of euro.

The fundamental benefit of the Participatory budgeting is that it helps to promote the values of direct democracy and it is a way of involving people in the decision-making process. The Participatory budgeting helps to involve society at an already defining stage, and it helps citizens to find themselves the right solution to a specific problem, thereby strengthening civil society. At the same time, by modernising public administration, it is an opportunity to inform and educate citizens about the activities of local government and state institutions, it’s budget planning and its provisional costs. It is also an opportunity to educate citizens on the preparation of projects and, in general, to improve citizens’ sense of belonging to a particular community, village or local government.
The implementation of the Participatory budgeting consists of several successive and defined phases:

1) a model for the implementation of the Participatory budgeting is established, setting out the amount of funding available for the Participatory budgeting and the implementing rules (e.g. the submission of ideas and voting on ideas that may be voted in, etc.), by referring to it in the municipality’s implementing rules for the implementation of the Participatory budgeting (for example, in the framework of the Project Empaci, on a provisional basis, in June, useful material will be available to interested parties, which will summarise different models in the Baltic Sea region countries);

2) a single information platform is established (by creating a separate section on the local government homepage or by creating a national-level platform, such as https://balso.vidzeme.lv/), thereby enabling citizens to participate in the participatory budgeting process by submitting ideas and voting on them (at the same time it is essential to ensure that citizens can vote on ideas also off-line);

3) the organisers of the Participatory budgeting shall ensure the evaluation of the submitted ideas in conformity with the clearly defined evaluation criteria, which are specified in the by-law for the implementation of the Participatory budgeting prepared by the local government;

4) collecting the results of the vote and providing feedback to both the authors of the ideas and to the public (The Social Innovation Centre is currently developing guidelines for the communication and dissemination planning and implementation at the Participatory budgeting processes and will be available to all the stakeholders by the end of this year);

5) the implementation of the winning ideas and the maintenance of the results shall be ensured.

The idea of the Participatory budgeting in Latvia is not only being introduced in Riga and Vidzeme Planning Region, work has been launched on preparing it in some other municipalities, and also at the national level is being worked on the creation, promotion and introduction of the Participatory budgeting as a tool for citizens participation in local government work in Latvia.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Affairs (VARAM), as the responsible ministry, has prepared a conceptual report on the implementation of the budget for participation in Latvia. Participation budgeting monitoring at both national and local level also involves NGO Providus (its opinion on VARAM conceptual report and other materials on the Participatory budgeting can be found at www.providus.lv).

The conceptual report on the implementation of the Participatory budgeting in Latvia was drawn up following point 227 of the government Declaration “Declaration on the Planned Activities of Arturs Krisjanis Karins Cabinet”, approved on 23 January 2019, entitled “Let’s introduce a pilot project – “Participatory budgeting” with state funding support to decide directly on the priorities for the distribution of local government funding and following Objective B.3 .6 of the Regional Policy Guidelines for 2021-2027, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers on 19 November 2019, entitled “Engagement of the wider society in the achievement of the objectives of regional policy”, which provides for the implementation of changes to the regulatory enactments for the implementation of the Participatory budgeting in Latvia, including defining the framework conditions for the Participatory budgeting mechanism and providing methodical support (educational and motivational activities) for municipalities and local communities in implementing the Participatory budgeting.

The involvement of the “Social Innovation Centre” in the creation, promotion and development of the tool of the Participatory budgeting as public participation at the local government in Latvia is currently implementing international project “Development of the Participatory Budgeting Process in the Baltic Sea Region” (EmPaci) which is financed by the European Regional Development Fund Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme for 2014-2020. The project aims to promote the Participatory budgeting in the work of the local governments and to promote this tool more and more in cooperation with the partners from Germany, Finland, Russia, Lithuania and Poland.

We are pleased to be involved in providing consultations, seminars and training to the public administration on the implementation of the Participatory budgeting from the idea to the monitoring of the results of the initiatives supported and implemented. You can find out more about the experience of implementing the Participatory budgeting on the www.empaci.eu or by contacting partners in Latvia – Social Innovation Centre, coordinator Inese Shubenvica inese@socialinnovation.lv and Vidzeme Planning Region.

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