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SA participation issues discussed at Civicus forum in Glasgow, Scotland

Janine Hicks, former director of the Centre for Public Participation (CPP) and Imraan Buccus, a Research Fellow at CPP, recently contributed to an international conference entitled “How Can We Build Political Will for Participatory Governance?” convened by the international civil society network CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

The conference, organized by the CIVICUS’ Participatory Governance Programme, took place in Glasgow, UK, on 17-18 June 2008, immediately prior to the CIVICUS World Assembly, an annual gathering of civil society leaders and their interlocutors in government, business, and academia.

The conference focused on the critical issue of building broad-based support for participatory governance initiatives. The choice of this topic is based on the realization that one of the key challenges faced by participatory governance practitioners is lack of political will.  Although participatory governance offers important concrete benefits for citizens and state actors alike, there is often initial resistance from government officials who are unfamiliar with such approaches. 

Imraan and Janine presented a paper on how they went about using the Draft National Framework on Public Participation to develop policy on public participation for the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG). They also set up and ran a stall in the “market place of ideas”, setting out learnings and insights from the South African experience. According to them the plenary discussions and relevant break away case study groups provided a wonderful forum to network with colleagues in the participatory governance sector and to be exposed to information and research undertaken, as well as practical models for participatory governance.

“Imraan and I are building on ideas generated through discussions to deepen our concept of creating an envisaged provincial participatory policy forum, to create a space where state and non-state actors, in the form of diverse civil society stakeholders, can come together and engage on policy developments.  Our goal is to ensure that marginalized groups, such as informal settlement dwellers and rural women, are able to make input into decision-making impacting on their lives.  We are also engaged in dialogue with fellow participatory governance workshop participants to identify areas for future research collaboration,” Janine explained.

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