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72 Frequently Asked Questions about Participatory Budgeting(2)

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    14 Can any municipality implement a PB?  

In principle, yes it can. Nevertheless, experience has shown that certain precondi- tions are crucial for the success of such an undertaking.

 

      15 What are the basic conditions necessary to implement a Parti- cipatory Budget in a municipality?10  

There are a number of basic preconditions for the implementation of a Participatory Budget. The first is a clear political will of the Mayor and the other municipal decision- makers. Political will is necessary to sustain the entire process. The most visible ma- nifestation of this will be in the implementation phase, when commitments arecon- cretised into tangible investments.  

   

The second is the presence and interest of civil society organizations and better still,  

of the citizenry in general. This condition is decisive for the sustainability of the exer- cise.  

   

The third is a clear and shared definition of the rules of the game. These rules refer  

to the amounts to be discussed, the stages and their respective time periods, the ru- les for decision-making (and in the   case of disagreement, the responsibility and de- cision-making authority of each actor), the method of distributing responsibility, aut- hority and resources among the different districts and neighbourhoods of the city, and the composition of the Participatory Budget Council. These rules cannot be decided unilaterally. They must be determined with full participation of the population, and subsequently adjusted each year, based on the results and functioning of the pro- cess.  

   

The fourth precondition is the will to build the capacity of the population and the mu- nicipal officials, on public budgeting in general as well as the Participatory Budget in particular. This entails explaining the amounts, sources of funds and current system of expenditures. It is also important to clarify which areas of public spending arethe municipalitys responsibility and which rest beyond the local authority.A fifth condition is the widespread dissemination of information through all pos- sible means. Dates and venues of meetings, and the rules of the game which have been decided upon, must be shared with the population.

Finally, the sixth precondition is the prioritisation of demands, set by the population and linked to technical criteria that include an analysis of the existing shortfalls in in- frastructure and public services. This is important in order to facilitate a fairer distribution of resources.

16    In what conditions is it not advisable to undertake a Participa- tory Budget?  

It is not advisable to implement a PB when the preconditions mentioned abo-ve are not present. Additionally, it is not advisable if one or both of the parties, either  

the government or the citizenry, are not open to change and shared management of public resources.  

   

It is also better to avoid participatory budgeting if honesty and transparency are lacking in the local administration. To implement a PB in that context would provide legitimacy to, or hide, practices that are contrary to the basic principles of participa- tory budgeting.  

   

When the local conditions are not ideal at a given moment, this does not mean that the interested people or institutions should abandon the idea of Participatory Budge-ting. More limited initiatives can be undertaken, such as attempting to introduce more transparency into the budgeting process.11 The organization of Forums or other activities, with the presence of legitimate representatives of civil society can be a mechanism to press for the opening of a public discussion of the budget and ci- tizen control of it. Many cities are right now undergoing a preparatory stage for Par- ticipatory Budgeting.  

17   What are the basic principles of the PB?  

The fundamental principles are participatory democracy, as a political model, and good governance.12 If indeed these principles areconsidered universal, each city or country converts them into practical means, reflecting their needs and the local context

By way of illustration, following are the eight guiding principles  (summarised) of  

the Participatory Budgeting Law in Peru.13  

Participation  

Transparency  

Equality  

Tolerance  

Efficiency and effectiveness  

 • Equity  

 • Competitiveness  

 • Respect for agreements  

Co-management of public resources provides another dimension to these principles.

   

Box 4:    

      Method for a pre-diagnostic study. The experience of Salford, England    

The three objectives of the study presented to the Salford City Council were as follows:    

1. To develop a hypothetical Budget Matrix for Salford to explore existing priorities and themes as set out in the Salford Community Plan    

2. To explore how the Budget Matrix might integrate with the community planning and budget    

cycle processes    

3. To eva luate the opportunities and challenges presented by this analysis with a view to incor- porating a more participatory approach in Salfords budget cycle.    

In addition, seven stages for the development of a Budget Matrix were established, which can be summarised as follows:    

Stage 1: Identify the amount available for investment    

Stage 2: Develop priorities and local ideas    

Stage 3: Transform local priorities into city-wide priorities    

Stage 4: Make adjustments for population    

Stage 5: Make adjustments for levels of need    

Stage 6: Weight the budget matrix    

Stage 7: Determine specific allocations    

Source: Community Pride Initiative. Building a Peoples Budget. Report of the Salford Budget. Matrix Study. Report to    

Salford City Council Budget Committee, May 2003. Copyright CPI bridget@communitypride.org.uk    

   

  

 18  How is a Participatory Budget put into practice?  

There is no universal recipe to initiate a participatory budget. Each local situa- tion will look different.

The first suggested step is to do a situation analysis (or assessment) to see to what extent the main principles are respected and the preconditions met. This analy-sis can vary in content from one city to another (see Box 4, the experience of Salford, England).  

   

A second important step is to create, also in a participatory way, a map (or eva lua- tion) of the local actors interested in the process and those who could be opposed.  

   

A third step is the clear analysis and definition, by the government, of the amount and origin of the resources that would be placed at the consideration of the Participatory Budgeting process and those that would be necessary for the municipality to imple- ment the process.   At this point it is recommended that the municipalities carry out  

a cost/benefit analysis of the undertaking.  

   

The next step is the creation of alliances and opening up of the dialogue so that the idea can gain more supporters and legitimacy within the municipality. The key elements of this could be:  

   

Reach an agreement within the government  

Carry out dialogues with the most relevant representatives of civil society  

Seek early involvement of the elected councillors  

   

The fifth step is the design of the internal regulations for the Participatory Budget, which define the rules of the game for the first year.  

It is important to take into account the following operating principles:  

       • Universal participation: All citizens can participate, irrespective of their socio-eco-  nomicstatus.Nevertheless,organized groups play an important role in the process.  

       It will, in fact, be necessary to think intentionally about specific ways of involving more marginal elements of thecitizenry.  

       • Transparency of the budget, both in income and expenditures.  

       • Flexibility: The process should be flexible enough to allow continuous eva- luation and adjustment.

       • Objectivity: Objective and explicit criteria should be used for the allocation of re- sources in order to guarantee the credibility of the process.  

       • Gender focus: Equal participation of women and men in the process. In this respect, it is important to have data and numbers disaggregated for gender, both  

in the budget as well as for the impacts of the investments.  

       • Pluri-cultural and multi-ethnic focus: Positive discrimination and affirmative ac- tions to assure the participation and decision-making power of the excluded (for example, indigenous groups).  

 

The different stages are part of an annual cycle, called the Participatory Budget Cy- cle. There are some variations  from city to city.14   Below, the principal stages are presented (see also figures 5 and 6 for examples from Porto Alegre and Pinheiral,Brazil)

The cycle of discussion, negotiation and elaboration of the Participatory Budget ta- kes one year and is normally made up of the following stages (especially in larger ci-ties):

Local (parish, neighbourhood, district, etc.) and Sectoral Assemblies  

In these Assemblies, the Mayor accounts for what was achieved and what wasn’t in the previous period, presents the investment plan and the Rules of Procedure for the Participatory Budget. Territorial and sectoral (thematic or issue-specific) delegates for the Participatory Budget are elected (or designated), based on the criteria esta- blished in the set of rules.

Local and sectoral meetings (optional)  

 19  What are the principal stages of a PB?

These are meetings between the delegate and his/her community. They can take pla- ce without the presence of the local government if the delegates wish.  In these mee- tings, participants decide on priority projects to be executed.   In Europe as well as many Latin American cities, it is necessary to involve the municipal government in at least  some  assemblies,  because  the  civil  society  is  not  organized  or  convinced enough to carry out this stage on its own. The discussion in the assemblies should be complemented with regular discussions among the delegates at regional, issue-spe- cific and city-wide levels, since in some assemblies the quality of the debate could be lacking. This is necessary so that the Participatory Budget does not become limited to a plebiscite or a form of populism

Municipal-level Assembly

This is an event in which the PB Committee officially delivers to the Mayor, the list of priority projects defined through citizen participation. It is during this event that the members of the Participatory Budget Committee are officially installed.

Design of the budget matrix  

The Municipality and the Participatory Budget Committee design the budget matrix.

It is one of the fundamental and most controversial moments of the process. The In- vestment Plan is put together, shared with the population and subsequently publis- hed so that it can be used for monitoring the fulfilment of the established agreements.  

eva luation of the process  

Once the cycle is concluded, the PB Rules of Procedure are eva luated and adjusted. The new Rules will be used the following year.  

The first cycle runs from the first meetings (generally during March) in the neighbour- hoods and is finalised with theapproval of the   budget matrix (in October or No- vember).  

There is a second cycle, called the Implementation and Oversight Cycle which be- gins the following year (see Box 7 on Belo Horizonte).15 Throughout this cycle, which begins with technical studies and ends with the inauguration of the approved projects, the local government, the citizens, and usually the specific monitoring commissions,continue to interact.continue to interact.  

     

  

  

  

   

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