The aim of the document is to analyze the level and quality of public participation in the work of municipal public agencies. The underlying assessment examines existing practices of citizen engagement in the municipalities of Kutaisi, Akhaltsikhe and Batumi. The document provides an analysis on how citizens interact with the municipal government and how/if their positions are reflected in the short-term and long-term policy priorities and budget of the government. In addition, the assessment looks at the legislative base for citizen engagement and the tools of e-democracy that create a favorable environment for public participation. The assessment examines established principles according to several documents – 1. The OECD Handbook on Information, Consultation and Public Participation in Policy Making 2. Sherry R. Amstein Ladder of Citizen Participation and the Handbook on Public Participation in Local Self-Government.
There are three main challenges with regard to ensuring meaningful participation of the public in the life and decision-making of the city:
1. insufficient skills of the representatives of the municipal authorities
2. insufficient political will of key decision-makers in the public institutions and among civil society
3. Lack of innovative approaches that would attract the public.
It has been noted by both public servants and civil society representatives that a challenge remains in the interest and skills of the municipal population, which in certain cases in not enough for a meaningful policy dialogue. An overall challenge also lies in the absence of electronic tools of participation, information and communication. Despite the fact that Batumi, Akhaltsikhe and Kutaisi municipalities operate relatively advanced webpages and are actively using social media, there is no systemic approach of outreach, communication and participation.
The challenges of the municipalities are largely similar and require systemic improvement. Several types of problems were identified in the assessed municipalities:
1. Insufficient skills of the public to engage policy dialogue;
2. Insufficient political will of the local government to consider input of the public;
3. Low capacity of civil servants involved in the public engagement process;
4. Fragmented legal framework on public participation;
5. Absence of innovation in the process of informing and consulting the public.
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