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Commitments about civic participation may pertain to formal public participation or to broad civic participation. Commitments addressing public participation:
- must open up decision making to all interested members of the public; such forums are usually “top-down” in that they are created by government (or actors empowered by government) to information decision-making throughout the policy cycle;
- can include elements of access to information to ensure meaningful input of interested members of the public into decisions;
- often include the right to have your voice heard, but do not necessarily include the right to be a formal part of a decision-making process.
Alternately, commitments may address the broader operating environment that enable participation in civic space. Examples include but are not limited to:
- Reforms increasing freedoms of assembly, expression, petition, press, or association;
- Reforms on association including trade union laws or NGO laws;
- Reforms improving the transparency and process of formal democratic processes such as citizen proposals, elections, or petitions.
Taken from: OGP Values Guidance document
Citizen engagement is what open government is all about. It underpins many of the other topics in this guide – with active citizenship often being a vital link between transparency and accountability. The Open Government Partnership recognises this in its eligibility criteria, stating that: ‘Open Government requires openness to citizen participation and engagement in policymaking and governance, including basic protections for civil liberties’ (Open Government Partnership).
In an increasingly complex world, citizens’ input is a critical resource for policy-making. Good decision-making requires the knowledge, experiences, views and values of the public. Implementing difficult decisions depends on citizens’ consent and support. Unless citizens understand and are engaged in the decision themselves, trust is easily lost (OECD, 2009).
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