How to comply with the Autonomous Community Law on Citizen Participation

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Did you know that having a citizen engagement website will be mandatory for all Andalusian municipalities from January 2020? Or that Madrid has a new citizen participation law since April 2019? In the Valencian Community there is an economic compensation for participating. And the Government of Murcia offers telematic support to the participatory processes of its municipalities.

If you are just starting out as a councilor or councilor for citizen participation, you are probably not familiar with any of this yet. And although the technical experts may have some fresher concepts, it never hurts to review the basics. That is why we have prepared this summary of the regulatory framework of citizen participation in Spain, with emphasis on the new features introduced by the seventeen autonomous laws published between 2010 and 2019. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact us.

International context of citizen participation

Recent crises of institutional legitimacy have led many to see transparency and citizen participation as a revulsive against political disaffection. So much so that in 2011 the United Nations created the Open Government Partnership, an international body that oversees national and subnational action plans in 79 countries (including Spain). The use of new technologies for interaction between governments and citizens are at the heart of these plans. But citizen participation is not a phenomenon born to make up for the mistakes of the past, but a fundamental pillar of democratic systems. Therefore, to better understand the role of citizen participation in our institutions, we must revisit the Magna Carta of 1978.

State regulations on citizen's partitioning

The word "participation" appears fourteen times in the Spanish Constitution. Articles 9.2, 23.1 and 48 state that "it is the responsibility of the public authorities to facilitate the participation of all citizens in political, economic, cultural and social life".

Subsequently, in Article 1 of Law 7/1985 of April 2, 1985, Regulating the Bases of the Local Regime (LRBRL), the importance of the local administration as an immediate channel for citizen participation was pointed out. This same law sets out the rights and duties of the neighbors. For example, the rights of hearing, popular initiative, request for information, consultation or collaboration with the city council, are rights common to all citizens regardless of the municipality and the region in which they reside.

As a curious aspect of this regulation, it is worth noting the exclusion of the decision as a mechanism of participation. Since in article 69.1 it is recalled that no form of participation can undermine the decision-making power of the local government. This fact contrasts with the tendency of some city councils to give the surname "Decide" to their citizen participation websites.

Local regulations for citizen participation

Compared to other countries, Spain has a lot of progress to make in terms of citizen participation. However, our regulatory framework provides for various mechanisms that still have a long way to go and that, unfortunately, are not applied on a day-to-day basis - sometimes due to lack of knowledge and sometimes due to lack of political will. Some of these mechanisms have already been mentioned in the previous section. Others, such as participatory budgets, are innovations that local entities are introducing in their citizen participation regulations, an organic rule that all municipalities must have by virtue of the provisions of article 70bis of the Law of Bases.

Citizen participation regulations come in all shapes and colors. Some are limited to paraphrase what the Law of Bases says (and in some cases not even that) and others introduce novelties of the most varied. If you want to go deeper into this topic, we recommend reading the Guide to Citizen Participation Instruments prepared by the FEMP and the Government of Aragon in 2016.

In short, in the absence of a state law harmonizing these regulations, we find ourselves with a scenario in which the right of participation of one citizen may be very different from that of another who resides in a neighboring town. Perhaps for this reason, in the last nine years all the autonomous communities have published their own law on citizen participation. Again, each law is very different. Here is a comparative summary so that you can get an idea of the situation in your region. Of course, if you want your municipality to be a pioneer in citizen participation, you cannot limit yourself to complying with the minimums established by law. And you should look to what other cities are doing for inspiration. other cities. But it is always good to know if we are within the law or if we need to update ourselves.

Autonomous community laws on citizen participation

Each autonomous community has a law regulating citizen participation. In some cases they are laws of good governance that contain a few articles on participation. In others, they are laws on transparency and citizen participation. And only in the case of Andalusia is it a law dealing exclusively with citizen participation. Of the seventeen laws, nine include municipalities in their scope of application.

The pioneering regions were the Canary Islands (2010), the Balearic Islands (2011) and Extremadura (2013) - a region that took its first steps in citizen participation with the support of Kuorum. And the most recent additions are those of Andalusia (2019), Madrid (2019) and the Basque Country (in draft). Generally the most recent laws are more innovative and detailed. But there are exceptions such as that of Galicia which, despite having been published in 2016, still understands participation as a mere "mechanism of control over public affairs". In contrast, Murcia in 2014 already defined it as "individual or collective intervention by citizens in the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies and actions".

Some autonomous communities offer support to smaller municipalities. Others delegate this function to the provincial councils. But all of them - with the exception of Asturias - urge the use of electronic media to facilitate citizen participation. In the following section we explain how you can effortlessly comply with this requirement.

Technology for citizen participation

Whether you are required by law or just a recommendation, the truth is that technology can help you achieve higher participation rates in your municipality and a reduced workload in your citizen participation department. In the Citizen Participation Report 2019 you can see some of the reasons why participation technologies are essential to stimulate youth participation. But what are the requirements for the technology you hire? To help you choose, we have prepared this article. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact us.

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