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Call this democracy? Education and empowerment through participatory city budgeting
While cities have always had the power to make the decisions that affect their citizens most directly, the citizens of today are becoming more conscious of their rights and want to participate in the decisions that form the basis of those rights. Consequently, cities are increasingly claiming political power from central government and planners need to work with the people in order to build a future that they know they want, rather than confront them with plans they can only accept or refuse. Lisbon was the first European capital to introduce a truly binding participatory budgeting - The Charter of the Principles of Participatory Budgeting was approved in 2008. The municipality has made a commitment to progressively involve citizens in the application of participatory methodology, in the resolution of problems by a process of co-creation and co-production between the municipality and citizens. It has also motivated the organisation of local communities and increased the accountability of the elected representatives. These processes allow citizens to understand the difficulties and restrictions that the public services have to deal with in order to implement its projects, and, at the same time, the municipal services are under permanent scrutiny, which obliges them to be accountable. Through recent case studies from Lisbon, Deputy Mayor Salgado demonstrates how the participatory process, though not necessarily providing all the answers, can make a strong contribution to the empowerment of citizens, giving them a greater capacity for participation and allowing for new forms of governance.
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