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Cities’ empowerment initiatives risk being ‘paper exercises’

Nov 16, 2021 | News

(16 November 2021) – According to experts, projects meant to give power to EU city dwellers risk being reduced to a box-ticking exercise unless municipal leaders can convince as many of their constituents as possible to participate.

© Nature Italy

Participative tools like consultations and shared decision-making on city budgets between inhabitants and municipal governments are seen as a way to empower citizens on local issues.

However, participative processes as “a matter of power-sharing” will only work if there is the political will to go beyond “ticking a box,” according to Anna Lisa Boni, secretary-general of Eurocities, a network of large cities in Europe. Some have even questioned whether these tools bolster local democracy at all.

These initiatives often turn out to be no more than “paper exercises”, empty of real and equal participation, said Rebecca Rumbul, head of research at mySociety, a not-for-profit working on civic engagement. “I think participatory exercises, consultations, these kinds of things, they’re often used to just legitimise the process,” she said. (Euractiv)

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