Association Center for Applied Policy and Integrity
We have designed actions to mitigate risks to public participation and oversight in virtual decision-making environments, which local authorities across Bulgaria have introduced in response to the COVID19 pandemic. We will involve local officials, experts, and underrepresented groups with stakes in public decision-making in disadvantaged regions and the capital, to discuss and resolve pandemic-related gaps in the participatory mechanisms and consultative practices in their local contexts.
Sofia, Bulagaria; Sliven, Southeast; Montana, Northwest; Dimitrovgrad, South; Pleven, North Bulgaria
The interaction between civil society and local authorities in the selected cities was disrupted by restrictions to the physical presence of members of the public and the lack of regulatory provisions (and technical means) to compensate for that through online solutions which are in line with the law. This affected or even suspended the functioning of public consultation bodies. To deal with the crisis local authorities applied measures which in some cases were piecemeal and increased the risk of exclusion or disempowerment of the civil society from the decision-making process. This jeopardizes the quality, efficacy, and legitimacy of municipal policies, which are becoming increasingly unshielded from excessive politicization.
The project will involve and benefit public officials on local level, civic leaders, experts and underrepresented groups with stakes in municipal decision-making, who will be given the know-how and means to replicate and disseminate the project results in their respective communities and contexts. The goal is to raise their capacity for identification and mitigation of risks that emerge from crisis-related constraints to decision-making in the public sector. and for the monitoring of compliance with the corresponding commitments. The number of direct and skeletal target groups we aim to cover is about 1500 beneficiaries, with a focus on groups which have remained outside the decision-making process as a result of the pandemic.
Timeline,actions,deliverables:The project will unfold in three stages – scoping(2 months), consultations and analysis(5 months),group discussions,dissemination and capacity building (5 months) and will lead to three tangible deliverables:
-Report with analysis and recommendations on how to close gaps in legislation and administrative practice
-Handbook for monitoring of public participation in decision-making
-Network of experts with different points of view applying the principles of an open decision-making process on a local level
Activities:Semi-structured bilateral and group interviews-five per city;focus groups- one per city;consultation and validation workshops-two per city;discussions,dissemination and capacity-building events-three per city,monitoring.
Outcomes:To strengthen the resilience of public institutions in the face of the pandemic through better regulations and practices in the area of public control and participation and raise the capacity of citizens to use these mechanisms as a key channel for exercising their constitutional right to be involved in matters that concern them.
Follow-up:The methodology and deliverables can be applied in other municipalities if there is an interest.Other sustainable element is that their follow-up implementation does not imply additional financial expenses.We will offer pro-bono support where needed.
We expect to raise local capacity for identification of risks that emerge from crisis-related constraints in decision-making in times of crisis, and for monitoring of compliance with the corresponding commitments. As a key result we will deliver evidence and locally owned guidance on how to amend legislation and improve the practice of its application in ways that mitigate risks to public participation and oversight in decision-making on local level in virtual and hybrid decision-making environments.
We will provide three tangible deliverables:
-Risk assessment handbook for NGOs and local authorities
-Evidence and recommendations in the form of a report on how to close gaps in legislation and administrative practice.
-Establishment of a network of opinion leaders
The project will provide hands-on recommendations for improvement,which are in line with an emerging international reflection about the threats to the substance and process of public decision-making under COVID19
With the help of workshops,discussions,dissemination and capacity building events we will engage representatives from civic society with different points of view and will provide them knowledge and skills how to defend opinion,to participate in the implementation of policies at local level
The project will deliver system-wide practices and policy solutions that depart from the commitments of local authorities to transparency and public participation.It will provide guidance on how to strengthen the regulatory framework and will supply tools for monitoring of these commitments
In the implementation of the project activities, we are involving colleagues with extensive expertise in the field of law, policy analysis, and the development applied policy solutions in support of public participation and oversight in municipal decision-making. Moreover, all members of the team have, in one way or another, had exposure to experiences in authoritarian state settings that infringe on the rights and freedoms of individuals, and pose a risk of long-term damage to future generations and their chances for prosperity and freedom. This motivates them to do everything in their power to prevent a reversal of hard-fought achievements in the area of rights and freedoms, and public participation and accountability.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Staff and administration: EUR 7000
Local travel for evidence collection, consultation, capacity building and dissemination: 3000
Expertise( legal and policy analysis): EUR 11 000
Event-related costs: EUR 6 000
Publication and communication-related expenses: EUR 1 500
Overheads: EUR 1 500
TOTAL COST: EUR 30 000
We would like to receive feedback on whether other countries and partners are confronted with problems which are similar to the ones in focus of our project and if yes, whether our solutions may be of relevance to them as well.