Citizen Participation Forum (CPF), Bulgaria
“Bulgarian association for the promotion of citizens’ initiative”
"European spaces 21”
“Business incubator – Gotse Delchev”
4th partner is "New Road Hayredin". All 4 are active members of the CPF who know in details the challenges for participation in the 4 municipalities; well-known and respected in their communities.
From North-West to South-East, from North-East to South-West – we unite efforts to enhance citizen participation in four small municipalities in Bulgaria. Fishermen communities on the Danube River, small villages close to the Black Sea, minority groups and citizens from 2 border towns will be involved in joint activities with local authorities and CSOs. This initiative will change their societal role: from objects, they will become active doers, co-authors of local policies.
Tutrakan, Gotse Delchev, Hayredin and Karnobat – small towns placed in 4 different regions.
There are only few active CSOs in Tutrakan, procedures and mechanisms for online public consultations do not exist, participation is getting lower and lower. Citizens of Karnobat are quite disconnected as they inhabit 30 geographically scattered villages. There is a number of ad hoc committees which spark here and there to address a local issue but there are no sustainable participatory regulations and structures. Gotse Delchev municipality is economically and culturally active, but citizen participation is sporadic and not so organized. Depopulation and low quality healthcare services are some of the biggest local issues. Hayredin is a very small municipality from the most undeveloped region in the EU, with mixed population, facing severe social issues like unemployment and demotivation.
By training local activists about their rights and existing mechanisms for participation we will raise their knowledge about core democratic values and tools. Thus we will give them more confidence to share their opinion on public issues and be more active as citizens.
We will study local people`s needs and issues - in order to organize a process relevant and useful to them. Finally, by engaging citizens, organizations and local authorities in practical activities, such as public consultations on topics important to the specific local community, we will enhance communication and collaboration between the different target groups, and motivate communities to act as such. Attracting local media will help us spread the word and broaden the outreach of the project.
Representatives from various stakeholder groups, ~ 40-60 people from each municipality, will be directly involved in the realization of our activities. Our key target groups are:
-Local community groups
-Local CSOs and media
We will invite citizens to take part in 3 main activities: 1/ Training for acquiring/ improving citizen participation skills, 2/ “Citizen Participation Index”, 3/ actual public consultation. Activists, organizations and local municipal administration will be included in the 3 activities as well. Authorities will thus be engaged in a process of and improving existing mechanisms for participation and motivated to adopt new ones. Media will be invited to the public consultation and regularly informed regarding all initiatives and their aftermath.
We plan these steps in each municipality:
-Training for local activists, NGOs, authorities on how to organize, facilitate and participate in effective public consultations: informing, representation, building consensus among stakeholders, addressing recommendations;
-Apply the Citizen Participation Index to find the participation “bottlenecks” and ways to improve. Identify issues of local significance for each community;
-Practically apply the skills acquired in trainings by holding public discussions in each municipality on the issues identified in Step 2;
-Address recommendations to local authorities based on the citizens’ suggestions during the public consultations;
-Organize info- and advocacy campaigns in the 4 municipalities for the implementation of the recommendations.
Civic education is crucial for empowering citizens and boosting local level democracy.
At the end of the project we will have informed and trained citizens, civil society organizations and local authorities in 4 municipalities about participatory mechanisms and democratic standards. Public discussions will be held and decisions made on issues of local significance. Experience will be gained among the various stakeholders to conduct and participate in public consultations. More citizens will have the knowledge, skills and motivation to take an active part in decision-making. Local authorities will see the benefit of making decisions and steps based on citizen’s opinion that meet community expectations and real needs, which will reduce cases of civil discontent and opposition to decisions.
The results of the initiative enable deeper understanding of the practical dimension of European democratic values that are sometimes misconceived by the public or even misinterpreted and attacked. By consulting the citizens on local issues, their sensitivity of the principles and the nature of democracy will improve. The organization and conduct of quality public consultations will strengthen the individual citizen’s perception of the democratic processes and the benefits of participation. Empowered to decide on the future of their town, neighbourhood, or their children’s playgrounds the citizens’ trust in local and in European institutions and policies will increase. As a member of the DCSF, we will as well share our experience with active NGOs from 14 countries from the Danube region.
It is the very nature of CPF to apply and improve participation and consultation processes – this was the reason for the network to be established 10 years ago. Throughout the years, we promote participatory mechanisms with our members in different towns and regions and the results we have achieved make us confident this is the right direction to go. We can see that empowering citizens to participate in the local decision – making processes in every other town or village, brings about democratization, stronger public pressure and better local governance in Bulgaria and in Europe.
The positive energy we mobilize in the local communities with these processes is a key for our strong motivation to continue working in this direction and spread our knowledge and ideas in these 4 municipalities.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Civic education/ training for 40 people: 12000 EUR
Evaluation of the Citizen Participation Index in the 4 municipalities: 4800 EUR
Public discussions for a total of 4X60 participants: 8000 EUR
Elaboration of recommendations to the local authorities: experts and local coordinators: 4800 EUR
Information and advocacy campaigns: 6000 EUR
Administrative: 4200 EUR
Travel costs for the team: 1600 EUR
Project management: 7200 EUR
Publicity: 1200 EUR
Any feedback and reccommendations will be valuable to us, especially regarding examples for the organization of online public consultations.