Strengthening civil society participation
Context and objectives of the action
Participation is an essential ingredient of open government practices, which requires a relationship of trust between citizens and institutions. The adoption of deliberative practices is gaining ground in the management of public policies,through citizen involvement processes. The promotion of sustainable practices, also from a social point of view, in Member States’ policies is also requested by Europe as made evident by the Action Plan for European Democracy, approved by the Commission in December 2020, which recommends deliberative democracy for the Next Generation EU.
In Italy, as in the rest of the world, there is a decline in trust in institutions, which is evident in the absenteeism recorded in the last local elections. The lack of trust in public authority has obvious consequences on the policies that should be co-produced. However, to varying degrees and in different ways depending on the level of government, our country does register significant participation by civil society, albeit different in different geographical areas. There are methods, tried and tested in Italy for more than twenty years, for involving stakeholders in the provision of services or the creation of public works through ad hoc processes. These processes are carried out through in-depth meetings managed in a structured manner, with the presence of experts, and are designed to avoid confrontation through dialogue. Regional laws or ad hoc municipal regulations have been approved to promote them and have them funded by institutional actors interested in the quality of democracy in their territories.
In 2018, mandatory public debate was introduced for all works above a certain cost or size
threshold. This consultation process must be promoted by the contracting authorities, under the supervision of the "National Commission for Public Debate" also, albeit with a simplified procedure, for infrastructure works financed by the NRRP, which in this area amounts to a total investment of 24.77 billion euros. In addition, in the NRRP there is an explicit reference to citizen participation for urban regeneration projects financed by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility, to reduce housing hardship and regenerate the socio-economic fabric of urban centres (amounting to 2.82 billion euros).
Within the 4th NAP framework, the national open-source platform ParteciPa was also created for online consultation and made available to administrations interested in implementing participatory processes. To date, 14 public consultations have been held nationwide. Among the recommendations made by the IRM is that of strengthening the level of collaboration by increasing the active participation of civil society in the process of defining commitments to be included in the action plans. No less important is the suggestion to develop and implement a civic monitoring system to ensure transparent allocation and use of funding provided in response to COVID-19.
For the identification and definition of the most challenging commitments in the area of
participation, within the co-creation process of the 5NAP, there were several moments of
discussion and confrontation during 3 successive meetings and specific consultation.
As a result of this discussion and comparison process, the following general objectives were approved:
● Promotion of the participation opportunities provided by national legislation for the NRRP
and the Plan of Complementary Funds, to support the development of citizen involvement
paths aimed at improving the implementation of the planned measures.
● Support for advanced participatory practices at the various levels of government.