As part of the 50th edition of PLA notes, the author looks at the history of participation and democracy over the last 10 years. The article looks at how participatory approaches have entered government arenas and confronted issues including policy influence and institutional change. The article looks at some key examples of participatory democracy, such as participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, as well as some of the overarching principles that underlie the initiatives. These include active and participatory forms of citizenship, inclusion, multiple stakeholders and broader forms of accountability. The question is also raised about the transition from advocacy to inclusion in governance, such as when and how do groups make the transition from demanding a change in the shape of the table to deliberating around the table, sometimes with those against whom they have been advocating? Some of the initiatives described include the Local Government Code in the Philippines, the Law of Popular Participation in Bolivia, participatory budgeting in Brazil, and constitutional amendments in India. The article looks at learning from these examples in the South, and also at the critical questions about power, spaces for change, and the challenges of representation. In conclusion, the author suggests that documenting the outcomes of the difference participation makes to governance and policy is significantùboth for sustaining motivation and momentum for participants, who will be able to see the outcomes of their engagement, and also for sustaining the deepening of the democratic process itself.
International Institute for Environment and Development