Mayors of Cuenca (Ecuador), Esplugues de Llobregat (Spain) and Chefchaouen (Morocco), protagonists in a session on citizen participation organized by UCLG MEWA and NDI in collaboration with IOPD.
On May 5, 2021, a virtual session was held within the framework of the UCLG MEWA Executive Bureau to promote citizen participation practices among municipalities in Turkey and the Middle East. This session was organized around the presentations of three mayors: Pilar Diaz Mayor of Esplugues de Llobregat, Pedro Palacios Mayor of Cuenca and Mohamed Sefiani Mayor of Chefchaouen. The three presented how formal citizen participation as well as informal relationships allow a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient governance through the cases of their municipalities and finally answered several questions from the participants.
Pilar Díaz, mayor of Esplugues de Llobregat in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, explained how citizen participation has been promoted and how they work a lot with young people to form an active citizenship. He also insisted on the importance of inclusive processes to avoid reproducing existing inequalities in the community. He presented the digital platform Esplugues Participa as the place where all the information on participatory processes and spaces is grouped, but stressed that digital participation mechanisms should not make face-to-face participation disappear.
Pedro Palacios, Mayor of Cuenca, explained how the participatory budget has been institutionalized as a mechanism for financial redistribution to rural parishes and as an instrument for the co-creation of experiences of environmental resilience and sustainable development. Citizen assemblies are spaces for deliberation and co-decision in which projects are defined based on the needs of the population. Mayor Palacos insisted on the need to be very transparent and not to generate false expectations with the citizens, because in that case credibility is lost.
The Mayor of Chefchaouen, Mohamed Sefiani, pointed out that since the beginning of his term as Mayor of Chefchaouen, he has wanted to work to strengthen a culture of dialogue and participation with civil society. He is committed to establishing trust between the municipality and civil society, working with all associations, regardless of their political affiliation, and promoting collaborative projects with the community. For example, he highlighted cultural activities with a strong participatory component such as the Carnival or the Festivals, when citizens paint the walls of all the houses in the characteristic blue color. Regarding the participatory budget, he explained that it started in collaboration with FAMSI (the Andalusian decentralized cooperation) but that the municipal teams and the citizens have been appropriating the project. He pointed out that the urban projects approved through the participatory budget are much more valued and cared for by the citizens.
Mayor Sefiani encouraged to be inspired by the multitude of international experiences that exist on deliberation and participation practices, but to adapt them to the local context, not to copy them automatically.
Finally, after the three presentations, the participants of the session were able to ask questions to the mayors about relevant aspects of digital participation, inclusion or communication of the projects.