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Making Popular Participation Real

African and International Experiences


Edited By György Széll and Dasarath Chetty

The onset of democracy in South Africa provided South Africans with the opportunity to build a truly democratic, non-racial, non-sexist society in which there would be opportunity for all to make material, social and intellectual progress. This vision was enshrined in a Constitution intent on deepening democracy by treating people with dignity and ensuring that democratic participation was not restricted to a trip to the voting booth once every five years. To give democracy real meaning, the Constitution declared that municipalities, in particular, must facilitate public participation for true legitimacy in its development endeavours. Various mechanisms have been put in place to achieve this objective, but the process has not been without its impediments and difficulties. This book reviews the context, approaches and challenges to the public participation process using international comparisons.

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Popular Participation (PP) in Europe with Special Reference to Germany


György Széll

Abstract: Democracy is the most demanding form of government. For its functioning, consciousness and competence are necessary. Public participation (PP) is its’ very base, and is part of a long historical process, which started with the labour movements in the 19th century. Germany has for many reasons since then been a leader, however, not without contradictions and many setbacks. The European model of PP in local government is based on self-government and the principle of subsidiarity, i.e. everything should be decided on the lowest possible level. There are numerous different forms of PP with its legal bases to be found in the Constitution and laws. Unfortunately, the extent of participation in local elections is the lowest in comparison with regional, national and European elections, although it should be the contrary. For no doubt there is now a crisis of democracy, as many right-extremist, even neo-fascist parties re-emerged, especially since the global financial crisis in 2007. In the Third World, Brazil with its participatory budget and the World Social Forum has contributed to the renaissance of PP.

The topic of PP is surely one of the most important issues in today’s world, characterised by many crises (financial, economic, political, social and religious). The main challenges are the risk of anti-democratic, fundamentalist, terrorist movements on the one hand and the question of sustainability, on the other hand. The Rio Summit on the Environment and Development with its Agenda 21 was a fundamental breakthrough (United...

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