Download your free copy of the Action 24 Toolkit below!
The South African Constitution entrenches public participation as a key element of democracy and good governance. It requires that both the legislative and executive powers of our government facilitate citizen engagement in decision-making and oversight processes. As a result, each citizen has the right and the opportunity to get involved in deciding upon matters that concern them or the society they live in, and to hold authorities to account – beyond election time.
This is all fine in theory, but what does public participation look like in practice? What are our rights and how can we go about exercising them in a meaningful way? What formal and informal channels exist for public participation? What resources are available and how do we access them? Who do we speak to? Can we really influence oversight and legislation?
There are in fact multiple ways for citizens to engage the Legislature, both at national level (Parliament) or a provincial level. Since 1994, many people and civil society stakeholders have done just that… but with mixed results.
One of the main lessons learned might be that there are no silver bullets. Effective participation requires a combination of ‘invited’ and proactive engagement in the working of the legislatures. In other words, understanding the system and the opportunities available to the citizens to take part in these processes is just as important as actively creating spaces for meaningful conversations on issues of concern to the public, and finding democratic pressure points.
• provides background information on the mandates and roles of the Legislatures in South Africa, and public participation rights and principles;
• documents – in the form of case studies of environmental governance in South Africa – some of the learnings of the ‘Action 24’ project with regards to public participation in legislative and oversight processes; and
• offers practical step-by-step guidance on how the public can engage, based on the realities observed.
It features various chapters taking the user on a practical journey from background information to fact-finding, planning your engagement, reading and contributing to legislative documents and budgets, and taking part in legislative oversight.
The Toolkit is a toolbox, intended to serve as a do-it-yourself guide rather than offering one-size-fits-all solutions. What works in a given set of circumstances, with a specific set of stakeholders, may not work in different contexts.