Citizen participation in a representative republic matters. As stated earlier, the right of citizens to participate in government is an important principle of representative government. The purpose of voting—and other forms of civic engagement— is to ensure that the government serves the people and not the other way around.
The pluralist theory asserts the republic cannot function without active participation by at least some citizens. No matter who we believe makes important political decisions—the majority, special interests, or a group of elites—participation through voting changes those who are in powerful positions of authority.
5 Ways to Improve Citizen Engagement Initiatives
People can become civically engaged in many ways, either as individuals or as members of groups. Some forms of individual engagement require very little effort. Awareness is the first step toward engagement. Representative government cannot work effectively without the participation of informed citizens. Engaged citizens familiarize themselves with the most important issues confronting the country and with plans different candidates have for dealing with these issues.
They vote for the candidates they believe will be best suited to the job, and they may join others to raise funds or campaign for those they support. They inform their representatives how they feel about important issues. Through these efforts and others, engaged citizens let their representatives know what they want and thus influence policy.
Only then can government action accurately reflect interests and concerns of the people. Individual votes do matter. City council members, local judges, some local law enforcement officials, mayors, state legislators, governors, and members of Congress are all chosen by popular vote. Although the president of the United States is not chosen directly by popular vote but by a group of presidential electors informally called the Electoral Collegethe votes of individuals in their home states determine how these electors ultimately vote.
Voters line up to vote early outside an Ohio polling station in Credit: Dean Beeler. Responding to public opinion polls, actively contributing to a political blog, or starting a new blog are all examples of active engagement.
Some websites connected to various causes and interest groups encourage involvement and provide petitions that can be circulated through email.
Helping people register to vote, making campaign phone calls, and driving voters to the polls on Election Day are all important activities for citizen engagement. Some people prefer to work with groups when participating in political activities whether these are organized or informal.
Group activities can be as simple as hosting a book club or a discussion group to talk about politics. Coffee Party USA provides an online forum for people from a variety of political perspectives to discuss issues of concern to them. Martin Luther King, Jr. Individual citizens can also join interest groups promoting causes they favor. Civic engagement through organized group activity may increase the power of ordinary people to influence government actions as seen in the photo at right.
Even those without significant wealth or individual connections to influential people may influence the policies affecting their lives and change the direction of government through active participation in organized groups or movements.Political participation in action with Mrs.
Hardy Stubbs, Miss Ida Craft, and Miss Rosalie Jones preparing to pass out leaflets encouraging citizens to support legislation allowing women to vote. Government based upon the consent of the people presupposes citizen participation in the political process. One of the hallmarks of this participation is voting in elections. In fact, voting is clearly a necessary condition—that is, you cannot have a representative republic without voting.
However, voting in itself is not sufficient for a government to be called a representative republic or representative democracy. Totalitarian governments frequently allow citizens to vote but without real and meaningful participation in governing. For example, without real opportunity for citizens to express their opinions in an open environment or to join a political party or an organization that opposes the government leaders in power, votes have no impact on the direction of governmental policy.
That is to say, voting must be coupled with civil rights and protected liberties that permit meaningful participation through a broad range of opportunities. All citizens of the U. Individuals and groups have worked tirelessly in the U. However, more work remains to be done to achieve the goals of maximum political equality with inclusive political participation. Moreover, some activities are quite normal or conventional methods to influence government policy, while other activities are more atypical or unconventional.
That is, while voting or assisting someone with a campaign are fairly conventional, protesting or boycotting products may be less typical and more unconventional.
Under the U. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, such activities and methods of participation are protected rights of citizens. Active engagement in civic activities is an important component of democratic ideals and essential in a representative government to achieve responsiveness from our public officials. Participation is all about making opinions known, having opinions heard, and attempting to influence the policy making process.
Civic engagement in the U. An example of direct engagement is jury duty and an example of indirect engagement is voting for legislative representatives. The majority of elections in the United States are held to facilitate indirect engagement with the election process. Representatives pass laws, implement taxes, and carry out decisions. Citizens now use these powers at the ballot to change laws and direct public policy in some states. These decisions include local bond funding for schools or state transportation bonds and policy changes such as constitutional amendments.
Not all states allow direct democracy through referenda, nor does the United States government. Running for office can be as easy as collecting one hundred signatures on a city election form or paying a registration fee of several thousand dollars to run for governor of a state. However, a potential candidate needs to meet state-specific requirements covering length of residency, voting status, and age. Potential candidates must also consider competitors, family obligations, and the likelihood of drawing financial backing.
Candidates for office are slightly more diverse than the representatives serving in legislative and executive bodies, but the realities of elections drive many eligible and desirable candidates away from running. Despite these problems, most elections will have at least one candidate per party on the ballot.
In states or districts where one party holds a supermajority, such as Georgia, candidates from the other party may be discouraged from running because they do not think they have a chance to win.
Candidates are likely to be moving up from prior elected office or are professionals, like lawyers, who can take time away from work to campaign and serve in office. When candidates run for office, they are most likely to choose local or state office first. For women, studies have shown that family obligations rather than desire or ambition account for this choice. Further, women are more likely than men to wait until their children are older before entering politics.
Because higher office is often attained only after service in lower office, there are repercussions to women waiting so long. If they do decide to run for the U. House of Representatives or Senate, they are often older, and fewer in number, than their male colleagues. Only Congress members are women.Image: Al Jazeera English.
No voice should be left unheard.
No one should be left behind. No one should be subject to any form of exclusionary rhetoric. For democracy to be sustainable, International IDEA believes that democracy should allow each and every citizen to participate in political processes and represent their interests and concerns.
Substantial evidence points to the exclusion of marginalized and minority groups from political decision-making as a key factor in both political and civil conflict and instabilitywhich in turn affects democratic transition or consolidation. Democracy is dependent on the participation and representation of all citizens in democratic institutions and processes. These institutions and processes include election management bodies and elections, constitutional bodies and constitution-building processes, political parties and parliaments.
Underpinning all this is political inclusion. This is the idea that every citizen, regardless of class, age, gender, sexual orientation, ability, group, culture and ethnic or religious background, should have an equal right and opportunity to engage with and contribute to the functioning of these institutions and processes.
International IDEA attaches a lot of importance to ensuring inclusive political participation and representation through knowledge sharing. Thus, our second quarter newsletter focuses on political inclusion for sustainable development.
In his video messageSecretary-General Yves Leterme emphasizes this further. Working to achieve political inclusion is fraught with challenges. Foremost amongst these is the increasing difficulty by which the needs and aspirations of citizens can connect with accountable and representative political institutions.
Democratic institutions and processes are often mistrusted. Some citizens, meanwhile, are not interested in voting or joining in a political party. This is because they see no difference with who is in power. They think their voices will not matter or have an influence on how political institutions will act.
Secondly, inequality of opportunity persists worldwide. Not all citizens in society are represented in policy discussions and many feel marginalized.
Democracy cannot truly deliver for all of its citizens if half the population remains excluded from the political arena.
Finally, in some cases, access to political institutions is not available or even feasible because the frameworks or modalities for inclusive citizen involvement and engagement are not being implemented or are simply not in place.
International IDEA has learned from the work of its global programme and country offices that identifying these barriers and learning from peers can affect policies.Political Protest in Western Europe pp Cite as. The chapter analyzes the association between political dissatisfaction, party systems and political protest. Party systems partially constitute the political opportunity structure and might be important to understand the patterns of protest, as parties are the link between citizens and the political system.
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Dalton RJ a Citizen politics: public opinion and political parties in advanced industrial democracies. Chatam House, Chatam Google Scholar. Dalton RJ b The quantity and the quality of party systems.Citizens make the future of the country.
Many things depend on us, citizens. In my mind, every citizen can do something useful for the development of the country. Nowadays more and more people are taking the initiative to make their local neighbourhood more liveable, for instance by helping to maintain playgrounds or green spaces. As a result, the relationship between society and government is changing. Well, it depends on certain conditions. The society can be involved in many spheres. From my personal view everything needs to be improved.
The main aim of this kind of people is to improve the quality of life around us. This is called citizens participation. Some things might have more importance than we think. For example, we can keep the streets, districts from pollution, and therefore we can be examples to our relatives and friends. How do we impact on the environment we live in?
For instance, was the year of elections for my country. We, as the citizens of our country have the full right to participate in governing our nation. My advice for people mostly the people of my age is to more citizen participation if we want to make our country the better place to live. Before deciding whether to participate or not try to think about several things, for instance, what is purpose of the government, how important your rights are to you and how satisfied you are with the way the government is working.
The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of ALDA and the European Union. Previous Next. Natia Shakaia Citizens make the future of the country. Natia Shakaia Read this article in Georgian here. Facebook Twitter Email.
Related Posts. November 7th, 0 Comments. November 3rd, 0 Comments. November 2nd, 0 Comments. September 28th, 0 Comments. Leave A Comment Cancel reply Comment. Recent Posts. The website uses the third party cookies to profile users Ok Read more.Citizen participation is a process which provides private individuals an opportunity to influence public decisions and has long been a component of the democratic decision-making process.
The roots of citizen participation can be traced to ancient Greece and Colonial New England. Before the s, governmental processes and procedures were designed to facilitate "external" participation. Public involvement is means to ensure that citizens have a direct voice in public decisions. The terms "citizen" and "public," and "involvement" and "participation" are often used interchangeably.
While both are generally used to indicate a process through which citizens have a voice in public policy decisions, both have distinctively different meanings and convey little insight into the process they seek to describe. Mize reveals that the term "citizen participation" and it's relationship to public decision-making has evolved without a general consensus regarding either it's meaning nor it's consequences Mize, Many agencies or individuals choose to exclude or minimize public participation in planning efforts claiming citizen participation is too expensive and time consuming.
Yet, many citizen participation programs are initiated in response to public reaction to a proposed project or action. However, there are tangible benefits that can be derived from an effective citizen involvement program. Cogan and Sharpep. All of these benefits are important to the Forest Service in its planning efforts, particularly the last three. Recent forest management decisions have led to prolonged court cases and a general lack of trust among many people with respect to the Forest Service.
In discussing the theory of public participation, it is useful to review broad theories of decision-making structures. They conclude that public decisions are increasingly being influenced by technology. Two broad decision-making structures are defined and analyzed: the technocratic approach; and the democratic approach. Technocracy or the technocratic approach is defined as the application of technical knowledge, expertise, techniques, and methods to problem solving.
Democracy, as defined by DeSario and Langton, refers to citizen involvement activities in relation to government planning and policy making DeSario and Langton, p. These approaches are described in more detail below. The technocratic approach to decision-making has historically been applied in most Forest Service decisions.
Strong arguments can be made in favor of a technocratic decision approach. A key argument is that trained staff "experts" are best suited to make complex technical decisions. Experts are increasingly becoming a part of our decision-making structures in both the public and private sectors DeSario and Langton, However, Nelkin concluded that scientific and technocratic approaches "not only failed to solve social problems but often contributed to them" Nelkin, The notion that the "cure is often worse than the disease" becomes increasingly important as the technology provides alternative solutions to public policy issues.
Techniques and methods applied by experts are most effective when considering technical decisions as opposed to value or mixed, decisions. Kantrowitz identified three separate types of policy decisions: 1 technical decisions that are based solely on the application and extrapolation of scientific issues; 2 value decisions are concerned with the resolution of important normative or societal issues; and 3 mixed decisions that have both technical and value components.
Technical decisions rely on scientific techniques and extrapolations to determine the potential of "what is". Value issues involve normative determinations of "what should be". Although scientific information can provide guidance with respect to value decisions, it is rarely the sole determinant DeSario and Langton, Natural resource management decisions frequently affect social values. The technocratic approach to decision making is difficult to apply successfully to social problems because social goals are often complex, conflicting and unclear DeSario and Langton, p.
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A growing number of Americans are becoming more skeptical of technology and its experts. One result of this skepticism is a heightened demand for greater citizen participation with respect to technological decisions DeSario and Langton, p. As a result, technological progress will face increased public scrutiny as the deficiencies of technology and experts become more apparent.
The integration of the technocratic and democratic approaches, particularly in natural resource management, has led to an increasing sense of frustration and futility for both the public and the government agencies involved Kaplan and Kaplan, These and a variety of related factors indicate there is a growing need for decision-making processes at all levels of government that allow agencies to successfully integrate the public's demand for greater input while incorporating the agency's expertise and desire for efficiency.
Democratic decision-making, in contrast to bureaucratic or technocratic decision making, is based on the assumption that all who are affected by a given decision have the right to participate in the making of that decision. Participation can be direct in the classical democratic sense, or can be through representatives for their point of view in a pluralist-republican model Kweit and Kweit, p.He has a PhD in political science and his research interests include political attitudes, their relationships to political behavior, and their implications for democracy.
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