Rafa Ayala. Consultant in Open Government models.

Law 7/2017 of December 27 of Citizen Participation of Andalusia (LPCA) was published on January 5, 2018 in the BOJA (http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/boja/2018/4/BOJA18-004-00026 -19-01_00127491.pdf). It was born as a law, the result of a long process of shaping and dialogue between public institutions and civil society organizations with a meritorious result that opens a new stage in the policy of citizen participation in a region as influential as Andalusia.

The LPCA establishes in its presentation a legal framework “for the exercise of citizen participation in a real and effective manner, by which everyone can be involved in the development of public policies and government action.” It configures, therefore, citizen participation as a principle and as a right, seeking that such participation develops the “democratic rights of the citizenship and of the groups in which it is organized through the processes, practices and instruments of participatory democracy that complement and perfect the rights and techniques of representative democracy“. We will see how you try to get it in ten tips or suggestions about the new norm.

1. It ends with intermediaries. Citizen participation may be exercised as a citizen or through social organizations, whether or not they have legal personality, provided that the capacity to act of their representatives is accredited and they reside in Andalusia. It is a fundamental step because the Law, throughout its articulation, stresses that we can all participate, that participatory processes are opened, with their rules logically, but that the de facto monopoly of organizations with respect to people and groups of people is terminated.

2. The scope of the Law regulates activity in participatory policies of the Andalusian Regional Government and local entities. This fact is important because the norm wants that not only the Autonomous Administration be imbued with the new policy of citizen participation, but that the local entities, within their respective competence, accept the new law as theirs and follow its principles.

3. Strict obligations for public administrations when they carry out participation processes. Among other obligations we find ourselves: guarantee the participation of vulnerable groups, integrate participation to be exercised both individually and collectively, promote the dissemination and dissemination of processes, promotion of information and communication technologies in electronic and web sites, support the electronic voting systems …

4. New participation processes, but taking into account existing ones. It is a constant in the Law not to throw away the forms of participation prior to the Law. It is not a question of erasing the aforementioned legislation, nor overstepping jurisdiction, the new Law establishes new forms of participation, but without forgetting that in existing legislation there are participation instruments that work and that will follow their own rules.

5. Common rules to the processes. A) Who initiates them? Public administrations always, or participation entities when expressly provided by law. B) “Negative participation principle” if three months after the presentation of a participatory process by a private entity, the beginning of the process by the administration. C) Non-working periods to convene participatory processes before or after elections. D) Subject of the processes: monitoring and evaluation of public policies, preparation of planning instruments, on budgetary matters (expenditure), preparation of laws and regulations and provision and evaluation of public services. E) Effectiveness: they will not alter or suppose any impairment of the powers and autonomic and local competences in the adoption of decisions that concern them.

6. Participatory deliberation. It is defined as the “contrast of arguments and motivations exposed in a public debate integrated in a procedure of decision or formulation or adoption of a public policy” in the following matters: proposition, adoption, monitoring and evaluation of public policies with singular impact or relevance or development of planning instruments. In the event that the initiative is for citizenship, 20,000 signatures will be required (autonomic scope) or those established by regulation (local scope). The basic participatory agreement is the legal resolution that establishes the rules of the participatory deliberation process.

7. Citizen participation in the preparation of budgets. The Law establishes two ways of addressing citizen participation in budgets. It varies if we are within the scope of the autonomous community or a local entity. In the first case, the autonomic, is the Ministry in its field of competence who can perform the participatory process. When we are in the local sphere, this modality is renamed the participatory budget and will be governed by its rules and the result is the prioritization of the expenses contemplated in a budget.

8. Citizen participation processes through popular consultations. Aimed at gathering the opinion of citizens on issues or public policies, they are divided into the following categories: a) Surveys, b) Public hearings, c) Participation forums, d) Citizen panels, e) Citizen juries and f) Participatory consultations. Actually, this instrument is the most powerful and versatile of all the legal text. Easy to use and with limited legal effects, it can be an optimal way to influence participation in Andalusian society.

9. Citizen participation processes in the proposal of public policies and development of standards. Public persons or entities may propose public policies to the Board and local entities. In the first case, 20,000 signatures will be needed, in the local case, it will depend on its regulations. In the case of the elaboration of standards (laws and regulations), the right of entities and individuals is twofold. First, to participate in the processes of approval of standards and, secondly, to propose proposals for the processing of initiatives of a regulatory nature. Finally, participation in local ordinance preparation processes will be carried out through the competent body of the local entity where it may agree to carry out citizen participation processes for the preparation of draft ordinances and local regulations. Do not forget the regulations on the common system of public administrations that govern at the national level. Processes of citizen participation in the monitoring and evaluation of public policies and in the provision of public services of the Junta de Andalucía. Participation will be made through the corresponding sectorial collegial bodies of citizen participation.

10. Regime of autonomous and local participatory consultations. It is configured as the instrument of citizen participation that has for its object the knowledge of the opinion of a certain sector or collective of the population that ends in a vote. Voting that does not have a “referendum” end. Those over 16 years old can participate. The territorial scope can vary: by districts, municipal, provincial or regional. There will be a registry and the initiative can be published, citizen or invited by entities of participation.