ERG SES H 02, Parallel Session H 02
The objective of this paper is to reflect on participatory budgeting as processes of informal education in citizenship and the object under analysis is the process of implementation of the participatory budgeting in Lisbon municipality, in Portugal.
There has long been discussion on the participation of citizens in the destinies and government of cities, both by society in general and by those who hold the political power. But the benefits of this participation and its possible results are far from being unanimously agreed upon. In fact, the requirements of and the demand for greater participation raise certain central questions in political theory: what is the place of participation in modern democratic theory? What are the means and what meaning does the city give to this participation? Education and the promotion of democracy are closely related even though they are frequently seen as autonomous and sequential processes. Thus, the most dominant point of view is the one that sees that a citizen educated in politics and citizenship is a necessary condition for the good operation of democratic institutions.
However there is now a need to instruct citizens who have the inclination to be active in the public arena, in order to protect civil rights and liberties. Therefore, education in citizenship presupposes creating educational spaces for the exercise of citizenship, which may promote learning experiences for those involved, and where citizens can question, think and take critical positions with regard to standards and their own rights or those of the community to which they belong. Thus, we now have perspectives that emphasise the importance of strenghtening times and spaces for citizen participation.
On the other hand, the actual idea of citizenship is theoretically and politically controversial. While some believe it is no more than the mere electoral choice of political decision makers, others argue that Citizenship is, primarily, the right to have rights, where a citizen may exercise his fundamental rights to life, participation in government and participation in the collective wealth.
Thus, we go from the discussion of the importance of the “city” space to the construction of modern citizens, how and to what extent cities are now spaces for social and political mobilisation, at a time when the meaning of the term citizenship is being transformed, in order to adapt to the emergence of global forms of citizenship. In this evolution, the urban space becomes a privileged terrain in the battle between different, old and new forms of citizenship, as well as between old and new means of exercising it.
The participatory budgeting is one of these new means of exercising citizenship. It is a participative democracy mechanism which allows citizens to influence or decide on public budgets, taking their initiatives and expectations into account in the decision making process.
The participatory budgeting is not essentially an educational space and instrument but, being a space and an instrument that allows the exercise of certain citizens’ skills, it therefore also becomes a space and instrument of informal education for those taking part in it.
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