Ethics: December 2020 Current Affairs Current Affairs Notes | EduRev

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9.	ETHICS	
9.1.	CITIZEN	ENGAGEMENT	IN	POLICYMAKING		
Introduction  
Citizen Engagement is an essential element of every facet of democracy, be it policymaking, its implementation or 
subsequent grievance redressal. Alongside the will of the citizen, perception of the government in the mind of the 
citizen also plays a role in this engagement. The trust that the citizen has in the government of the day and the 
assessment of the capability of the government also play a huge role in dictating the citizen’s thought process. 
Before we delve into how engagement can be increased and what are the challenges, it is pertinent to answer the 
need for it in the first place.  
Why engaging citizens is important in policymaking? 
The recent agitations and the process followed for effecting Agricultural Reform Bills can serve as an example to 
illustrate the importance and need for citizen participation in policymaking-  
• It is argued that the policy does not satisfy the needs and interests of the farmers. Large scale citizen 
participation before drafting of the final policy could have ensured that the needs and interests of all citizens 
are taken into account in decision-making processes thus potentially avoiding the current stalemate.  
• Policies like Agri-reform Bills touch upon the lives of a large number of citizens. As a result, it becomes 
important for the governments to tap wider sources of information, perspectives, and potential solutions. 
This could be done increasing civic participation which will in turn improve the overall quality of policy.  
• The recent agitations over the Bill have seen considerable misunderstanding and circulation of misinformation. 
In this light, it becomes important that active citizen engagement is pursued to meet the challenges of the 
emerging information society, to prepare for greater and faster interactions with citizens and ensure better 
knowledge management. 
• The opacity and urgency that was observed in passing the Agri-reform Bills has created distrust among farmers 
for the government. To counter this sense of opacity in policies and for responding better to calls for greater 
government transparency and accountability, active and informed public participation remains a key 
element.   
Apart from being good for governance processes in policymaking, citizen engagement also enhances citizens’ 
recognition of their responsibility to take action to improve their lives and enhances citizens ownership of the 
development process. Furthermore, public engagement improves the political position of marginalized or 
vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, and minorities that are often not taken into consideration. 
In the light of its increased contemporary relevance, how can we increase Citizen Engagement?  
• Sharing information: For example, Norwegian Government has created as an electronic public record 
database for all the civil service activities.  
• Public Consultation: Discussion among citizens, elected representatives, local civil society groups and other 
stakeholders helps to get their perspectives included in the designing of the interventions.  
• Joint assessment: Participatory assessment and monitoring with the stakeholders, particularly the targeted 
citizens, are used as tools and approaches for enhancing civic engagement. For example, the Filipino Report 
Card on Pro-Poor Services initiative of the Philippines Government assesses the performance of selected 
government services based on client experience. 
• Shared decision-making and collaboration: For example, the city government of Porto Alegre (Brazil) 
practices “participatory budgeting”. The practice convenes multiple assemblies at all levels in which around 
50,000 residents regularly participate.  
Some other innovative Citizen Engagement initiatives in India  
• National Capacity Building Framework of Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) outlines capacity building at Panchayat 
level to increase participative planning and increase overall participation of Civil Society.  
• Citizen Report Card is a simple yet powerful tool to provide systematic feedback to public agencies from users of 
public services. Some examples include-  
o Nagrik Sahyog Kendra or Citizen Cells, Gujarat.  
o The Citizens’ Report Card in Bangalore.  
• Social Audit, Ministry of Rural Development: Social audit is conducted jointly by the government and the people, 
especially by those people who are affected by, or are the intended beneficiaries of, the scheme being audited. 
Page 2


	
78	 																																																																														www.visionias.in																																																																								©Vision	IAS		
9.	ETHICS	
9.1.	CITIZEN	ENGAGEMENT	IN	POLICYMAKING		
Introduction  
Citizen Engagement is an essential element of every facet of democracy, be it policymaking, its implementation or 
subsequent grievance redressal. Alongside the will of the citizen, perception of the government in the mind of the 
citizen also plays a role in this engagement. The trust that the citizen has in the government of the day and the 
assessment of the capability of the government also play a huge role in dictating the citizen’s thought process. 
Before we delve into how engagement can be increased and what are the challenges, it is pertinent to answer the 
need for it in the first place.  
Why engaging citizens is important in policymaking? 
The recent agitations and the process followed for effecting Agricultural Reform Bills can serve as an example to 
illustrate the importance and need for citizen participation in policymaking-  
• It is argued that the policy does not satisfy the needs and interests of the farmers. Large scale citizen 
participation before drafting of the final policy could have ensured that the needs and interests of all citizens 
are taken into account in decision-making processes thus potentially avoiding the current stalemate.  
• Policies like Agri-reform Bills touch upon the lives of a large number of citizens. As a result, it becomes 
important for the governments to tap wider sources of information, perspectives, and potential solutions. 
This could be done increasing civic participation which will in turn improve the overall quality of policy.  
• The recent agitations over the Bill have seen considerable misunderstanding and circulation of misinformation. 
In this light, it becomes important that active citizen engagement is pursued to meet the challenges of the 
emerging information society, to prepare for greater and faster interactions with citizens and ensure better 
knowledge management. 
• The opacity and urgency that was observed in passing the Agri-reform Bills has created distrust among farmers 
for the government. To counter this sense of opacity in policies and for responding better to calls for greater 
government transparency and accountability, active and informed public participation remains a key 
element.   
Apart from being good for governance processes in policymaking, citizen engagement also enhances citizens’ 
recognition of their responsibility to take action to improve their lives and enhances citizens ownership of the 
development process. Furthermore, public engagement improves the political position of marginalized or 
vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, and minorities that are often not taken into consideration. 
In the light of its increased contemporary relevance, how can we increase Citizen Engagement?  
• Sharing information: For example, Norwegian Government has created as an electronic public record 
database for all the civil service activities.  
• Public Consultation: Discussion among citizens, elected representatives, local civil society groups and other 
stakeholders helps to get their perspectives included in the designing of the interventions.  
• Joint assessment: Participatory assessment and monitoring with the stakeholders, particularly the targeted 
citizens, are used as tools and approaches for enhancing civic engagement. For example, the Filipino Report 
Card on Pro-Poor Services initiative of the Philippines Government assesses the performance of selected 
government services based on client experience. 
• Shared decision-making and collaboration: For example, the city government of Porto Alegre (Brazil) 
practices “participatory budgeting”. The practice convenes multiple assemblies at all levels in which around 
50,000 residents regularly participate.  
Some other innovative Citizen Engagement initiatives in India  
• National Capacity Building Framework of Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) outlines capacity building at Panchayat 
level to increase participative planning and increase overall participation of Civil Society.  
• Citizen Report Card is a simple yet powerful tool to provide systematic feedback to public agencies from users of 
public services. Some examples include-  
o Nagrik Sahyog Kendra or Citizen Cells, Gujarat.  
o The Citizens’ Report Card in Bangalore.  
• Social Audit, Ministry of Rural Development: Social audit is conducted jointly by the government and the people, 
especially by those people who are affected by, or are the intended beneficiaries of, the scheme being audited. 
	
79	 																																																																														www.visionias.in																																																																								©Vision	IAS		
What are the potential challenges in increasing citizen engagement?  
• Apolitical societies: Most members of society are reluctant to be political and acts of public engagement are 
often seen as political.  
• Lack of capacity to engage: There is usually only limited knowledge within society of policy-making processes 
and limited knowledge and skills to communicate constructively with decision makers. This is further 
compounded by the technical and lengthy nature of the policies.  
• Limited Commitment: The commitment and continuity to act to effect intended changes is usually limited, 
since creating an environment for meaningful participation can be a long struggle with few resources. This 
issue becomes even more glaring for a country like India with large population resulting in even fewer 
resources per capita.  
• Low public trust in Government also keeps public participation limited, thus creating a vicious cycle where 
prevalence of distrust decreases participation and further fuels distrust for the Government.  
• Exclusion: Many consultative processes are seen to be ways of reinforcing the view of the dominant groups 
and exclusion of most marginalized and vulnerable groups, which are often left out of political processes.  
Way Forward  
• Looking at citizen engagement as citizen’s right and not a favor by Government: Citizens rights to access 
information, provide feedback, be consulted and actively participate in policymaking must be firmly grounded 
in law or policy.  
o Also, the government obligations to respond to citizens when exercising their rights must also be clearly 
stated. Independent institutions for oversight, or their equivalent, are essential to enforcing these rights 
and thus ensuring Government’s accountability.  
• Capacity building for creation of Active Citizenship: Raising awareness, strengthening citizens civic education 
and skills as well as providing support for capacity-building among civil society organizations can potentially 
increase both citizen’s capacity and commitment to the public cause.  
• Objectivity in information presentation and access: Information provided by government during 
policymaking should be objective, complete and accessible. All citizens should have equal treatment when 
exercising their rights of access to information and participation. 
• Adequate time and resources allotted for engaging citizens: Public consultation and active participation 
should be undertaken as early in the policy process to provide enough time for citizens. Also, adequate 
financial, human and technical resources should be allotted for creating conducive atmosphere for Citizen 
Engagement.   
	
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