Civic participation: a key tool for the environment
The WE-NET Initiative introduces an approach focused on the cooperation between local authorities and civil society, producing positive results towards environmentally friendly and sustainable development policies.
It is a widespread belief that civic participation in the decision-making process produces many important benefits. Alongside the policy makers, civil society can play a determinant role in contributing to the development of the community. Especially in the field of environment, citizens joining the policy process and collaborating with local and regional authorities can result in only positive outcomes and bring about positive environmental change. Due to the particular nature of the environmental issues, they require a global and trasnational approach, overcoming national borders and promoting the collaboration of both governments and civil societies.
It goes without saying that environmental issues like climate change and global warming have a great impact on people's lives worldwide, regardless of where they are. Consequently, all citizens should be encouraged and motivated to take action and participate in initiatives aiming to promote and implement environmentally friendly and sustainable development policies. Civic participation in the creation and implementation of environmental policies can produce many positive results and can help reach the desirable outcomes in a faster and more effective way. First and foremost, environmental challenges can be tackled more efficiently starting from the local level, since smaller areas are less complex and easier to handle. When it comes to creating and, especially, implementing environmental policies, starting from the local level facilitates the process and makes it easier for public authorities to monitor and evaluate the process. Furthermore, citizens have a closer connection to their communities and, thus, contributing to their growth and improvement takes a more personal sense. No one can doubt about citizens' catalytic role, as individual behaviours and consumers’ preferences can make the difference and improve the living conditions in local communities.
However, in order for this idea to work, it is of utmost importance that policy makers at all levels of government and, in particular, local authorities create an environment that enables actual participation of citizens in the decision-making process. By cooperating with civil society associations and citizens, policy makers can provide them with an opportunity to take action and be part of the effort to create a greener and sustainable community. After all, civic participation in the policy-making process promotes a more democratic and efficient governance, by encouraging transparency and accountability of public authorities and by creating a necessary consensus for environmental policies, these being based on people's real needs and preferences. This way, governments' decisions gain legitimacy and are widely accepted by the public.
In conclusion, civic participation in the public sphere through the interaction with local authorities can have a positive impact on the development of the community and especially in the environmental field, it can produce positive results towards environmentally friendly and sustainable development policies. The cooperation between local authorities and civil society is the successful approach that the WE-NET community is putting forward.