Promote Deliberative Democracy
There is a renewed appreciation of the importance of participation. The OECD Framework for Measuring Well-Being and Progress as well as a Well-Being Framework for Ireland both consider civil engagement as a key indicator. In the OECD measure, Stakeholder Engagement “reflects how different stakeholders can participate in the development of new laws and regulatory standards….. 17 countries have listed examples of their policies and Ireland is not one of them” so much more work needs to be done.
The publication in February 2023 of “A Guide for Inclusive Community Engagement in Local Planning and Decision Making” aims to “enhance the capacity of Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) to engage marginalised groups in Local Economic and Community Planning (LECP) processes” will hopefully see those seldom heard having a say in local decision making.
The democratic process would also benefit from the development of a new social contract against exclusion and in favour of a just society. This contract would include a forum for dialogue on civil society issues. Short-term initiatives such as the Presidents Ethics Initiative, the Constitutional Convention and Citizens Assembly are welcome but need to be main streamed and reach all sections of Irish Society.
Social Justice Ireland welcomed the appointment of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), whose role is to advise the Taoiseach on strategic policy issues relating to sustainable economic, social and environmental development. The annual National Economic Dialogue is also a useful model to share the perspectives of civil society, Government and the various sectors of society on key budgetary issues. However, a single event is inadequate and does not allow for a broader discussion on the interplay between economic and social issues.
2022 saw the first National Civic Forum take place which Social Justice Ireland has long called for. The key will be ensuring its relevance and that it connects to the growing debate at European level around civil society issues. There are many issues such a forum could address including the meaning of citizenship in the 21st Century, the shape of the social model Ireland wishes to develop; how to move towards a low carbon sustainable future and so on.
Adequately resource the Public Participation Network (PPN) structures for participation at Local Authority level and ensure capacity building is an integral part of the process.
Promote deliberative democracy and a process of inclusive social dialogue to ensure there is real and effective monitoring and impact assessment of policy development and implementation using an evidence-based approach at local and national level.
Resource an initiative to identify how a real participative civil society debate could be developed and maintained.