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Ecology and Citizen Participation - Part Two

Ecology and Citizen Participation - Part Two


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First part

It says that this guarantee "may be exercised by the State in a broad sense or by individuals" ... in cases where it is injured or threatened ... "the exercise of individual and collective constitutional rights" [13]. It is also established that it is an operational guarantee, that is, it does not need any additional regulations for its application. Experience suggests that not many judges are willing to accept amparos in defense of the social interest and that a more energetic defense of this constitutional guarantee is needed to achieve its application without too many obstacles.

Nor is there much parliamentary interest in guaranteeing the defense of these rights. For example, in the draft laws on amparo it is often established that the plaintiff has to deposit a sum of money (called contracautela) to compensate for any damages that his action for amparo may cause. This is not to regulate the exercise of a right, but simply to prohibit it, since it involves sums that are not available to an individual.

These rights are not new, nor are they recently developed, but recent legislation has recovered old rights. The antecedents, as in most of these subjects, are very distant and have been frequently forgotten. Our Civil Code has eliminated a very wide range of forms of common interest, which existed since ancient times, and has left only private interests and those of the State, as the only recognized ones.

But before our Civil Code there were forms of collective property (that is, non-state or private property), but there were common property assets. Anyone was empowered to defend these common property assets, which is equivalent to a very old recognition of diffuse interests.

Let's see some examples:

* Roman law differentiates state property from those that cannot be appropriated, because they are affected by public service. They are the "common res." They belong to the entire human race. On this, Cicero explains: "You will not prevent the river from running, because it is a common good for all, without being the property of anyone. The same happens with the air, because it is not apprehensible."

King Alfonso the Wise, in his Laws for Castile, states:

* "Rivers, ports and public roads are common, even those that are from a strange land."

* "Fountains, squares, fairs, markets, Cabildo houses, ejidos, mountains, pastures, and all the similarities of each town, are common to the resident in it, poor or rich." Of the common goods "not each one of himself can use them but they have to become useful for all".

In other words, the claim in defense of common goods is the predecessor of the tools for the protection of collective or diffuse interests, which are those that are being included in this amparo action. The rulings of some judges have been creating antecedents before there were norms that protected the collective interests.

In the province of Buenos Aires, there are significant jurisprudential advances, which should have a stronger legislative correlate. That is, they should not be subject to the goodwill of the judges. For example, the Federal Chamber of La Plata has affirmed that: "The right to the environment and to respect for the beauty of monuments, the right to health and social security, the right not to be crushed by chaotic urban development , by a false commercial advertising, by financial fraud, or by racial or religious discrimination that from now on find a place in the most advanced legislation, have a diffuse character "[14].

Specialists in environmental law and consumer protection have begun to react. Until recently, it was impossible to act in these situations:

* when the entire community is injured, or

* when the protected legal asset is difficult to identify economically, or

* when there is an indeterminate convergence of interests, or

* when the plaintiffs cannot invoke their own individual rights.

Accepting and guaranteeing protection actions related to diffuse interests is to allow any citizen to defend the social interest in court without the need to prove that they are personally affected. This right, we said, has been included in a very incomplete way in the National Constitution (article 43). But it was already in the constitutions of Córdoba, Salta and Tierra del Fuego and in special laws in Mendoza, Santa Fe and San Juan.

From the procedural point of view, we must highlight the pioneering action of Alberto Kattan during the 80s, who launched himself to defend penguins and dolphins to obtain the procedural legitimacy that would allow the subsequent defense of threatened human beings. This principle allowed the author of this work to accompany him in a lawsuit - the one we discussed above - that led to the ban in Argentina of the dangerous defoliant 2,4,5-T, used in the Vietnam War under the name " Agent Orange "[15].

We consider that the inclusion of this, at the same time new and old legal figure in the legal texts and in the operative reality will allow to act for the defense of rights of difficult pecuniary quantification, free goods, not economic but that they do to our social reality. It is about giving neighbors and their entities the possibility of resorting to the courts in defense of the social interest, without any other impediment than the obvious sanctions to those who litigate recklessly.

A Chinese peasant poem from the 13th century warns that if we did not do it: "They would take our air, common property, and they would want to take out the sun, even the wind and the rain."

6. Public Hearings:

It is a meeting in which political decision-makers listen to the opinions, complaints and claims of the sectors involved in a project before making a decision on it. It assumes the nature of an oral and non-binding public consultation. The defense of this tool has been widely assumed by Daniel Sabsay and Pedro Tarak, who consider it to be one of the most effective forms of social validation of decisions made by the public sector [16].

The objections raised against this tool have to do both with an overestimation of its scope and possibilities and with an underestimation of them. From the side of overestimation, business entities have expressed fears about its implementation, since they understood that there was a risk of submitting projects formulated by companies to a popular assembly, with the consequent risk of overflows and arbitrariness. This was discussed within the framework of the debate on the draft of the Environmental Impact Assessment Law [17] [18].

The fact that public hearings, by definition, are not binding did not appear as a sufficient reason to accept them. The attitude of the business sector maintains the need to publicize the acts of government but keep the conduct carried out by private companies as secret as possible. This does not mean that certain business sectors reject conducting environmental impact assessments that their projects generate, but they demand that they be carried out within a framework of secrecy.

Although the argument used is the protection of corporate secrecy, depending on the needs of confidentiality and protection of intellectual property, it is clear that it is a broader concept, which considers that the acts of the private sector should not be discussed in public or community spheres.

On the other hand, strategies are discussed to ensure that political decision-makers take into account what was raised by the neighbors in the respective hearings, so that the system does not become a simulation of participation. In this sense, it is essential that the regulations on public hearings require the authority that enforces the regulation to give a technical response to each of the objections or observations made at the Public Hearing. Without this requirement, the administrative act will be invalid.

The accessibility of public information on the subject must also be regulated, both in its existence and physical availability, as well as in the possibilities of users to decipher its technical aspects. We can point out that in 1998 the Planning Secretariat of the City of Buenos Aires convened a public hearing to discuss the proposed reforms to the Urban Planning Code. Those interested had 3 days of time to read a diskette that contained 700 pages of highly complex technical information.

It is especially important to find reinsurance that prevents distortions of this kind. If you want to strengthen public participation in development projects, it is essential to prevent stakeholders from thinking that they are facing a simulation of participation.

At the same time, public hearings have been effective in containing some abusive proposals emanating from political and economic power. For example, at the beginning of 2001, in the respective public hearing, there was a very broad rejection of the project to move the Aeroparque to an artificial island located on the Río de la Plata. It is a project with a very high environmental impact, unsustainable from a technical and economic point of view. Precisely, the rejection of the audience participants had a strong impact on public opinion, which probably means the project's archive.

Thus, it is understood that many political and economic decision-makers prefer to avoid public hearings and resolve issues by other means.

7. Ombudsman:

The Ombudsman is an independent official, who acts within the framework of the parliamentary area (or the Deliberative Council, in the case of municipalities), in charge of receiving complaints from neighbors about arbitrariness of the administrative power and channeling their demands.

At the municipal level, the Ombudsman is an ideal tool to channel popular participation in environmental issues, as long as the existing regulations guarantee a high degree of independence with respect to the administrative power, which it is supposed to control. The main risk of this institution is that it is subject to occasional majorities in the municipal councils and ends up representing the same administrative power. It is clear that the Defensoría cannot be another place where political parties or social organizations dispute. Society wants something different from one more fight for public office or for spaces of power.

At the same time, the establishment of participatory mechanisms leads us to think differently about the objectives of this institution. Under the traditional system, the Ombudsman was in charge of acting as an intermediary between a closed State and a civil society that suffered its abuses. In that context, it was inevitable that it would become a mere complaints office. Errors in the billing of municipal taxes or the invasion of green spaces were the most frequent type of issues.

But the current trend to establish mechanisms for public participation makes the Defensoría the right place to put them in motion. Public hearings, advisory councils for the management of various activities, work tables and consensus for green spaces, lawsuits in defense of the common interest, exercise of the right to information, integration of non-governmental organizations, are some of the pending issues, that go beyond the mere complaint office. They are the embryo of new forms of relationship between society and the State.

The necessary assessment of the actions of the Ombudsman's Offices in Argentina and in the rest of the world has not yet been made. In other words, the people have not yet said if they feel adequately defended by the current Ombudsman model or if they require changes. For example: does he have to look like the soft Swedish ombudsman or the tough tribune of the plebs of ancient Rome? It is worth talking a little about the differences between one and the other:

The Swedish ombudsman model is what in technical parlance is often called an "opinion court". The ombudsman is someone who gives an opinion on how things should be done. This opinion is called a "recommendation" and the authorities are under no obligation to comply with it. The main tool that the ombudsman has to defend the people is the prestige of his position and his personal career, which make contradicting him have a high political cost for officials. Due to its very characteristics, the ombudsman acts on behalf of the people but without being accompanied by the people. This means that in certain situations it has been criticized for defusing social conflicts without being able to resolve them.

On the contrary, the tribune of the plebs of ancient Rome is a leader. His role is not to replace the people in the claim but to lead the social movements that seek profound reforms. He is a speaker facing the Senate to defend popular causes. Your house must always have the door open to receive those who are unjustly persecuted. It handles individual cases but also promotes laws that seek social change and the redistribution of wealth for the benefit of the most underprivileged sectors. This means that it has had strong confrontations with the power sectors of old Rome.

In all this, the role of the Ombudsman is also pedagogical: due to its independence from the constituted powers, it is the entity that can accompany this learning process of the local society. Very important spaces for participation can open up in the municipalities. The risk is that the same old people participate, that is, the neighborhood organizations associated with the political parties, and the rest of the people stay out.

To overcome the logic of the committee, the respective Ombudsmen of each Municipality will have to move the popular imagination in new ways of relating. In particular, use the legislative initiative of the Ombudsman to channel the projects of common people about their municipality.

8. Institutionalization of the role of intermediate organizations:

The United Nations agencies were the first to incorporate non-governmental organizations as observers in their international meetings. Her role is particularly active on women's and environmental issues.

Agencies linked to sanitation projects at both the provincial and municipal levels could incorporate the practice of adding some representatives of user organizations to their directories. This practice is increasingly widespread in the management of public services and it seems logical to extend it to the management of environmental services.

9. The double reading procedure in the sanction of environmental regulations:

In most of the bibliography on public participation, the double reading procedure for the enactment of legislative regulations (laws or municipal ordinances) is omitted, due to its novelty and lack of experience in its operation. This procedure has been incorporated into the Constitution of the City of Buenos Aires, as a way to expand public participation in the sanction of environmental regulations.

The procedure has been set for the approval of the respective Codes and Plans and aims to generate a wide degree of public participation.

"The following subjects and their modifications have the double reading procedure":

1. "Urban, Environmental and Building Planning Codes".

2. "Urban Environmental Plan of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires".

The participatory technique that is ordered is the following: Art. 90. "The double reading procedure has the following requirements":

1 "Prior commission clearance that includes the report of the bodies involved."
2. "Initial approval by the Legislature."
3. "Publication and summons to a public hearing, within a period of thirty days, so that interested parties can present claims and observations."
4. "Consideration of claims and observations and final resolution of the Legislature" [19].
This means (at least, in theory) institutionalizing the dialogue, the proposal and the social claim to an unprecedented degree in our legal system. For all municipalities, the possibility of applying a double reading method in the sanction of environmental ordinances means committing the community to the continuity of the tasks to be carried out.

10. Prior environmental impact assessment:

The evaluation of the environmental impact of certain projects constitutes an administrative legal procedure destined to grant environmental rationality to decision-making. The procedure exists in the Province of Buenos Aires, although in a very limited way, since it only affects industrial projects and is reduced to a confidential procedure, which is left to the good faith of the enforcement authority.

Our point of view is that it is necessary to extend it to all types of large-scale projects (including urban regulations, not only physical works) and that participatory mechanisms must be found for the social control of such evaluations.

The Constitution of the City of Buenos Aires orders in its Art. 30 that: "It establishes the obligatory nature of the prior evaluation of the environmental impact of all public or private undertakings susceptible of relevant effect and its discussion in a public hearing".

It is necessary to remember that all international credits contain clauses that require prior environmental impact studies for any relevant work, public or private. It cannot be said that this point scares off foreign investors, since it is common in all Northern countries.

The differences between the environmental consequences of the Yacyretá and Salto Grande dams are due to the fact that the Salto Grande technical teams complied with these specifications, while those of Yacyretá did not. In other words, in Argentina environmental impact assessments have been carried out in large works, with favorable results.

Discussion in a public hearing is essential to avoid distorting the evaluation objectives. An interesting example is the evaluation of the environmental impact of the El Pachón mining site, in the high San Juan mountain range. It was approved by confidential file during the last de facto government, and the author of this work had access to it. There it was announced that the effluents from the production process (of very high toxicity) would be diverted to an artificial dam, which would not run the risk of breaking, because "it is not in a seismic zone." The assertion that the San Juan mountain range is not a seismic zone can only be sustained in a confidential file, but no one would dare to defend it in a public hearing.

Article 26 of the Law of Conservation, Defense and Improvement of the Environment of the Province of Mendoza defines the Prior Impact Assessment procedure as one intended to identify and interpret, as well as to prevent the consequences or effects of public or private actions or projects , may cause the ecological balance, the maintenance of the quality of life and the preservation of natural resources.

We have used to name this procedural instrument of environmental preservation the voice Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment and not the voice Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that is usual in doctrine, to highlight the prerequisite that makes the essence of this figure administrative-procedural. Taken from a recommendation made by the National Ecological Parliament. The subject has also been included in the Constitution of Jujuy (art. 123), that of Río Negro (art. 84), that of Tierra del Fuego (art. 55), etc. The obligation to publicize environmental impact studies is found in the Brazilian Constitution (art. 225).

It has been incorporated into the Constitution and the legislation of the City of Buenos Aires. However, the local Executive has done everything possible to avoid its implementation in large projects, both public and private, for fear of the confrontation of ideas that may arise from the respective public hearings.

The implementation of mechanisms for prior evaluation of the environmental impact of the main activities and projects can bring confidence to the affected population, in the sense of making all the steps of the decision process and implementation of environmental policies transparent. It is clear that there are symmetrical reasons for this institution to encounter strong resistance among the sectors of economic and political power.

11. Referendum, plebiscite and popular consultation:

The use, at the national, provincial and municipal levels, of electoral mechanisms for popular consultation aims to involve the entire population in making a difficult decision that requires a very broad consensus support in order to be put into practice. The reasons why no one has tried to plebiscite issues such as the form of payment of the foreign debt, for example, are clear.

Its introduction at the beginning of the recovery of the democratic regime to define the border conflict with Chile in the Beagle area gave it a sense of transcendent thing, consistent with the use that was given to it in Europe in the immediately preceding period: it was used to define laws regarding divorce, abortion, the construction or not of nuclear power plants, or the permanence of Spain within the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO).

But in addition to being used for major strategic or ethical issues, it is valid for its use in everyday local administration issues. To think about its applicability to environmental management, we can take two recent municipal examples, which also have an environmental focus:

The call made by the municipality of Mar del Plata to request authorization to create a new municipal tax. The Municipal Mayor had promised in his electoral campaign not to increase taxes. Once this position was assumed, it was found that the availability of funds from the Municipality and the debt contracted by the previous administration made it impossible to comply with the proposed public works program. A substantial part of the public works plan is the expansion of the sewerage network and environmental sanitation infrastructure for the poorer sectors. The Municipality stated that such works (considered essential and urgent by most of the population) required a special tax. As this contradicted pre-election claims, a popular consultation was called, which resulted in a YES by a wide margin [20].

This result does not mean that a popular consultation is manipulated by the authority to always give the desired results. The opposite case is that of the municipality of Choele-Choel (Río Negro), in which a popular consultation was raised to define the new layout for an arm of the Río Negro. It is a river in intense work of natural erosion and sedimentation, which continuously creates and destroys islands. These processes had plugged an old channel that borders the city and that defines an island (Island 92), which currently serves as an ecological reserve, although much altered. A clean-up work was required, which could consist of dredging the old channel and rehabilitating the island as an ecological reserve. Or, conversely, you could open a drainage channel, plug the old channel, and build a park and an avenue over the fill. The Municipality called for a popular consultation to endorse its project to fill the old riverbed and landscaping in the area. The official proposal was defeated despite having put the full weight of the municipal apparatus in the electoral campaign and having faced neighbors who lacked the experience, organization and funds to carry out their own campaign [21].

In other words, that the result of a popular consultation at the municipal level is not a mock public participation, in which the electorate can freely manipulate themselves. On the contrary, the unpredictability of the results shows it as an ideal tool for the community to express its point of view on environmental issues.

12. Initiative Resource:

The reasons why it is worth institutionalizing a form of popular initiative in the enactment of laws and municipal ordinances is that there are situations in which there are obstacles to the enactment of certain laws or ordinances requested by neighbors. A tragic case was the request of an important sector of the Uruguayan citizens to repeal the impunity laws that protected the military who had committed crimes against humanity during the last dictatorship.

The political parties were not willing to agree to this request, since the military men summoned to testify by the judges had not come forward and the security forces had refused to take them in a coercive manner. The impunity laws were, for the government politicians, an indispensable resource for the governance of the system, since the prosecution of the military was materially impossible. Reciprocally, for a very broad sector of the citizenry, this judgment was an ethical imperative and they were not willing to defend a political system that did not guarantee justice.

The claimants obtained a percentage of signatures that allowed them the parliamentary treatment of the issue. As Parliament did not agree to his request, the issue was plebiscited, with negative results.

A case of application of this tool at the municipal level was in the municipality of General Roca, in the province of Río Negro, with respect to a draft ordinance for the defense of urban heritage. In one of its articles, the ordinance applied sanctions to those who damaged the fronts of houses, which was applicable to political graffiti. As it was the main form of communication during the electoral campaigns, the Deliberative Council did not agree to the repeated requests of the neighbors, who managed to impose the ordinance through this initiative resource.

13. Revocation of the mandate of officials:

The possibility for citizens to remove by popular vote those they consider to be bad officials (whether they are elected or appointed by the authority) acts as a reassurance of trust in the institutions. The fact that it is possible to do so can become a sufficient incentive of confidence and stimulus for public participation, even if there are no reasons to use this tool.

It is necessary to prevent this mechanism from being used by political parties to sanction those rebellious legislators who are unable to discipline. Reciprocally, to avoid its use to resolve a conflict between political parties, the exceptional nature of this participatory tool should be emphasized. This can be achieved by requiring a very high percentage of positive votes in order to effect the dismissal of the civil servant questioned. In the City of Buenos Aires it is regulated by Law 357.

14. The creation of new strategies for citizen participation:

Talking about citizen participation does not mean taking a catalog of recipes and seeing which one applies in each circumstance. Each participatory proposal requires specific instruments, which often must be specially designed.

For example, with the team of the Deputy Ombudsman's Office under my charge, we drafted a bill with the participation of the different social actors involved. The idea was to produce a project for an Environmental Law and experiment with a participatory mechanism that could be repeated in similar cases [22].

The management modality of this Preliminary Project constitutes a historical fact. For the first time in Argentina we were able to build a draft law in an absolutely participatory way. Throughout the year we agreed on a preliminary draft of the Framework Law for the Protection of the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the City of Buenos Aires with all the social actors who were willing to participate.

We publicly invite anyone interested in doing so to participate, without any type of conditions. We placed special emphasis on promoting dialogue and ensuring the participation of social and professional sectors that had serious discrepancies and conflicts with each other. We told them: "We know that you are at odds. We want you to work together." They did so, with the help of a team of professional mediators, and from this project, they continue to do so in others. As the Deputy Defender's Office was a neutral institution, they were able to use it as a meeting point.

We prepared a comparative study of all the regulations (national and international) available so that it could be consulted by the participants and we distributed it profusely on diskettes and e-mails. We held dozens of previous meetings to agree with them the index of the Law: what issues does it have to deal with? Later, we summoned them to a Seminar-Workshop in which they themselves wrote a series of documents on the contents that they suggested for the Law, distributed in work commissions. Each commission was headed by a thematic coordinator and a professional mediator. Its function was to draft a document that would describe the content of each of the chapters of the Law. Those documents were agreed to in plenary.

Después de lo cual, nos tomamos un mes para redactar un articulado coherente con esos documentos y volvimos a reunirlos, para mostrarles ese articulado y preguntarles: ¿en qué nos equivocamos? ¿Qué le falta? ¿Qué le sobra? ¿Cuáles puntos son internamente contradictorios?

El resultado es que 273 participaron activamente en la redacción de un texto complejo y lo sienten como propio. El anteproyecto integra la protección del Patrimonio Natural y el Cultural, de acuerdo con lo que viene predicando la UNESCO desde hace un cuarto de siglo y tal como lo incluyen las legislaciones más avanzadas. Propone normas en materia de dominio y jurisdicción, crea un modelo novedoso de autoridad de aplicación en red. Incluye normas sobre financiamiento (incluyendo situaciones de emergencia), participación ciudadana, descentralización, educación y turismo y régimen de sanciones.

Recibimos una carta de la Fundación Ciudad que dice: "Queremos destacar nuestro agradecimiento por haber instrumentado un proceso de elaboración legislativa que ha dado a luz un proyecto firmemente sustentado en estudios, aportes y acuerdos. En este sentido, la iniciativa debería servir como modelo al momento de la preparación de otras leyes que la Ciudad necesita con urgencia".

Conclusions:

Las herramientas de democracia participativa son mecanismos idóneos para la resolución de los conflictos ambientales que surgen de la interacción de múltiples actores sociales.

Su inserción generará problemas vinculados con la cultura política tradicional. Ningún sistema es mejor o peor que otro en abstracto. En este caso, la democracia participativa mejora las posibilidades de toma de decisiones porque deja márgenes más reducidos al clientelismo político tradicional y a la confusión habitual entre los actos públicos y los negocios privados. Ésa es una razón suficiente para que no sea apoyada en los hechos por los beneficiarios de las prácticas mencionadas.

Al mismo tiempo, la complejidad de las acciones necesarias para la construcción de un Proyecto Nacional requiere de un muy amplio consenso de una población que desconfía de las instituciones y de las personas que las administran. La única manera de trabajar para la recuperación de esa confianza es creando mecanismos que les permitan ver por sí mismos de qué manera se toman las decisiones y se manejan los recursos disponibles. Esto lleva, necesariamente, a crear espacios en los que la democracia participativa se vaya aplicando en forma creciente.

Notes
[1] . Smith, Adam: ?Investigación sobre el origen y causas de la riqueza de las naciones?, México, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1952.
[2] . Keynes, John Maynard: ?Teoría general de la ocupación, el interés y el dinero?. México, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1946.
[3] . Zeballos de Sisto, María Cristina: "Búsqueda de sistemas estables: herramientas de la democracia participativa", Universidad de Buenos Aires, Ciclo Básico Común, Introducción al Conocimiento de la Sociedad y el Estado, 1995.
[4] . Constitución de la Nación Argentina, art. 22.
[5] . Cit. En: Zeballos de Sisto, María Cristina: Trabajos prácticos de Sociedad y Estado. Buenos Aires, Ciclo Básico Común, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1996.
[6] Vanossi, Jorge: "El Estado de derecho en el constitucionalismo social", Buenos Aires, EUDEBA, 1982.
[7] Sabsay, Daniel Alberto y Tarak, Pedro: "El acceso a la información pública, el ambiente y el desarrollo sustentable", Buenos Aires, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, Manual No 3, 1997.
[8] Constitución de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, art. 28.
[9] . Véase especialmente: "Digesto Municipal de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires", régimen de sanciones al personal municipal.
[10] Proyectos de los senadores nacionales Melgarejo y Genoud, del senador nacional Cafiero, y de los diputados de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires Argüello y Béliz.
[11] Marienhoff, M.: Escrito en defensa de la posición de la Secretaría de Agricultura de la Nación en los autos: "Kattan y otros (Juan Schröder y Antonio Elio Brailovsky) c/Secretaría de Agricultura s/prohibición del agroquímico 2,4,5-T", Buenos Aires, 1984.
[12] Valls, Mario: "Medio ambiente en Constitución", en S.O.S. VIDA, Buenos Aires, agosto de 1994.
[13] Constitución de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, art. 20.
[14] Cámara Federal, La Plata, Sala 3º 8 de agosto de 1988.
[15] Brailovsky, Antonio Elio: "El negocio de envenenar", Buenos Aires, Ed. Fraterna, 1986.
[16] Sabsay, Daniel Alberto y Tarak, Pedro: "La participación vecinal y la gestión del medio ambiente: audiencias públicas ? Gobierno local", Buenos Aires, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, 1995.
[17] Reuniones de la Comisión de Ecología de la Legislatura de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires con la Unión Industrial de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. Marzo de 1998, que coordiné como Director General de esa Comisión.
[18] El mismo punto de vista fue expresado en varias notas dirigidas a la Comisión de Ecología, y al Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, con motivo de la discusión de dicho anteproyecto.
[19] Constitución de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, art. 89.
[20] Aprile, Elio (Intendente Municipal de Mar del Plata), comunicación personal, 1996.
[21] Vecinalistas y autoridades del municipio de Choele-Choel, comunicación personal, 1998.
[22] Tengo que destacar el rol de la Lic. Nélida Harracá en el diseño e implementación de esta herramienta de participación ciudadana

Nota: Un aspecto preocupante de la actual situación política es la escasa prioridad que se le está asignando a la participación ciudadana en los procesos de toma de decisiones. Después de un período breve y brillante en el cual se incorporaron numerosos mecanismos participativos en la Constitución de la Ciudad y se los reglamentó a través de leyes específicas, pasamos a un momento en que el tema aparece casi congelado en la agenda pública.

La Constitución de la Ciudad incorpora numerosas herramientas participativas, algunas semejantes a las que establece la Constitución Nacional y otras de mucho mayor alcance. El tema son las dificultades para lograr que esos derechos ciudadanos vayan más allá del papel.

Estas herramientas están establecidas desde 1996. Sin embargo, en estos siete años no se ha hecho casi nada por promocionarlas, de modo que los ciudadanos conozcan sus derechos. Una compulsa a varios miles de estudiantes de primer año de la Universidad de Buenos Aires que cursaron la materia Sociedad y Estado entre 1996 y 2003 reveló que el colegio secundario no había intentado enseñarles nada vinculado con la participación ciudadana. Está claro que la única manera de poder ejercer un derecho es sabiendo que existe.

El ocultamiento de las herramientas participativas por parte del sistema educativo y de la mayor parte de los medios de comunicación es funcional a un contexto político cerrado, donde mucha gente no participa en la discusión de los temas públicos porque sencillamente no sabe que puede hacerlo.

Por eso este trabajo mío con una síntesis de las herramientas de participación ciudadana que están en nuestras leyes o en nuestra práctica, como una manera de recordar su existencia e instar a todos a utilizarlas. -EcoPortal.net


Video: Citizen Participation (May 2022).