Participate: vital for democracy – El Sol de México

Cecilia Cadena Inostroza

Professor-Researcher at El Colegio Mexiquense

Our political representatives often make decisions that we often do not agree with and about which we cannot do much. However, it is clear that the only thing that can guide, influence and modify decisions is the participation of citizens.

Citizen participation is the possibility of influencing public decisions that affect us. Incidence can take various forms, as diverse and plural as society; from promoting an action in a neighborhood or neighborhood, to the development of initiatives to access rights at the broader level, such as the national level.

Because society is very broad, it would be difficult for all decisions to be made if it were not through popular representatives. That is where a form of participation comes into play: electoral, through which we select those who represent us to make decisions on our behalf. However, we do not always agree with the decisions that are made and, at the same time, there are decisions that do not fall within the scope of our representatives, such as building a fence or an overpass.

This is where the possibility of influencing in another way opens up, acting collectively, proposing in our local space, organizing and informing ourselves about what can be achieved. Even putting pressure on the decisions made by our representatives to be held accountable.

Non-electoral participation is a complement and reinforcement of democratic systems to provide vitality to community life. These actions strengthen democratic processes because they make us take care of what happens in the environment and improve our conditions. This participation can be spontaneous or induced by government strategies and mechanisms to encourage citizens to get involved in certain processes and thus grant legitimacy to their decisions. Examples are participatory budgets and citizen participation committees, among others.

In democracy, what matters is the plurality of visions, interests and values. The search for spaces so that this plurality has a channel and we can reach satisfactory solutions for the majority. It is not about aligning or making a truth prevail, but about listening, negotiating, agreeing, to reach arrangements that allow progress. To do this, it is necessary to have an informed citizenry. In all these forms of participation, depending on the objective to be achieved, the central point is the information that society has. Because to that extent the incidence can be more or less effective. We are not referring to having complete information about life matters in general, but about those aspects of life that limit and hinder the development of our freedoms and rights.

If we want the spaces for society’s insertion in public life to open and expand, we have to participate and inform ourselves about the various issues that affect us. This is the only way to modify the state of things and effectively counterbalance the decisions made by our representatives that do not include matters that interest us or are contrary to our interests.

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