Since Brazil adopted a new constitution in 1988, a significant development of participatory institutions – such as participatory budgeting and a variety of policy councils – has been taking place to create opportunities for citizens to participate in policy making, implementation, and evolution. Are these participatory institutions actually making a difference? In the event “Social Participation in Policymaking: Does It Make a Difference?” held at the World Bank on 14th April, Roberto Pires, a Researcher at the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), assessed contemporary advances as well as challenges to increasing the effectiveness of participatory institutions in policy making in Brazil.
1) 1980 – 2000: Emergence of participatory institutions mainly at the local level.
- More than 200 cities with participatory budgeting by 2000.
2) 2000 – Present: Systematic effort to incorporate social participation in different policy areas at the federal level.
- Among federal policies implemented between 2002 and 2010, 92.1% included at least one institutional form of State-society interaction.
- 16 national councils were created between 2003 and 2009 while only 15 was created in the previous 60 years.
- 82 national conferences were organized between 2003 and 2011. There were more than 5 million participants from all over the country, and around 18,000 proposals were resulted.
Some empirical evidences of the effectiveness of participation were introduced: municipalities that have participatory budgeting spend more on health and sanitation, have a higher number of active civil society organizations, and have smaller child mortality rates (Boulding & Wampler, 2009; Touchton & Wampler, 2013). Also, their comparative methods by comparing 2 emblematic projects shows that the Sao Francisco River transportation project with more social participation and political inclusion had innovations in policy design with sustainable development component. On the other hand, the Belo Monte Dam construction project which did not have social participation in the process reproduced tensions and conflicts regarding the policy’s original design.
Current challenges for more effectiveness of participatory institutions are:
- Lack of institutional articulation and knowledge management: insufficient communication among participatory institutions.
- Heterogeneity: varying levels of organization, financial resources, and administrative capacity.
- Unequal participation across policy areas (Inclusiveness, Representativeness, Use of ITs) and lack of inclusion and unequal representation in national council in terms of gender and race.
- Tensions among government priorities and managers’ perceptions about participation.