Good governance depends on close cooperation between decision-makers and ordinary South Africans.
This is why public participation, the process of engaging citizens in government planning and policymaking, is so important – it’s like a two-way street between those who make the decisions and the communities affected by those decisions.
This process cannot succeed unless it is genuine and meaningful. It requires time, resources and a clear set of best practices for planning, skills and behaviours.
Why engage citizens in green building policy?
Environmental challenges cannot be solved by government alone – and this includes transforming our built environment to benefit people, communities and our planet. Citizens at large are both the drivers of environmental problems and the source of solutions to those problems. Without their input, active participation and support, laws and policies to promote greener, more sustainable building practices will be ineffective.
The benefits of effective participation
One of the most important arguments in support of public participation is that it is vital to the health of our democratic society. But allowing communities to play an active role in decision-making also has a number of other benefits.
Input from a broad range of South Africans provides vital information about their different needs, values, attitudes and preferences, ensuring the final decision is the best one for those who are most affected.
People are more likely to comply with decisions that they helped to shape, even if they don’t entirely agree with the outcome. This is why effective public participation can help to build broader support, trust and confidence in government policies and decisions.
When the public is properly consulted, informed and involved in the decision-making process, the potential for protests or civil disobedience is reduced.
When the public participation process is successful, it ensures that a broad range of South Africans, including vulnerable and minority groups, can make their voices heard.
Empowered and responsible citizens
From problem-solving to cooperation to active listening, the public participation process helps to build important skills. It also encourages community and civic responsibility.
By helping to break down barriers between citizens and decision-makers through direct and authentic communication, public participation builds trust and opens up new ways for citizens and government to work together.