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Bridging the gap: citizenship, participation and accountability (PLA 40)

Journal article
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Around the world, a growing crisis of legitimacy characterises the relationship between citizens and the institutions that affect their lives. In both North and South, citizens speak of mounting disillusionment with government, based on concerns about corruption, lack of responsiveness to the needs of the poor and the absence of a sense of connection with elected representatives and bureaucrats. As traditional forms of political representation are being re-examined, direct democratic mechanisms are increasingly being drawn upon to enable citizens to play a more active part in decisions which affect their lives. In this context, the questions of how citizens – especially the~poor – express voice and how institutional responsiveness~and accountability can be ensured have become paramount.~In this article, we explore some of these challenges. Repositioning participation to embrace concerns with inclusive citizenship and rights, we examine a range of contemporary participatory mechanisms and strategies that seek to bridge the gap between citizens and the state.

This article was published in PLA 40: Deliberative Democracy and Citizen Empowerment (February 2001). Participatory Learning and Action (PLA, formerly PLA Notes) is the world's leading series on participatory learning and action approaches and methods. PLA publishes articles on participation aimed at practitioners, researchers, academics, students and activists. All articles are peer-reviewed by an international editorial board.

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Source publication:
Participatory Learning and Action series, issue 40: Deliberative Democracy and Citizen Empowerment
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