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Experiences

"THE “CENTROS VECINALES” (NEIGHBORHOOD CENTERS) AS PROMOTERS OF PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY".

  • Argentina
  • Municipality of Cordoba
This experience was presented as candidate for the 9th IOPD Award for Best Practices in Citizen Participation in 2015.

Description

With a population of 1,340,000 inhabitants, located in the geographic center of the country, and 576Km2, Córdoba is the second urban center of Argentina and is organized in 451 districts.

The main participatory tool of the city are the Neighborhood Centers (neighborhood organizations with its own headquarters, nonprofit, which aims to encourage participation generating ownership and facilitating the involvement of residents in public policy).

The City of Córdoba showed their higher participation rates during the decades of 80 and 90, where the Neighborhood Centers took greater role with the decentralization of the city.

In the first decade of the century, the loss of representation, discredited public institutions and the crisis of values, severely beaten citizen participation and political system. The paradigm of "do not get" and "you can not" was introduced in Argentina, staying for many years.

The Neighborhood Centers, lost ground in the line representing civil society. In late 2011, only 38% of the 291 Neighborhood Centers enjoyed authorities force and normal operation. They didn’t promote human or social development activities and, in many cases, entities pursuing supporters and sectorial interests, or worse, their headquarters were used for illegal purposes.

In this context, it was decided to launch the program "THE NEIGHBORHOOD CENTERS AS PROMOTERS OF PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY", in order to normalize and prioritize the Neighborhood Centers, through the promotion of citizen participation and commitment of neighbors; promoting human and social development; care momentum public space to improve neighborhood infrastructure; promoting equality expanding citizen rights and citizen empowerment to promote governance.

Thus, communication channels, containment and participation, able to bring his neighbor Neighborhood Center to search for specific answers to your problems, project formulation and suggestions solutions were created; generating participation in decision-making.

Progress was made in the implementation of cross lines between different areas of the Municipality, articulating with civil society organizations, universities and private sector.

From this, the Neighborhood Centers began to take a leading role in co-management, generating various activities aimed at human development of their populations, as well as the maintenance and improvement of neighborhood infrastructure.

The body responsible for the development of this experience is the Department of Neighborhood Policy of the Municipality, responsible for Institutional Strengthening Plan and the Plan for Strengthening Participatory Neighborhood Centers.

This Direction allocated its entire budget to the development of this experience, while each municipal area involved allocates a percentage of his for this purpose.

It also has private contributions (donations of supplies, equipment and human and technical resources for training) and exceptionally with voluntary contributions neighbors.

We have created an efficient channel information through Transparency Municipality Portal, the Government Targets Plan, Public Hearings, the Open Council, the implementation of the Participatory Budget, official social networking, Municipal Radio "Jerome" and the Official Gazette.

The implementation of this plan generated a visible change in public administration, especially at the reception and processing of orders and requests made Neighborhood Centers, providing preferential treatment.

Furthermore the promotion of sport and culture is highlighted, showing a big step in decentralization of the local government.

In terms of social development we may indicate the opening of dinning rooms and Drinking milk Neighborhood Centers, which bring solidarity arm of the state in the suburbs and shantytowns.

In an Argentina with a young democratic experience (which has often been weakened by the economic crisis and international context) whose population evidence and discredit lack of interest in democratic institutions and where the idea of participation and involvement is devalued, the program prepared by the Municipality of Córdoba is important, because it works from the cell of the democratic process, to restore a weakened social and participatory tissue.

Rebuilding the culture of "being part" and take an active role in the actions of government from the neighborhood itself, is a fundamental task for Argentine.

The main challenge is the ownership of the project by as much neighbors, regardless of the sectors to which they belong. It seeks to strengthen the process of training and education of the population, to achieve that "feel himself" and naturalization.

Thus sustainability and strengthening the participation of residents in the democratic process is guaranteed not only by the intervention in the activities of neighborhood center but as co-managers and co-responsible government.

It is also a challenge to continue exporting experience, and so far it appears that even in remote territories, excited about the opportunities generated by this participatory idea.

Undoubtedly, the experience is innovative and pioneering model in Argentina and the region; be at the forefront of the most developed participatory processes; implement a Digital Accounting Record; naturally use social media to spread; generate training courses through virtual platform; encourage job creation and job training.

A remarkable and unprecedented aspect is the participation of different sectors of society in the joint management and joint responsibility between the public and private sectors, civil society organizations, nonprofit organizations and residents of the city; a rare phenomenon.