Leading by the concept that violence within the society is possible to reduce by following the principles of democracy and civil involvement we initiated the workshop giving chance to men and women for equal participatory in community budget planning experience.
How to make people more responsible for their districts, towns, and cities? How to bring the community closer to local decision making? How to achieve participation of ordinary people in local politics? These are the questions that the participants of the workshop were trying to answer during a simulation game on participatory budgeting for an imaginary city called “Noravan”.
The workshop was held on March 22 at Peace Dialogues office. More than 25 people took part in the workshop. It was prepared and facilitated by the project manager of "Violence has many faces" from Peace Dialogue NGO and an EVS volunteer from Poland.
Participatory Budgeting offers an alternative to representative democracy. It is a democratic way to manage public money. PB is a democratic process in which community members have direct participation in public expenditure management.
The mechanism was developed in the early 1980s in poor slums (favelas) at the city outskirts of Porto Alegre in Brazil. It was a time when Brazil was under military regime driven by the Armed Forces against the democratically elected government. The PB was initiated as a response of ordinary citizens towards negligence of their local governments.
Currently, there are several thousand participatory Budgets around the world. They exist in such countries as Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Germany, USA, France, England, Italy, Poland and many others. Most of them are for the city budgets; however this method is also used in schools, universities, cooperatives, regions and other institutions to give real power to people.
During the workshop participants played roles of the residents living in four districts in an imaginary city “Noravan”. They were making collective decisions on public expenditure according to the needs of their particular characters and the priorities of their neighborhoods.
Due to simulation, participants could exercise in practice how to bring ordinary people closer to decision making process.
The simulation was followed by a discussion during which the participants highlighted the necessity of a similar mechanism in Armenia. "It's hard to input this practice in Armenia, but it's not impossible. There should be civil will and consciousness for such kind of civil involvement" - said one of the participants of the workshop.