Local Sustainability and Public Participation: The Role of Municipalities in population´s engagement process
Institute of Social Sciences University of Lisbon Lisbon, Portugal
Getting greater public awareness and social significance in the late 1980´s, governance, public participation and sustainable development are sharing basic purposes and characteristics and, consequently, overlapping its main potentials. That's why the 10th principle of the Declaration of Rio (1992) stresses "social participation" as a primary condition for sustainable development and underlined cooperation, mutual acceptance and trust as fundamental factors to implement it.
However, signs of participatory citizenship in the Portuguese society - as well as participation in representative democracy - can not be dissociated from the new socioeconomic conditions emerged from the 1974´s revolution (institutionalization of democratic rule of law, accession to European Community/European Union, integration in an increasingly globalized international market and political arena...). Moreover, even for some authors the growing interest in more sustainable forms of development runs from and is reinforced by the country's democratic consolidation, some others often described it as a main result of the growing momentum of international governance.
Based on some preliminary results of a survey applied to Portuguese municipalities and focusing in special the central role of Portuguese local administrations and their openness or reticence to citizenry and civic engagement in local sustainability decision-making, this paper will discus and analyse present conditions for participation in local sustainability initiatives: more central and institutionally defined and prescribed (such as the Municipal Master Plans revising processes - PDM -, or more flexible in the methods and forms (as are the initiatives of Local Agenda 21 - LA21).