Citizen Engagement

Engendering Citizen Engagement

Democracy is a system of government that majorly serves the interests of the people. Hence, citizen engagement is a massive part of any democratic state and often involves civil society, consumer protection in economics and how to encourage citizens’ participation in political life.

Civil Society

Civil society refers to any non-profit organisation that promotes the rights and liberties of citizens in the community. They encompass various types of organisations.

Organisations That Promote a Specific Cause

The examples are the Australian council of social services and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).

Organisations That Promote Welfares for a Particular Group of People in Australia

E.g., the Salvation Army, Brotherhood of St. Laurence, and Oxfam.

Small Services Organisations

Local clubs and associations provide a platform for their members and cater to their well-being.

One of the numerous assignments carried out by civil societies is Public Advocacy which refers to a sensitisation program on a particularly salient topic to benefit the community. Civil societies in this regard help to

  • Sensitise people
  • Serves as a link between government and citizens
  • Widens political movements
  • Helps to achieve the best practice
  • Improve the communication process
  • Facilitate change

Public advocacy groups also help facilitate the units of democracy through interests’ representation, environmental health programs, and government accountability.

Consumer Protection

Consumers are prone to unfavourable market practices, which may subsequently affect economic flow. Hence, the need to protect consumers from irrational trade practices. They are guidelines recognised under the law. There is an area of law known as consumer protection law.

The scope of law deals with business relationships between consumers and business owners or representatives. Consumer protection covers various subjects which are not limited to mistake, duress and undue influence, misrepresentation, product liability, unfair business practices, privacy rights and other issues arising from contractual obligations.

In Australia, the federal body responsible for protecting the consumer is the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission). There are also state counterparts in different regions. Furthermore, the ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) has responsibility for consumer protection rules of product and monetary services.

Increased Participation in Democracy

Due to inadequate leadership and governance, the citizens have continued to lose trust and confidence in government and become apathetic to politics. Also, the citizens actively engage in political activities by creating pressure groups, voting during the election, lobbying and participating in protests, among others.

A sound democratic system is not complete without the involvement of the citizens. The government may incorporate engagement through:

  • Sincere community consultation
  • Periodic deliberations
  • Grassroots intervention programs.
  • Brazil’s participatory budgeting model: That is, leaving the citizens to identify priorities to spend on in a budget created for them.
  • United States’ Budget for outcomes projects: The project involves submitting a well-prepared budget with possible outcomes outlined and giving the citizens the freedom to select.

In past years, the Australian government has also engaged its population through various programs that include:

Yield Highway Protest

The citizens of two suburban areas protested against a construction plan matter that concerns them. The minister organised a diplomatic congress, and they reached a consensus.

Tasmania Together

The government established this program to create a sustainability plan that involves people in a community and is managed by an independent body.

New Democracy’s Citizen Parliament

This program consists of a group of randomly selected people to consider the governance situation in the country at the time.