Enable openness and participation
Recent decades have seen France undergo similar trends of democratic decline seen across the Western world: decreasing voter turnout, electoral volatility, political polarization, and sustained voting against incumbent governments. Disaffection with existing institutions of democracy, growing disenchantment by the ‘masses’ with the ‘elites’ that represent them, and a distrust in state officials’ ability or desire to deliver on promises have led to some characterizing this period as a democratic ‘crisis’. In response, officials at all levels of government have put a renewed focus on citizen participation, attempting to rebuild public trust by increasing the role citizens have in governance and political decision-making. New forms of democracy seen elsewhere in the world have made their way to France such as Participatory Budgeting which was adopted in Paris by the then newly elected mayor Anne Hidalgo.
Since 2014, Paris has engineered various ways to include citizens in urban development using digital tools called “civic tech” . “Budget Participatif” (Participatory Budget) is an online and offline platform for citizens to submit ideas and share decisions in the allocation of the municipal investment fund. In this context of an administrative push for increased, public participation, Paris’s ‘Budget Participatif’ is just another way Parisians have been given a say in matters of municipal governance. The first cycle of PB was introduced as soon as Ms. Hidalgo came into office and, as a result, ran with a relatively small budget and only allowed citizens to vote on project proposals submitted by City Council. Parisians, however, were keen to participate: total number of voters exceeded 40,000, the pilot project was deemed a success and the process became a city-wide institution now offering more ways for Parisians to get involved in the allocation of public funds. Now, 5% of the city’s investment budget is allocated to PB, equating to half a billion euros for the 2014-2020 period. Projects span a wide range of issues, from city greening, to improving walking, biking and mass transit, to tool libraries.
Mayor’s office, citizens
Participatory Budgeting in Paris: Act, Reflect, Grow