Why resident participation is key to a thriving community

Good governance is crucial for ensuring that everyone benefits from sustainable development.

For communities to thrive, residents need to have a say in decisions that affect their daily lives. This is especially important at the local level, where people live, work, and benefit from services and businesses. By actively engaging residents in decision-making, we can ensure a more sustainable future for all.

All members of the community have a shared commitment to defining goals and working together to discover ways to enhance and simplify services, guarantee a fair distribution of resources, foster social inclusion, improve oversight, and boost transparency in governmental organisations. This includes establishing systems for responsibility and accountability.

Local councils, being in close proximity to residents, possess a unique advantage over other institutions. They bear the responsibility and obligation to advocate for residents, mobilise civil society and, most importantly, act as catalysts for change.

This role becomes especially significant in an era of enhanced public administration efficiency, more inclusive development, stronger relationships with local associations, non-governmental organisations, and other entities, and the pursuit of solutions and aid for pressing challenges faced by local communities. These challenges encompass social exclusion, immigration, poverty, deficient basic infrastructure and access, urbanisation complexities, public safety concerns, and issues related to violence, abuse, and law enforcement, not to mention the adverse impacts of climate change.

Good governance is imperative for ensuring sustainable, universally shared development. It also fosters a more effective and inclusive development process. The quality of governance primarily stems from the central government’s political will to create a local-level environment that empowers local councils with sufficient autonomy to execute their duties and responsibilities effectively, bolstered by increased professional resources and capacity. Quality governance at the local level also thrives through relationships and communication with other public entities, commercial communities, and residents, who often rely on the resources at the disposal of local councils.

The expansion of public services at the local level, whether through the extension of existing services or the introduction of additional services by local councils, should be accompanied by strengthening local governance structures and greater investments in administrative capabilities and human resources.

Similarly, other local entities with the capacity and capability to promote increased transparency and accountability should also receive support. Furthermore, it’s vital to ensure that local councils have the necessary resources and incentives to provide residents with the highest level of accountability, swiftly and transparently.

This is particularly important because, in the principle of subsidiarity, the central government must actively promote the role of local councils as governing authorities with a significant and active role in policy development for national progress. These authorities should be able to take local decisions with the utmost transparency and accountability to provide the highest quality services to the community.

This reinforcement leads to ultimately contribute to more significant local development across various areas, including social justice, human rights, equality, active community involvement, increased participation of women, youth, and the elderly in the community.

Their involvement at social and political levels, environmental protection, local urban planning, the introduction and implementation of technology for more efficient management, sustainable mobility management, and the preservation and development of public assets all encourage a strong sense of participation and ownership. All of this should be accomplished with transparency and accountability, in conjunction with public entities, societies, and public associations.

This framework of territorial development, characterised by a bottom-up approach and a long-term process, is an integral part of the national government’s implementation strategy. Guided by local councils, this territorial system leads to an enhancement in the quality of life and the well-being of residents.

Mario Fava is President of the Local Councils Association – Malta

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