Times change, rules change: A new citizen engagement

By Flavia Milano, Operations & Civil Society Senior Specialist – IDB Group

By Flavia Milano, Operations & Civil Society Senior Specialist – IDB Group

The citizenry’s visibility, role and scope of action has gained strength. New social movements have emerged, incorporating new forms of interaction that include historically marginalized populations and other shared-interest groups such as rural movements, indigenous people’s partnerships, organizations that advocate for the rights of sexual minorities, people with disabilities, and those who promote gender equality, among others.

In recent decades, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have taken big strides in strengthening citizen engagement mechanisms. In this context, and due to their complexity and depth, the claims for Human Rights will not be addressed here, as they exceed the scope of this article. That caveat made, significant progress has been achieved regarding certain internal factors and global trends that have drastically changed the interaction between the three main actors of development: Governments, Private Sector and Civil Society. These factors and trends can be summarized into four dimensions:

1. Growing maturity of democratic systems: Countries in the region have strengthened their governance systems by introducing citizen engagement mechanisms that seek to increase transparency in public management, institutionalize citizen participation in new laws and policies, and establish an ongoing process of State modernization that promotes citizen participation in decision-making processes.

2. Economic growth and empowerment of the middle class:In recent decades, the region has seen significant economic growth as well as an expansion and empowerment of a middle class that is increasingly demanding for more and better public services. The recent reaction to the corruption scandals that have rattled the public and private sectors is proof of a shift in perception. In this context, vast sectors of the citizenry, including a large portion of the emerging middle class, have raised their voice to demand that suspects are made accountable in the course of investigations where due diligence and judicial independence are guaranteed.

3. New engagement between Civil Society and the Private Sector: Civil Society has become one of the main drivers to pull a critical mass of enterprises that embrace the principles of corporate social responsibility. The business community and the citizenry have risen to the occasion by defining specific standards to govern company behavior in sectors like the extractive, automotive, finance and electronics industries, among others.

4. Widespread use of new technologies and social media:The increase in the generation and availability of data as a result of the digital transformation and the dramatic drop in transaction and data speed costs have been instrumental in facilitating the participation of Civil Society. This technological change and the proliferation of new communication avenues have encouraged the greater involvement of Civil Society by providing innovative arrangements that operate with unprecedented smoothness, sometimes even bypassing traditional citizen organizations and groups. The demonstrations against corruption, which utilized social platforms to organize marches and protests, are vivid examples of how pervasive these new mechanisms can be.


Given this context, Multilateral Development Banks (MDB) and cooperation agencies are currently working to advance opportunities that include a well-planned civil society participation. Recently, the IDB Group adopted the new IDB Group-Civil Society Engagement Strategy to set the ground for an engagement with Civil Society that effectively contributes to the goals of reducing inequality and poverty, promoting productivity and innovation, and reinforcing economic integration among Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Also, in a joint effort, the World Bank has invited Flavia Milano to join its Group of Experts on Citizen Engagement:Having led the design, the contents and the implementation of the IDB Group’s New Strategy, with the inputs and participation of highly experienced IDB internal specialists in various sectors and the contributions of more than 500 citizens, governments and enterprises from Latin America and the Caribbean, this is a great opportunity to contribute by becoming part of the World Bank’s Group of Experts. This joint work attests to the World Bank and the IDB’s determination to incorporate diverse experiences, as well as the strong commitment of those of us who work on development issues to learn, know and improve lives from a sustainable and innovating growth perspective.”





By Flavia Milano, Operations & Civil Society Senior Specialist – IDB Group

By Flavia Milano, Operations & Civil Society Senior Specialist – IDB Group

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