Focus on process of public participation when colombia visits sweden

The functioning of citizen dialogue in the Swedish system, decisions taken and actions carried out through citizen participation in the Swedish context, examples of municipal collaboration and tools to analyze and manage conflicts were among the key contents on the agenda for the Colombian municipal representatives during a week of study visit in Stockholm in the beginning of  September. The FOINCIDE project (Fortalecimiento Insititucional y Ciudadano para el Desarrollo Territorial) implemented by SKL international in Colombia since 2017 invited officials from the project municipalities – Florida, Pradera, San Juan Nepomuceno and Carmen de Bolívar – together with representatives of Asomunicipios – an Association of municipalities in the Catatumbo region as part of the work being implemented in these postconflict territories.

Given that local governments have a fundamental role in ensuring a more peaceful future in Colombia, FOINCIDE strengthens municipal administrations in areas of the country especially affected by the historical armed conflict. It focuses on providing them with knowledge and tools that enrich and facilitate dialogue processes with their citizens – to greater inclusion, transparency, equity and coexistence at the local level.

The visit is the second one organized within FOINCIDE. It is a way to use Swedish examples to show citizen participation as an effective instrument to include in the municipal management cycle, strengthen the capacity of local administrations for conflict management and the development of intermunicipal cooperation processes.

During the study visit, practical examples from Swedish municipalities where citizen dialogue has been used to help solve community challenges were shown. The participants got to know, for example, how citizen dialogue has been used in an area of ​​Stockholm called Östberga to identify and implement measures to improve the perception of security in the area together with its citizens.

In the local municipality of Sätra they saw the advantage of building from the ideas of citizens and in particular children for the construction of new public spaces – in this case a playground. Similar examples where citizens dialogue is used within processes of improvement of public space were repeated in several of the Swedish examples. It is also an issue that several of the invited municipalities have chosen for their own citizen dialogue projects supported by FOINCIDE that are being carried out in their territories.

Participants also had the opportunity to work with Bernard le Roux – SKL´s expert to deal with complex social problems and social conflicts – in order to learn and test tools to classify social conflicts and identify first measures.

Likewise, the group had the chance to get to know SKL better and its role in promoting an organized approach to citizen participation among Swedish municipalities. Also other examples and experiences of municipal cooperation in Sweden were presented which led to discussions around questions like why collaborate, what is gained, what common goals and challenges can be met or resolved through municipal cooperation.

SKL international believes representatives of the Colombian municipal teams returned with more useful knowledge and a high appreciation for citizen dialogue as a tool to design better solutions to the problems affecting their territories and communities.