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A starring role for every citizen

An experiment giving citizens a key role in municipal management has given international recognition to the city of Porto Alegre in southern Brazil. First tried in 1989, this IDB sponsored “participatory budgeting” program has since been adopted by almost 180 Brazilian municipalities and by cities in several other Latin American countries.

Budgeting with community participation is just one example illustrating the effectiveness of citizen involvement in development projects. The Bank has recently approved a new Strategy for promoting citizen participation in Bank activities, which contributes to the IDB's goal of enhancing social equity throughout the region. Citizen participation and the need for improved dialogue between governments and communities were discussed during a recent seminar on civil society heald at Bank headquarters.

“There is no efficient government with a weak society,” said Juan Notaro, IDB Executive Director for Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay during the seminar. Dialogue with citizens is crucial for development, he remarked, and “we need to promote increased trust between governments and their communities.”

During the IDB seminar, supporters of civil society honored the memory of Juan Felipe Yriart, a former Bank staffer and Executive Director who developed workable approaches to strengthen civil society in the region. Yriart fostered cooperation among civil society organizations, multilateral institutions, government and businesses. Thanks to his efforts, civil society was introduced in the Bank’s agenda in the early 1990s.

“The challenge lies in shaping and promoting a responsible civil culture within the community that will foster both civil society and governmental, political development,” quoted one of the participants in tribute to Ambassador Yriart’s words.

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