We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Participatory Budgeting in Dondo, Mozambique

The following article describes one of several participatory budgeting initiatives underway in the countries of southern Africa. - Editor


This Article was prepared by Mr. Manuel Cambezo, Mayor of Dondo Municipality



The Municipality of Dondo is located in the Province of Sofala in Mozambique. It occupies an area of 382 km² and has a population of about 71.644 inhabitants. The Participatory Budgeting process in Dondo started in 1999, during the first municipal term. The motivation for this approach was the request by the citizens to see their interests realized. Dondo municipal council decided to involve citizens in the budgetary because it realized the following benefits:

  • It improves efficiency and efficacy in the use of public resources
  • It promotes sustainable allocation of resources;
  • It promotes socio-economic growth of the communities themselves;

Citizens should always be part of the decision-making process because they play active role in municipal development and are responsible for the success of development projects.

Modalities of Participation in Dondo

  • Provision of services by the private sector i.e. Education, health, water supply, etc.
  • Monetary or in-kind contribution for construction, maintenance and operations of public infrastructures by the communities, NGOs and the private sector
  • Payment of the municipal property taxes
  • Contribution for the expenses for operations and maintenance of public services

In order to provide sound and rational solutions for the needs of the citizens the following institutional and community measures were taken:

  • At institutional level: Establishment of an advisory and studies office (GEA), Community Affairs as an instrument for permanent liaison with the communities;
  • At the neighborhoods level: Neighborhoods Development Nucleus (NDB), Association of Community Services – local non-governmental organization (ASSERCO).

The main actors in the process of Participatory Budgeting include:

  • The civil society
  • Non-governmental Organizations
  • The private sector

Organization of the Participatory Budgeting Process in Dondo – 2007

Participatory budgeting in Dondo takes the following phases:

  • Organizational activities of the population on territorial or thematic basis
  • Assessment of he activities undertaken by the municipality
  • Municipal diagnostic
  • Preparation of PESOM and PIM
  • Discussion of the proposals of PESOM and PIM at the Municipal Council.
  • Final drafting of the proposals
  • Submission of the proposals to the Municipal Assembly

Advantages of Participatory Budgeting and Planning in Dondo:

  • More investment initiatives mainly in the area of socio-economic development;
  • More flexibility in the response to the citizens concerns;
  • More involvement of the citizens in finding local solutions for local problems


  • Weak representation of the various concerned groups;
  • Weak understanding of the main issues to be addressed in the process,
  • Use of the same methodology for different type of problems and target population

The municipality has the following challenges:

  • Spread the concept of Participatory Budgeting;
  • Promote public awareness on the role of the municipalities;
  • Involvement of the citizens in Participatory Budgeting;
  • Establishment of civic education processes using the media;
  • Capacity building of the members of the Municipal Council and Assembly as well as the communities.

How to overcome the challenges:

  • Production of manuals, brochures and other instruments to be used in spreading the concept of Participatory Budgeting;
  • Involvement of Community Radio and other social communication means in dissemination and increasing of the awareness of the communities and the members of the Municipal Council and Assembly on Participatory Budgeting;
  • Mobilize internal and external resources to support the implementation of the municipal Participatory Budgeting;
  • Use part of the municipal revenues for technical capacity building; and
    Liaise with the local government ad other partners in order to improve the municipal model on Participatory Budgeting


  • With the Participatory Budgeting we want to improve transparency in municipal management;
  • Democratize the decision-making process;
  • Share the responsibility for municipal management (Municipal government and the citizens)

By. Manuel Cambezo (Presidente do CMD)

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