Participatory democracy is a theme of growing interest in Italy, in both cultural debate and administrative practice. Some Regions have felt a need to provide a legislative framework in order to facilitate and finance these experiments. The first to do so was the Region of Tuscany which, in December 2007, approved a law that lays down “rules concerning the promotion of participation in the elaboration of regional and local policies.”
The law regulates two principal typologies of participatory processes, namely: 1) public debate; 2) the Region’s support for such processes. In order to guide and manage these processes, the institution and regulation of a Regional Authority designed to guarantee and promote such participation has been provided for, in the form of a monocratic organ to be held by a person competent in the field of public law or political science or of proven experience in participatory methodologies and practices.
Public debate assumes the form of an articulated discussion on major measures with possible significant impacts of an environmental, territorial, social and/or economic nature, but it must be emphasised that, during these years when the law has been in force, no request for public debate has been submitted and therefore, to date, this process of participation has never been put into practice.
The support of the Region concerns smaller participatory projects that have to do with “the allocation of public resources”; the law does not specifically define or actually circumscribe the effective ambit of the support of the Region, but limits itself to stating that participatory projects other than public debate are involved. During these years since the law has been in force, many projects have been supported by the Region of Tuscany and with objects varying greatly.
Regional Law 69/2007 has been an important driving force: it will suffice to consider that half of the participatory processes completed in these years in Italy took place in Tuscany pursuant to this law; much, however, must still be done to fulfil the principles regarding participation. Above all, the fact that no public debate procedure has been initiated cannot be left unsaid. We are at the beginning of a process which, if it is not to be halted, needs to be supported by the political class, which should be the first to recognise it as an instrument for making emerge and for reconciling so many different and sometimes opposing interests involved in public policies
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