The development of channels for citizen participation in Mexico is strongly linked to its authoritarian past. From 1929 until the year 2000, the country was ruled by a single political party: the PRI, Partido Revolucionario Institucional. This long-running party enabled the President to exercise control on all relevant social and political actors.
Political reforms implemented during the end of the 1970’s, allowed for the materialization of Mexico’s administrative and political decentralization, causing the PRI to gradually lose power at the regional level. Citizen participation in the decision-making process was first introduced in the form of deliberative bodies such as the regional and local planning councils. A decade later, civil society representatives were being invited and encouraged to participate in inclusive citizen organizations in order to take their opinions and suggestions into account on a variety of issues such as health, education, gender and environmental protection, among others. However, they usually could not vote on most decisions.
In June 2000 the PRI lost the presidential election. With a new party in power (PAN- Partido Acción Nacional) the idea of citizen participation gained strength and became widely supported by political and social actors. The government created new instances of deliberative participation in the implementation of relevant national and local policies, such as regional consultation forums and municipal councils for rural development.
Currently, most innovations in Mexico are designed to tackle its contemporary societal problems, namely: impunity, corruption, crime and human rights violations. In consequence, such innovations work to design and implement solutions that facilitate citizen monitoring of the performance of governmental institutions and officials in order to evaluate them and hold them accountable. The main channels for citizen participation are deliberative bodies that allow for the participation of citizen representatives. Nevertheless, and although civil society has professionalized, it still has limited political influence.
International actors such as the World Bank, the Open Government Partnership, the United Nations Programs (UNICEF, PNUD, FAO and PNUD), the International Center for Journalists and Amnesty International, support and finance some of the most relevant initiatives.
Some of the most innovative initiatives in Mexico comprise e-participation and are related to crowdsourcing information for the sake of transparency and accountability. There is a large number of digital innovations that are based on apps for smartphones that allow citizens to send input for policy-making and to collaborate with the implementation of state policies, such as “Haz tu Ley” for drafting legislative projects, and “Tu Conteo” for monitoring elections.
Finally, facing a worrying increase in the number of forcibly disappeared people across the country and a lack of accurate official data, citizens have organized mechanisms to figure out the real number of victims through the gathering of information directly from their relatives and to follow up the compliance of authorities with the recommendations of the United Nations to guarantee the rights of forcibly disappeared victims and their relatives.
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