Category: Social Events

Għarb

The resident’s participation strengthens democracy – Għarb Local Council

This was the theme being discussed during the Conference which was organised in a leading Gozo hotel on Saturday 16 July.  The event also marked the 25th year of service the present Mayor David Apap Agius has given to the local council in his current role.

David – the people’s person

I have known David for quite a number of years and he is the type of character with whom you can tend to disagree on a lot of matters however, his outstanding trait is outstanding that one would know where he stands with him at all times. Besides, one can consider David to be a people’s person who would constantly know what is happening in his locality at all times. Along with other counsellors and Local Council staff he managed to uplevel Għarb to the extent of being the envy of other Gozitan and Maltese localities. This is due to the fact that they have managed to successfully participate in activities and initiatives which were beneficial to the residents of this picturesque locality; a locality which is yet unruined from the ‘progress’ of development.  David, wish you well and may you keep on pursuing with your work towards the Locality you believe so much in.

The Conference

The conference mentioned earlier on had the valid participation of various representatives from around Europe.  Participants from Poland, Serbia, Romania, Lithuania, Greece, Italy and Turkey participated in the conference which focused on the citizen’s participation in the strengthening of democracy.

Amongst the main speakers, there was the valid contribution of President Emeritus of Malta Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, Parliament Secretary for Local Government Onor. Alison Zerafa Civelli, regional president Dr. Samuel Azzopardi, Gozo speaker for the Opposition Hon. Alex Borg and Director for Local Government Marisa Pisani.

During my speech in this conference I spoke how the residents’ and citizens’ participation in decision taking situations constitute more vibrant democratic societies.  We can’t have a democratic society if there would not be the right and effective mechanisms of accountability; good local and regional governance are also of utmost importance. Good governance is key to the fundamental principles of local government leadership; it is the main pillar on which the local and regional European Council Charter of leadership is structured.

 

Nowadays, local governments are being faced with a number of challenges and hence the residents’ participation in decision taking is somehow crucial.  If the resident feels that he is not part of the decision taking mechanism and initial discussions and if he feels that the Local Council is not equipped to effectively implement change, he would eventually lose interest and the whole argument would fizzle down.

It is highly important that the resident is at the core of this decision taking mechanism; when there is enough subject knowledge and proper brainstorming then the consultation stage would be a somehow swift process and this would serve as a learning and improvement opportunity of the original proposals. With such a mechanism in place, the citizen and the resident would comfortably feel they pertain to their society and their region due to healthy discussions and consultations.  This is what constitutes democratic societies.

It is up to each council and region to find the best method of engaging their respective residents in any consultation process; this could take place in various ways and means including meetings, focus groups, conferences, referendums and others.  Practices which would work in certain councils and regions would not necessarily work in others.  The bottom-up approach is crucial and somehow very important.

Mario Fava
President

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Strategic collaboration with the Local Government

As elected members of the Local Councils, the Mayor and the councillors have one common goal to offer the best possible service to their residents in order to make a difference in their quality of life.

As we all know, local councils within our country do not have the autonomy of other councils in European countries. Most of the time, Local Councils would depend on the Central Government’s agencies and entities who need to work in synergies and clearly understand their different roles, responsibilities and deliverables.

Whilst most of the entities and agencies are managed by contract workers of their respective agencies, the political section of the Local Councils mainly depends on the residents’ votes to be elected.  Undoubtedly, a sheer laid back attitude from the elected Mayor would result in residents’ lack of trust for forthcoming elections.

If one had to take a snapshot of the current situation one must acknowledge that there is room for improved cooperation between the two, most of all on the communication aspect being at the top of their agenda.

The lack of communication, like in any relationship between two human beings would result in dispute, lack of respect and sheer cold silence which would eventually lead to the separation of their relationship.

The same goes with the current argument we are dealing with; apart from a high degree of communication, the latter needs to be constant, rapid and transparent.  This enhances the level of trust between both parties who commonly bear the same believes, that of assisting their residents in the best possible manner.

An important and efficient way to deal with residents’ requests and complaints is that instead of having a generic email address, issues should ideally be addressed by individuals who would actually be in a position to assist their residents.  This could be done as long as there would be no designated personnel to handle this process.

Back in 2019, prior to the Local Council election there was the launch of a particular initiative where a number of officials from various agencies and entities were assigned to a particular Local Council.  These officials were to be identified as the decision taking key individuals within their own organisation who own a good know how about the Local Council’s daily operation. This initiative would ensure acceptable response time coupled with appropriate exchange of information; additionally, this gives the added benefit of having key contact people with whom to liaise with when pressing issues need to be resolved.

It is crucially important that there needs to be enhanced cooperation and coordination between these entities, agencies and Local Councils so that areas which are still unowned and unhandled are eventually tackled and addressed.

Industrial zones and housing estates parameters, security during children’s schools opening and closing times, local tribunals and enforcement, water and electricity repairs, road contractors, work permits, land’s authority and others are just some matters one could easily identify.

The same level of cooperation has to be also extended to a number of organisations with pressing issues and which represent certain sectors like the business chamber, the construction industry, private road and telecommunication contractors.

This should be doable if we all understand that when there are common working grounds we would be facilitating our way of life and those of our residents.  Shifting of responsibilities from whoever side it comes only increases the residents’ frustration and cascades the perception that both the Local Councils and entities are useless.

No one will ever effect this change on our behalf If there is not going to be this collective collaboration to change this perception (which at times is not).  Undoubtedly like all mayors would wish the best for their respective localities, likewise, the top brass of the various entities would wish the best for their entities too.

For this to be operationalised we need each other’s support; the longer we take to digest and implement the longer we would keep being the problem instead of the solution everybody seeks to have

Mario Fava
President

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