Podgorica, PR press service – Every second citizen of Montenegro does not know what we are talking about when when we talk about public policies; in their opinion the economy, unemployment, poverty, and corruption are key areas within which additional efforts should be made to strengthen public policies.
This was shown by the results of the research on the level of information and understanding of citizens about the process of creating and adopting public policies, which were presented at the press conference of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM). A complete report on the research conducted is available here.
The Representative of CEDEM, Dijana Bošković, stated that the sample is representative of all adult citizens of Montenegro, and that 1,024 respondents participated in the research that was conducted from October 3 to 15.
CEDEM’s Program Manager, Marko Pejović, pointed out that the results of the research show that every second citizen does not know what we are talking about when when we talk about public policies, while just over one in ten points out that they know what it is about, with 40 percent those who say they “roughly” know what it’s about.
“The second issue was the definition of public policies. The largest number of citizens, of those who expressed their opinion on public policies, treat public policies as a public good, public interest or general interest. Also, when we talk about the definition of public policies, 16 percent of citizens said that it is about transparency, slightly less than that it is about solving social problems, while 11 percent of citizens mentioned areas of public policy,” Pejović explained.
When it comes to associations on mentions of public policies, he said that the first associations of the largest number of citizens are individuals, and that respondents often gave specific names.
“Public policies are understood by the public as a personification of the actions of politicians, and the second most frequent association is related to the notion of citizenship, activism and again the public. Then comes the transparency,” Pejović said.
He pointed out that the economy, unemployment, poverty and corruption are key areas within which, in the opinion of the citizens, additional efforts should be made in strengthening public policies.
“For the areas that are most important in the opinion of the citizens, they estimate that the state is the most inefficient actor.” In that regard, it is very important to emphasize that it is necessary for the new government to pay attention to these topics and public policies concerning these areas in the coming period, ” Pejović pointed out.
He stated that there is a very small number of citizens who believe that the state is “very efficient” in any area.
“In general, citizens are very critical when it comes to assessing the efficiency of the state in each area,” Pejović said.
According to the citizens, the government is a key actor in the creation of public policies, and what is worrying is that the respondents believe that the citizens participate the least in the creation and implementation of public policies.
“Every other citizen believes that it is necessary for citizens to be more involved in the processes of creating and making decisions. There are three key reasons why citizens are not involved, and those are: apathy, the reason that no one asks them, and the lack of information, “said Pejović.
He pointed out that the key to increasing the level of citizen participation in the processes of making and implementing public policies is the empowerment of citizens by strengthening motivation and raising awareness.
“Every fifth citizen believes that it is necessary to improve knowledgeability of the citizens, but also to focus on different types of education when it comes to the involvement of citizens in creating public policies,” said Pejović.
The data indicates, as he stated, that every fourth citizen does not use the Internet, while over a third of citizens do so on a daily basis.
“One of the most important portals when we talk about electronic participation of citizens is the eGovernment portal, and for that reason we asked citizens if they have ever visited this portal. Almost half of the citizens have never heard of that portal. Over a third of those surveyed said they had heard of the portal but had not visited it. Cumulatively, just over 17 percent of citizens visited the eGovernment portal, and out of that, only a small, symbolic, percentage of citizens visit this portal regularly,” said Pejović.
He added that the results showed that since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, a very small number of citizens have visited any of the websites on the eGovernment portal and other portals that deal with issues of citizen participation.
When it comes to mechanisms available to citizens at the national or local level, as he said, the data shows that about 30 percent of citizens know the mechanisms, and their knowledge is somewhat more pronounced at the local than at the national level.
“Citizens very rarely use the participation mechanisms available to them, both at the local and national level,” Pejović said.
One of the questions was whether the citizens know that they can request information that is in the possession of various public administration bodies, through requests for free access to information.
“Most citizens do not know anything about that law, 44 percent of them.” Something over 30 percent knows what it is about, and only every fourth respondent knows about this law,” said Pejović.
He stated that when asked whether they had sent a request so far on the basis of the Law on Free Access to Information, only 4.3 percent of citizens answered in the affirmative.
“This means that in practice, the Law on Free Access to Information is rarely used,” Pejović said.
Respondents, as he pointed out, believe that members of all vulnerable groups (young people, women, people with disabilities, members of the RE population, minority peoples and the elderly) participate to a very small extent in the process of creating and implementing public policies.
“Citizens mostly support a higher level of participation of young people, and then people with disabilities and women,” said Pejović.
The data, he said, showed that citizens generally have little trust in institutions that are key to public policy issues.
“Almost every third citizen of Montenegro does not trust the institutions,” said Pejović.
The research showed that only six percent of citizens know about the “Free Chair” institute, while over 90 percent do not know about it.
“Respondents largely agree with the view that citizens are not interested in public policies because lawmakers do not respect the laws they pass, i.e. 38 percent of respondents believe that citizens are not interested in public policies because laws are constantly being passed and documents constantly being written that no one respects and does not implement “, stated Pejović.