The right to the city and the civic participation

Abstract: The right to the city and the civic participation

The problems of the right to the city are gaining an increasing importance. If we want to consider this category, the starting point consists of thee basic questions: whose right?; what is its content supposed to be? What character it is supposed to have? The provision of an answer is not easy. The following claims can be helpful:
1. The right to the city must be understood as an active and not passive right.
2. The right to the city is a basis for balancing various interests and at the same time various dimensions and aspects of the city’s development.
3. The right to the city is supposed to express co-dependence – substantial (objective) and procedural (subjective).
4. The right to the city cannot be an excluding right.
5. Both the positive aspect – “the law in favour of” and the negative one “the law against” have to be balanced in it, so that it could allow for a prevention of socially unfavourable activities and solutions, and for a creative activity and the use of the creative potential of individuals and social groups.
Participation results from civic dialogue, and not vice versa. If citizens are deprived of a possibility to effectively implement and confront their opinions, they will not be ready to participate in the decision-making process nor the acceptance of co-responsibility. A prerequisite for the initiation of civic dialogue is the occurrence of different forms of public space which thanks to the dialogue becomes not only a space for coexistence, but also a space for the formation of community purposefulness. The public space is thus the key developmental resource. If this becomes a way of perceiving the civic dialogue, a socially stable urban policy without it is difficult to imagine. It is this policy that opens a path for reaching participation understood as common management. The political and public function of common management is not only to solve a determined number of urban problems, but also to define and establish rules for managing the city and conducting an urban policy, binding upon both the municipal authorities and the citizens. This way, the civic dialogue produces a number of common goods, very useful in managing the city. These are: (i) information and knowledge, (ii) trust towards certain urban actors, (iii) their ability to act together, (iv) collective reflection and strategic imagination and (v) the ability to correct the urban policy. The urban civic dialogue should not be institutionally made rigid. It should be characterized by a “variable geometry” understood as openness to incorporating others and new actors – their points of view and cognitive perspectives. The exclusion of active and organised actors from the urban dialogue results in a limitation of the city’s developmental abilities. The exclusion always costs more than the social inclusion.