The hook has been constantly highlighting Key policy objectives as outlined in the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy. This week we take a look at how the policy can promote effective participation in policy development, management and decision-making.

The participation of those affected by a decision that will be taken by the state is important, as it shows a free, fair and democratic state that involves citizens in matters that can and will have an effect on their daily lives.

The small-scale fisheries policy highlights the importance of effective participation as one of the key policy objectives that need to be adhered to by the state.

Though the word “Public” is excluded in the objective, it is safe to assume that when the policy states that the promotion of effective participation in policy development, management and decision making is a prerequisite, this effective participation is then required from the people who are and will be affected by the policy.

Section 195 (1)(e) of the Constitution  states that “people’s needs must be responded to, and the public must be encouraged to participate in policymaking”.

Participation of the public implies that public contribution will influence the decision made by the state. It is thus important for the public to also know what their roles in the public participation processes are.

According to the Legislative Sector South Africa, 2013 “Public participation is the process by which Parliament and provincial legislatures consult with the people and interested or affected individuals, organisations and government entities before making a decision.”

Public participation may be regarded as a way of empowerment and as vital part of democratic governance (Wikipedia 2015).

The policy states that the participation process should be effective in its nature. This can translate to that those responsible for the public participation process should make that which needs to be known by the public, inclusive, accessible and it should be done in a timely manner.

If the public deem that the participation process was not fair and they feel that they have been left out they can look for other venues – such as legal, political, or media – in which to influence the decision of the process.

A realistic example of this is the process of gazetting the Draft Regulations relating to Small-Scale Fishing. The regulations were made accessible and the public where given 30 days to comment.

Stakeholders were not happy regarding the number of days given to them to comment, so this resulted in some stakeholders writing media articles and some taking legal action in order for the due date to be extended. This resulted in an extension to the number of days.

The involvement of citizens in policy-making and implementation is important to strengthen and deepen democratic governance. It is through active public participation that evidence-based policy-making and responsive service delivery can take place (Public Service Commission, 2010).

The Small-Scale Fisheries sector is at a pivotal point. The implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy will bring food security for many coastal families. Effective public participation is one key policy objective that will contribute to the sustainability of many small-scale fishers’ livelihoods.

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