Costa Rica has several tools for citizen participation, some of which came into existence more than a century ago. The Constitution of 1844, for example, had already incorporated from its promulgation the revocation of mandate. But it was not until the Constituent Assembly of 1949 that instruments of citizen participation were reintroduced into the constitutional text.
On this occasion, the restricted plebiscite was dedicated to issues of provincial boundaries. Through partial reforms to the Constitution of 2002 and 2003, this path is deepened through the inclusion of the Referendum and the Popular Initiative. In 2003, the participatory nature of the national government was incorporated into the constitutional text. Article 9 of the Political Constitution of Costa Rica is amended, which states: "The Government of the Republic is popular, representative, participatory, alternative and responsible". This wording complements the various instruments of citizen participation that have been incorporated into the Constitution since the 21st century.
At the municipal level, the opportunities for citizen participation are even broader. In 1998 the National Union of Local Governments (UNGL) -a product of the National Congress- agreed to promote a closer approach to the community through new forms of participation and promoted the reform of the Municipal Code. At present, the Costa Rican Municipal Regime offers various instruments of citizen participation, some of these are the plebiscite, the referendum, the town hall and public hearings.
Citizen participation in Costa Rica has a vast and rich history that has given rise to a significant number of democratic innovations. The first experiences of this type arose in the mid-twentieth century and intensified from the 1990s to the present. Several governments have appealed to citizen participation as a way to strengthen their legitimacy, opening up spaces for dialogue and multisectoral reflection that seem to have marked the state-civil society relationship in most areas and levels of government. An early example of this phenomenon was the call of the president-elect in 1994 to the forum "A Reasonable National Agreement".
Between 2000 and 2010 an even greater number of projects were carried out by the organized civil society and the State in a joint manner, addressing the most diverse issues and even being instances before the adoption of public policies. However, during these years civil society began to implement democratic innovations exclusively at their expense and sometimes in conjunction with international organizations and others within the private sector.
The institutionalization of democratic innovations continued primarily at the local and regional level, but also extended significantly to the national level. It is in this decade, too, that the participation of international cooperation agencies begins to be observed in Costa Rica. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) supported the Land Registry and Registry Regularization Program. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) promoted, on a self-initiative basis, the "Challenges of Democracy. A proposal for Costa Rica" process.
Starting in 2010, democratic innovations in Costa Rica experienced exponential growth. The most marked phenomenon during this period was the emergence of a significant number of innovations of digital democracy. At least one-third of the new participatory tools generated between 2010 and 2016 have been innovations of digital participation. In 2015, the Costa Rican government began to implement an Open Government policy.
In general terms, it can be added that Costa Rica has a strong culture of citizen participation in issues of public agenda, in which the Government assumes an active role in the promotion of these new dynamics of mediation between citizens and the administration.
This graph indicates the percentage of each means of innovation adopted by all cases in the country. Each case draws on one (primary) or two (secondary) means of innovation; this graph reflects both. See our concepts page for a description of all four means of innovation.
This graph indicates the percentage of each end of innovation adopted by all cases in the country. Each case draws on one or more ends of innovation (up to five); this graph reflects all of them. See our concepts page for a description of all five ends of innovation.
Cantonal Road Boards
The Cantonal Road Boards are public bodies, appointed by the Council of each canton and made up of democratically elected representatives of the community, whose main function is to advise ...Read more
Open Data Roundtables
The Open Data Roundtables are spaces in which the Government, civil society and other actors work together in pursuit of opening up public data. At these roundtables, the discussion seeks ...Read more
Process of National Agreement in Costa Rica
The Process of National Agreement in Costa Rica, called the "Consensus for a Shared Future" was convened by the President-elect in 1998 after elections that showed a high degree of ...Read more
Consultation of indigenous peoples on the draft Law for the Autonomous Development of Indigenous Peoples
The Commission for Social Affairs of the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica initiated a process of prior consultation with the indigenous peoples in light of the processing of a draft ...Read more
Challenges of Democracy: A Proposal for Costa Rica
The "Challenges of Democracy: A Proposal for Costa Rica" process was convened by UNDP and FLACSO. A group of national experts, convened by the Office of the United Nations Development ...Read more