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.
Platform of the Legislative Assembly
The Platform of the Legislative Assembly is an initiative that seeks to improve communication and accountability among citizens and officials of Costa Rica's legislative branch, implemented to comply with one ...Read more
Free Trade Agreement Referendum
The Free Trade Agreement Referendum took place in Costa Rica during 2007. The Referendum was proposed by the Government in response to a sector of citizens who had gathered enough ...Read more
National Dialogue Table on Electricity
The National Dialogue Table on Electricity aims to be a space for plural and participatory debate in order to enrich the national policy on production of and access to electricity, ...Read more
Elected Mayors and Their Promises
Elected Mayors and Their Promises is an online application that allows one to get acquainted with elected mayors and the main tasks which they undertake to develop in their canton ...Read more
Municipal Offices for Women
The Municipal Offices for Women (Span. OFIM) are decentralized public bodies promoted by the National Institute of Women (Span. INAMU) by its sector of Active Citizenship, Leadership and Local Management. ...Read more