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Forum History

 

The Forum was established by the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe  (Warsaw, May 2005), to strengthen democracy, political freedoms and citizens' participation.

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Forum previous sessions

Forum_Democracy2011

(Limassol, Cyprus, October)

Interdependence of democracy and social cohesion.

New: Proceedings

"Radical measures taken in many countries to try to balance public budgets are both necessary and understandable” but  “Countries are running a high risk of seriously undermining the European model of social cohesion.”  declared Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland while opening the Cyprus Forum.

2010

(Yerevan, October)

Perspectives 2020 Democracy in Europe - Principles and Challenges

Proceedings

 

''The Council of Europe has a unique strategic role to play in strengthening good democratic governance at all levels in the European space''. Democracy, or rather good democratic governance, is now not only intrinsically linked to the respect of human rights but is also recognised as the most effective form of governance to ensure stability, sustainability and well-being.

 That was the main message of the 2010 Forum.

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2009

(Kyiv, October)

Electoral systems: strengthening democracy in the 21st century

(Proceedings)

 "In a genuine democracy, the citizen is sovereign and the voter decides" - that was the main message of the 2009 Forum, which highlighted the need for greater public involvement, with a view to increasing voter turnout and ensuring that all stages of public life are democratic..

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2008

(Madrid, October)

"E-democracy: who dares?"

 

The discussions addressed the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on democracy.

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2007

(Stockholm, June)

"Power and empowerment - The interdependence of democracy and human rights"

 

This event addressed issues such as the role and responsibilities of the opposition, representative democracy at the local and regional level, empowerment of the individual and non-discrimination, respect for freedom of expression and association for civil society, and fostering democracy, human rights and social networks.

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2006

(Moscow, October)

"The role of political parties in the building of democracy"

 

The Forum reflected on  the role and responsibilities of political parties in finding democratic solutions to contemporary challenges, the interaction between political parties and with other actors in the democratic process, and the building and strengthening of democratic institutions.

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Launch meeting (Warsaw, November 2005)

"Citizens' participation"

 

 

The discussions addressed the state of contemporary democracy in Europe.

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Previous projects

("Making

Democratic institutions work")

 


Integrated Project 1
Projet Intégré 1

    Making democratic institutions work
    Les institutions démocratiques en action

 

Strasbourg, 23 November 2004

IP1(2004)55e

Council of Europe conference

THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY IN EUROPE

17-19 November 2004
Centre de Convencions Internacional de Barcelona (CCIB)
(Zona Forum) Barcelona, Spain
CHAIRMAN’S CONCLUSIONS

(also available in French and Catalan)

The conference has brought together parliamentarians, senior civil servants, expert academics and representatives from civil society. We have discussed the challenges and opportunities facing democracy at the present time, as well as proposals for future reforms. It is these future possibilities that I will now concentrate upon.

We have undertaken a review of the acquis of the Council of Europe in the field of democracy and agreed that this constitutes a firm basis for future developments. We have analysed the work of the Integrated Project on ‘Making democratic institutions work’ and focused specifically upon the proposals in the Green Paper presented to this conference.

The conference has agreed that democracy is not an end in itself but an objective. Democracy is always incomplete and always changing. Our challenge is to maintain but also to re-create our democratic ways of working, in order that they may be adapted to changing political, social and economic contexts. Democratic reforms must take into account the new realities of the information society. All new developments need to express the Council’s firm commitment to improve gender balance and extend the involvement of young people in political life. We must address these challenges in a way that builds upon the fundamental values of the Council of Europe and also reflects the diverse traditions and aspirations of the 46 member states.

The main conclusion of the conference is that the Council of Europe should establish a Forum for the Future of Democracy to build further the acquis and take forward the work of the Integrated Project. This body would harness the momentum established at the Barcelona conference. It would develop systematically the conceptual and practical resources generated through the Integrated Project and the Green Paper.

The purpose of the proposed Forum is to exchange ideas and information about the development of democracy in member states. Its task would be to identify and evaluate significant innovations, to develop standards for innovative democratic practice and to disseminate learning among member states. The Forum would build upon the working practices pioneered in the Integrated Project. It would take an inclusive, transversal and multi-disciplinary approach. The Forum would bring together representatives from Council of Europe member states, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the Council of Europe’s INGO Conference, civil society and expert academics. The conference recommends that consideration be given to this proposal in the preparatory process for the Council of Europe’s Warsaw Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held in May 2005.

The conference has discussed a broad range of democratic innovations – some more radical than others! It is important here to specify those issues that have received the most support and attention. These issues should constitute the initial focus for the proposed Forum.

First, consideration should be given to the reform of electoral systems with the purpose of increasing voter turn-out and also enhancing inclusion. The development of remote forms of voting – by post and by electronic means – is a priority. It is important to emphasise that new voting forms should not replace traditional methods but be developed in the context of a ‘multi-channel’ approach. Further work should be done on the feasibility and implications of including an option for ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) on ballot forms. The aim here is to stimulate the engagement of those citizens who do not wish to express support for existing candidates or parties. Attention should also be given to providing voting rights for denizens – or legally resident foreigners – starting at the local level and ‘scaling up’. Versions of these electoral innovations are already happening within certain member states, and the Forum will specify and evaluate models.

The second area of priority concerns innovation in the role and practice of political parties, which remain the crucial representative and intermediary bodies between citizens and rulers. The new Forum should focus upon new ideas and practices on the financing of political parties and their internal democratic functioning. The Green Paper group commends for further investigation its proposals concerning vouchers for the funding of parties and experiments with shared mandates among representatives. These are proposals with the potential to link improvements in party functioning with increased citizen interest, involvement and inclusion.

This point leads me to the third priority area, which concerns perhaps the most important element of democracy: citizen participation. There was considerable support from the conference for the further development of innovations in direct democracy, notably referendums and popular initiatives. The proposed Forum should produce guidelines in this area, which specify both the scope and limitations of direct democracy and identify examples of best practice and appropriate benchmarks. Discussion at the conference reflected a firm commitment to the importance of citizenship education. The conference offers its enthusiastic support to the European Year for Citizenship through Education organised by the Council of Europe in 2005. There was an emphasis in our deliberations upon the importance of education through active experience in democratic practice and governance – for instance within schools – as a complement to pedagogical elements. Developments in this area should build upon existing legal instruments that seek to enhance the involvement of both young people and foreigners in public life.

An important theme has been the democratic potential of the information society. The Council of Europe has already adopted a recommendation on e-voting and anticipates the adoption of a recommendation on e-governance. The challenge now is to investigate systematically the ways in which new technologies can enable democratic reform. This would be a key objective of the proposed Forum on the Future of Democracy, in association with the new Council of Europe project on Good Governance in the Information Society.