Civil participation in decision-making
Participatory democracy is a process in which individuals, NGOs and civil society at large are involved in the conduct of public affairs at local, regional, national and European levels.
Recommendation (2018)4, adopted by the Ministers’ Deputies in March 2018, calls upon the authorities at all levels to adopt policy and measures to encourage and reinforce the participation of citizens in local public life. The main recommendations addressed to the governments of Council of Europe member states include: framing a policy; adopting measures to improve the legal framework and ensuring that it enables local and regional authorities to employ a wide range of participation instruments; co-operating with authorities on different levels; reviewing policies related to the participation of citizens. The appendix is divided into two parts: Section A sets out the basic general principles of a local democratic participation policy, while Section B outlines steps and measures that could be taken by the competent public authorities.
The Guidelines, adopted by the Committee of Ministers in September 2017, outline conditions and key principles for establishing dialogue, consultation and co-operation between civil society and authorities at all levels of government.
In the context of the preparation of the above-mentioned Recommendation and Guidelines, the CDDG commissioned a study providing an overview of standards for meaningful civil participation and best practices in Council of Europe member States.
Tools of the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance in the area of civil participation
Over the years, the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance has developed practical tools to help local authorities strengthen civil participation. Amongst them are CLEAR – a self-assessment tool - and two toolkits on Civil Participation in Decision-Making.
Civil participation goes beyond the notion of ‘citizenry’: it refers to the engagement of individuals, NGOs and civil society at large in decision-making processes by public authorities. Civil participation in political decision-making is distinct from political activities in terms of direct engagement with political parties and from lobbying in relation to business interests (2017 Guidelines).
In October 2019, the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe adopted a revised Code of Good practice for civil participation in the decision-making process.