This was the leitmotif of the closure meeting of the capacity building cycle on participatory democracy , the final stage of the Council of Europe Winter School on Participatory Democracy Tools, organised end of April in Tirana, Albania, by the Division of Elections and Participatory Democracy.
The event brought together 24 selected practitioners from local authorities and civil society from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine (online) where the Division is implementing cooperation projects on elections and civil participation
The Winter School cycle itself, following the same leitmotif, included an initial one-day online introductory session in November 2021, followed by a five-day in-person event in Tbilisi, Georgia in December 2021, several online trainings on specific methods and the closure meeting in the capital of Albania.
During the three-day closure event in Albania participants exchanged about their experience regarding the adjustment and application of Council of Europe’s tools on civil participation to their specific local contexts during the last 6 month. In particular , they shared their in-country experience and insights on the implementation of the Civil Participation in Decision-Making Toolkit, designed by experts from Council of Europe. In addition to the tools presented during training cycle, like CivicLab, Uchange, School Participatory Budgeting and Participatory Public Space Planning, in Tirana the participants had also the opportunity to broaden their knowledge about an additional aspect of participation: deliberative democracy with its practical form of the Citizen’s Assemblies and about participatory budgeting.
The closure meeting was hosted by the City of Tirana, also to share with the participants the experiences of Tirana as European City of Youth-2022 highlighting the importance of youth engagement in the political decision making and to create a participatory culture at a young age. Participants enjoyed a site visit of the city hall, talked to local media and had a peer exchange with Albanian partners – representatives of civil society and local authorities. Mr Erion Veliaj, Mayor of Tirana, welcomed the Winter school graduates at the opening panel, stressing the importance for all sectors of society to work together and to engage jointly in political decision-making.
The feedback of the Winter School graduates was very encouraging: the interactive experience-sharing sessions on efficient practices of participatory democracy helped them to understand how to better develop and implement participatory tools in their home countries and gave inspiration to move forward. The graduates expressed the hope that innovative tools of Council of Europe will become instrumental in their countries.