"At the Congress, we attach great importance to building trust between citizens and local authorities, a challenge that is all the more important as we face the Covid-19 crisis," said Bryony Rudkin (United Kingdom, SOC/V/DP), thematic spokesperson on the European Local Democracy Week (ELDW), during the session "A global world: networks for participation and financing citizenship" in the framework of the ELDW online conference "Paths to follow" on 19 October 2020.
"The pandemic forces us to develop innovative ways to maintain both citizens' participation and their confidence in our capacity to deliver effective responses, and to continue providing services," explained the spokesperson. “We must show resilience, and we must make sure that the pandemic does not lead to the lockdown of local democracy," she added.
In view of the growing importance of using digital tools, Mrs Rudkin called for greater support to those who have limited financial and technological opportunities to access services online or participate in online events. This includes vulnerable and disadvantaged groups of citizens, as well as local and regional authorities themselves, who may need support from higher levels, both national and European.
"Funding for citizenship initiatives is also vital to bring public action closer to citizens’ needs and to ensure its ultimate effectiveness,” she underlined. In this respect, Ms Rudkin welcomed the long-standing contribution of the municipality of Valongo to the ELDW and invited all municipalities participating in the Week to draw inspiration from the initiatives carried out in Valongo, particularly in the field of participatory budgeting, one of the most effective tools for involving citizens in decision-making.
"The local and regional level can make a significant contribution to reconnecting with citizens and restoring confidence in democratic processes and institutions. Today, this is also being done online and everyone, citizen or local authority, must have the means to access these technologies," concluded the spokesperson.
The European Local Democracy Week (ELDW) is a pan-European initiative co-ordinated by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe since 2007. Throughout the year, municipalities and their national associations are invited to organise initiatives all over Europe aimed at promoting citizen participation, fostering dialogue between the community and public authorities, strengthening trust in elected representatives and institutions and providing a European dimension to local initiatives. A flagship event takes place during the week of 15 October, the date of the signature of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1985.