Speaking at the Conference “Governance on the test bench: direct and deliberative democracy in Europe”, organised by EURAC on 26-27 October 2017, in Bolzano (Italy), Congress Secretary General Andreas Kiefer shared an overview of the Council of Europe’s work in the field of citizen participation. He presented the key Congress instruments on local and regional participatory democracy, as well as the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of local Self-Government “ on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority”, adopted in 2009. “The Protocol can be regarded as an international legal guarantee of the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority“, stated Andreas Kiefer, urging more countries to sign and ratify the protocol.
Referring to the "Guidelines for civil participation in political decision making", adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 27 September 2017, he noted with satisfaction that the responsibility and accountability for taking decisions ultimately rests with the public authority that has the democratic legitimacy to do so. This can be national and regional governments or ministers as well as locally elected politicians in executive functions and in municipal councils.
The Congress Secretary General underlined the growing role of technology with regard to participation. He referred to the 2015 Congress Report on e-media in political participation which confirmed the increased legitimacy of the use of new technologies in local democratic processes. “Looking to the future and reflecting on democratic trends is also something that we invest a lot in, for example through our work as a partner in the Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy” he remarked, adding that this year’s Forum, to be held from 8 to 10 November, would be focussing on the rise of populism and its implications for citizen participation.