INTRODUCTION TO PROJECTS
The Integrated Project “Making Democratic Institutions Work” (2002-2004) was the Council of Europe’s response to one of the major challenges facing Europe today – to ensure that democratic institutions support and enter into dialogue with all Europeans, including groups that have, for various reasons, been excluded from equal participation in democratic processes. By taking stock of the European acquis in these fields, the Project highlighted some important gaps, omissions and weaknesses, and initiated action on "emerging themes". The Project generated 2 Committee of Ministers’ recommendations: on e-voting (Rec(2004)11) and e-governance Rec(2004)15).
Two follow-up projects resulted from the Integrated project:
1. The Project on “Good governance in the information society” (2005-2010), which focuses on how new information and communication technologies (ICT) affect the practice of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Council of Europe member states.
In the framework of this Project, the Ad Hoc Committee on e-democracy (CAHDE – September 2006 – December 2008), by looking beyond the widely addressed field of e-Government, filled a gap in intergovernmental work by looking into the potential of ICTs to facilitate democratic practice.
Synergies are being sought with the European Commission, the OECD, OSCE/ODIHR and with the United Nations, through participation in the follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and in the Internet Governance Forum.
Rec (2004)11 has a built-in follow-up clause, which means that it should be periodically revisited by the Committee of Ministers to see which impact the recommendation has had in member states, and whether any updating or revision was required. In the framework of the Project, two biennial intergovernmental meetings were held (Strasbourg, November 2006 – Madrid, October 2008), to review developments in the field of e-voting since the adoption of the recommendation.
2. The “Forum for the Future of Democracy”, which was established by decision of the Third Summit of Council of Europe Heads of State and Government (Warsaw, May 2005) to strengthen democracy, political freedoms and citizens’ participation. The forum has held four sessions as of today.
The Launch meeting was organised in Warsaw in November 2005 on the theme of “civic participation”, the second session in Moscow on 18-19 October 2006 on the theme “the role of political parties in the building of democracy; the third Session in Stockholm/Sigtuna (Sweden) on 13-15 June 2007 on the theme “Power and empowerment – the interdependence of democracy and human rights”.
The fourth session of the Forum took place in Madrid (15-17 October 2008), on the theme « E-democracy », to discuss the potential of the new information technologies to strengthen democracy and increase participation. It was organised in co-operation with the Spanish Ministry of Public Administrations with the support of the City of Madrid. It brought together more than 400 representatives of government authorities, parliaments, local and regional authorities and civil society from all over Europe.
The 2009 session was held in Kyiv, Ukraine on the theme of “Electoral systems”.
In 2010, Armenia hosted the Forum on the theme “Perspectives 2020 – Democracy in Europe – Principles and challenges”. The Yerevan Forum addressed the principles of democratic governance by analysing their application to, and their repercussions on, contemporary political and societal changes in Council of Europe member states. It examined the achievements and shortcomings in various policy fields and the respective institutional frameworks, through the prism of the principles of democratic governance. Whilst recognising the variety of political and institutional systems, civil society and patterns of interactions and mutual reinforcements between different groups and their governments to be found throughout Europe, this analysis was done with full respect for the common principles of pluralist democracy, human rights and the rule of law.