memorandum by the Earl of Dundee, rapporteur
1 This report is the latest development within a consistent
endeavour by the Council of Europe to improve the quality of democracy
in Europe (see section 7 below).
2 It emphasises how good practice at local levels stands to
enhance the quality and reputation of democracy at national and
international levels as well.
3 The report also recognises that, both inside and outside Europe,
respect for representative democracy and its institutions has diminished.
One measure of this is the low turnout in national elections. Moreover,
the turnout for the recent European Parliament elections was only
43%. Within Council of Europe member States, demonstrations have
also occurred, including in Russia, Germany, Greece and Spain. Such
alienation from, and dissatisfaction with, modern democracy have
also become exacerbated by the current economic downturn, although
they were not initially caused by it.
4 This report describes what can assist the conduct of public
and national affairs within Council of Europe member States, in
particular by people. It indicates participation and consultation
as key features of active citizenship. And within the Council of
Europe it supports measures of co-ordination, as proposed by successive Council
of Europe chairmanships, to achieve better results for democracy
at local and national levels.
5 The report thus approves the resolve of successive Council
of Europe chairmanships to evolve and implement a common agenda
covering the Council of Europe's local and regional democracy function
(see section 9 below).
6 To reinforce local democracy, the report also advises better
co-ordination and working systems between the Council of Europe
and the European Union, and that such new or revised systems should
be devised and connected to the Council of Europe's own Single Programme
as this develops and becomes deployed.
citizenship: participation and consultation
7 Active citizenship has been interpreted in several
ways. The European Union designated 2011 as “The European Year of
Active Citizenship through Voluntary Activity”, commonly referred
to as European Year of Volunteering or EYV11. The United Nations
too celebrated the tenth anniversary of the UN Year of Volunteering.
Also in 2011, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Resolution 1778
(2011) on promoting volunteering in Europe, in which it invited
member States, inter alia, to
“promote an energetic policy in favour of voluntary service and
be involved during the European Year of Volunteers in 2011 in campaigns
to raise awareness about voluntary service, in close co-operation
with the European Union”.
8 These various approaches have caused confusion between volunteering
and active citizenship. The two concepts should thus be clarified.
Voluntary service beyond family and friends is exemplary citizenship.
At the same time, it may have nothing to do with public affairs.
For that reason, it is not “active citizenship”, although a distinct
component of it. Conversely, “active citizenship”, if it addresses
public affairs, may have little to do with voluntary service. Therefore,
it can be described as the involvement of citizens in the life of
local communities, in terms of their ideas, actions and decision
making. The latter aspects reflect their practice of democracy at
local and national levels. Consequently, three core attributes of
“active citizenship” may be inferred: respect, responsibility and
participation (in the sense of meaningful activity).
9 Participation is defined as the different ways in which people
become involved in society. In a recent report, the National Council
for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in the United Kingdom comments:
“It is about more than just giving to charity, voting at elections
or volunteering.” Thereby is stressed the diversity of people's contributions
within society and communities. Individually, political efforts,
charity work or volunteering are insufficient to provide a definition.
Instead they are all useful components within such diversity of
10 Democratic citizenship is a skill that is relevant to everyone.
It includes knowledge of how a country and society work, how and
why government functions as it does, where to find information and
how to vote. It also covers skills needed to live well in a family
and community, how to resolve disputes in a friendly and fair way, and
how to negotiate and identify common ground. Democratic citizens
should learn such ground rules of society and develop the corresponding
The NCVO notes a variety of motives for participation ranging
from altruism to enlightened and direct self-interest. Participation
may be individual or collective and its occurrence frequent or occasional.
There are many stories of how life enhancing it can be, but there
are also some about its negative effects.Note
The NCVO report observes that such participation is one of
the three main pillars of the current United Kingdom Government's
notion for improved local democracy: “National and local governments
have grappled for decades with the challenges of how to encourage
people to be more active citizens. Their reasons have varied over
time, from improving public services to reducing public spending
or enhancing democracy. Recent policy developments around localism,
the Big Society, outsourcing public services, encouraging charitable giving
and the role of the voluntary sector have made questions about participation
more topical than ever.”Note
13 While governments and others uphold participation, many also
consider that healthy democracies should strive to be transparent,
informing and engaging civil society and citizens in active dialogue.
This view is incorporated in Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty, which
also provides for citizens' petitions.
The democracy index of the Economist Intelligence UnitNote
the efficacy of world democracies by five criteria: electoral process
and pluralism, civil liberties, government functioning, participation
and political culture.
2.2 Businesses and
15 In recent years, there has been an increase in the
involvement of businesses in their localities. Employees help the
community, and their business invests in its well-being. Some countries
provide tax incentives. For many, the notion and practice of corporate
responsibility is quite new.
Today, roughly one in three large companies is engaged in
some way. Private sector enterprises collaborate with local non-governmental
organisations (NGOs). Many Council of Europe member States are urging
the private sector to regenerate communities and to evolve their
own funding systems. Some might either raise money through companies,
promote pro bono work or encourage direct investment.Note
17 The Mécénat des Compétences in France allows companies that
permit employees to work with NGOs to deduct the value of that time
from their taxable profits.
CoGe in Italy requires banks and foundations to donate part
of their profits to the charity sector. The management committee,
which includes members of banking foundations, associations and
institutions, monitors region by region the collected funds and
allocates them to charities linked to Italian volunteering organisations.Note
Working with businesses enables charities and community groups
to benefit from the specialist skills of company employees or customers.
For example, as part of the partnership between the B&Q company
and UK Youth (a national youth development strategy), B&Q staff
are helping to teach young people DIY (do it yourself) skills, which
they will then use to revamp youth centres across the country.Note
3 Why active citizenship
3.1 Necessary supplements
to representative democracy: the case for better interaction between
citizens and authorities as a daily life process
The Parliamentary Assembly has identified that there
is a crisis of democracy. This is outlined in Resolution 1746 (2010)
democracy in Europe: crisis and perspectives, in the following terms:
“The Assembly considers that the
current crisis in representation requires that, apart from the traditional forms
of mandate and delegation, with which fewer and fewer citizens are
satisfied, the political relationship between society and the authorities
must also be approached in a different manner. Thus, without putting
into question representative democracy, the Assembly underlines
that representation can no longer be the only expression of democracy;
the latter has also to be developed beyond representation....”
21 Resolution 1746 (2010) therefore indicates that more sustained
forms of interaction between citizens and the authorities should
be established. It interprets democracy “not just as a system or
the sum of individual rights, but as a form of society which requires
rules for social justice and redistribution and implies not only delegating
and taking decisions, but also discussing and living together in
dignity, respect and solidarity. It is work in progress which is
put to the test on a daily basis”.
22 Hence European consensus on participatory democracy. Within
Council of Europe member States, this is also perceived as a daily
life process, now urgently called for, yet hitherto not necessarily
subsumed by traditional and representative democracy.
3.2 Volunteering and
society: a European consensus
23 The recent report of the United Nations on the State
of the world’s volunteerism assesses the role of volunteering in
society and its current achievements in solving problems and building
common purposes. It emphasises that volunteering helps develop active
citizenship, democracy and social inclusion.
24 Increasingly, governments support volunteerism as a form of
civic engagement, not only to enhance delivery of services but also
to promote common values. A number of influences account for the
current consensus on volunteering, including the International Year
of Volunteering, instituted in 2001.
4 Active citizenship
4.1 Associations and
25 Associations are not only service providers, they
also contribute to the promotion of human rights. In this respect,
at the Warsaw Summit, the heads of State and government instructed
the Council of Europe: “through its various mechanisms and institutions
– to play a dynamic role in protecting the right of individuals
and promoting the invaluable engagement of non-governmental organisations
to actively defend human rights”.
26 As service providers, associations facilitate local economies,
as they also enhance the culture and well-being of local communities.
Freedom of association is first and foremost incorporated in the
European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5) and the European
Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, but its relevance and usefulness
to 21st-century Europe are also emphasised in Article 11 of the
4.2 Membership levels
of organisations in Europe
27 Most countries encourage participation and calculate
membership numbers of charities, associations providing advocacy
and early warning, trade unions, religious groups and political
parties. Across Europe, numbers are high, if one takes into account
a collective figure for membership of a wide range of associations.
28 There is considerable variation in trade union membership
numbers across Europe. The average level is 23%. However, from country
to country, there is much divergence. The larger European Union
States show quite low membership figures: Germany: 20%; France:
18%; Spain: 16%; and Poland: 15%.
The same variation applies to central and eastern Europe.
Most States are below the European average of 23%, such as Poland
mentioned above (15%). However, union membership in Slovenia is
41% of employees, while that for Romania is estimated to be not
less than 34%.Note
As regards membership of associations/charities, there are
anomalous variations within European Union States: in Finland, the
ratio is 20 associations per 1 000 people. However, in Luxembourg,
Malta, Latvia and Romania there is less than one association per
1 000 people.Note
In spite of such anomalous variations, membership numbers
are high for Europe as a whole. In Sweden, 90% of the population
belong to associations (sports, cultural, environmental, religious
or consumer organisations), 77% in the United Kingdom, 70% in the
Netherlands, 65% in Germany, 54% in France, yet only 36% in Russia.
However, such figures do not distinguish between active and nominal
members. Nevertheless, that for active membership in the United
Kingdom is 62%.Note
4.3 Political parties:
the decline in membership numbers in Europe
The 2006 Power InquiryNote
independent report led by the Joseph Rowntree charitable foundation which
examined democracy in the United Kingdom – noted that the decline
in party membership did not only affect the United Kingdom. Two
separate studies discovered a significant drop in party membership
numbers across at least 13 European democracies. This had been a
steady process since the 1950s. Another study also concluded that,
within established democracies during the same period, there had
been a parallel decline in the number of those who identified with
a political party at all.
33 Most academic inquiries adduce similar evidence. Mair and
Ingrid van Biezen, in a paper published in 2001, note that “...
in each of the long-established European democracies, without exception,
the absolute numbers of members have now fallen, and sometimes quite
considerably. What we see here, in other words, is concrete and
consistent evidence of widespread disengagement from party politics”.
34 Be that as it may, the Power Inquiry reported a counter balance,
nevertheless. This is that disaffection with politics has not always
corresponded to a lack of political interest or activity. Instead,
engagement has taken different forms. The Make Poverty History movement,
for example, has enthused individuals in a way which the ballot
box no longer does.
5 Examples of citizen
engagement in local decision making
5.1 Committees which
consult and prompt team work
35 Besançon is a town of over 134 300 inhabitants in
eastern France. It has a well-known committee, the Conseil des Sages,
which primarily looks after the interests of senior citizens. Another
one addresses the concerns of young people. Collectively, they are
required to give feedback on unintended consequences of and propose
possible improvements to policy. Transport, town planning and environmental
issues are handled by the committee, which encourages the inhabitants
to form a team. The aim is to enhance the quality of town life, to
deter anti-social behaviour in open spaces and to help decide the
design and location of new constructions. Such team-work curries
favour with all, while at the same time serving to decrease the
isolation of the older people.
5.2 Voluntary services
and community spirit
36 In Germany and Austria, fire protection services
are chiefly run by volunteers. They work alongside other volunteer
organisations like Technisches Hilfswerk, voluntary ambulance services
and emergency medical or rescue services. In most rural fire departments,
the staff consists only of volunteers. The latter are usually on-call
24/7 even though they are otherwise employed. In German towns it
is a matter of pride to belong to the firefighting force. To some
extent, the same system prevails in rural parts of the United Kingdom.
5.3 The role of NGOs
in post-conflict rehabilitation and active citizenship
37 Founded in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in 1993, the NGO Desa
was set up to help women refugees during the war. In the wake of
fighting and ethnic intolerance, its first purpose was to restore
confidence and normality to all those badly affected. However, since
then it has assisted economic regeneration as well; it also played
a useful part in deliberations on Croatia's future access to the
European Union at the 7th meeting of the National Forum which took
place in Pozega. The latter initiative has encouraged the development
of rural areas and their commercial opportunities.
5.4 Participatory budgeting
and “Big Society” awards in the United Kingdom
38 The practice of participatory budgeting began in
Brazil in 1989. After the fall of the dictatorship, it was not just
taken up as an expression of democracy, it was also perceived to
be a far more efficient way to run towns and cities. This was by
delivering public services through use of the knowledge, skills,
ideas and experience of local people. It was brought to England
in 2000 by Church Action on Poverty, and has been successfully implemented
in over 100 local authorities. As in Brazil, a higher quality of
public services is sought by inviting those affected to participate
in making many more choices and decisions.
39 Grant schemes have proved to be both popular and effective.
They are quite easy to organise. The locality is allocated a small
amount from a given public service budget. The village, neighbourhood
or ward can then fund local priorities.
Consultations to identify local priorities lead to choices
for spending from the public budget on one item in preference to
another. Thus, whether on undergrounding cables or improved lighting;
village hall or play park improvements; mental health support or
a hospital car service. Such consultation introduces the public
to the type of difficult decisions which often have to be made.
From responses, local councillors then learn what their constituents
consider as priorities, where they think problems lie, and how these
should be solved. And it connects local people much more to their
communities and to each other. The following are some examples:
- Dulverton Town Council, in Somerset
– consulting local people on choices for the spending of local budgets:
four volunteer action groups were appointed to work out the best
way to take forward plans for the library, the recycling centre,
the youth club, and the car parks. That devolvement has attracted
media attention and there has been television coverage on this new
approach towards local initiatives.
- Liverpool City Council – prioritising public spending
at neighbourhood level: in 2010/11, Liverpool City Council devolved
spending decisions (£410 000) to its 30 city wards. This was the
budget for green spaces and highways. Over those wards, 1 500 stakeholders
joined this scheme.
41 “Big Society” awards have recognised a number of initiatives.
A recent example is Food Cycle, a project which brings together
young volunteers, surplus food and free kitchen space. The project
started in 2008 and has now extended to 14 hubs across the country,
serving homeless people, refugees, the elderly, and those on low
5.5 Youth councils
Resolution 1826 (2011) on expansion of democracy
by lowering the voting age to 16, adopted by the Assembly on 23
June 2011, states that the longer young people have to wait to participate
in political life, the less engaged they are when they are adults.
This applies to decisions both at local and national levels. Encouraging
youth participation and involvement in political decision making
is therefore a crucial element to active citizenship. Fostering
young active citizens can result in a stronger sense of belonging
to a community and bring about better quality decisions. In a recent
study by Finnish Youth Cooperation – AllianssiNote
on young people's
views on the functioning of democracy, 73% replied that citizens
should be given broader possibilities to take initiatives in politics.
In the same survey, only 52.4% felt that local decision-making worked
well or rather well.
43 Youth involvement can take many shapes and forms and there
are various examples of best practice in the Council of Europe member
States. Different bodies operate at European, national, regional
and local levels. For example, in Finland there are nearly 200 local
youth councils. The members of these informal groups are voted through
elections in schools and their main task is to act as lobbyists
for youth issues in their own municipalities. Some 1 800 local youth
and children's councils exist in France. Latvia has put in place
an Internet portal where young people can put forward initiatives.
44 Many member States of the Council of Europe regularly organise
“Youth Parliaments”. In Finland, to quote only an example, a “Youth
Parliament” is organised every two years and gathers together 199
young people aged 13-18 at the Finnish Parliament. During one full
day these future decision makers are introduced to parliamentary
work, hold a plenary session, vote, get acquainted with committee
work and discuss with the speaker and a number of MPs. Another example
is that of the Greek Youth Parliament which allows for the participation
not only of youth from within the country, but also countries with
large Greek communities such as Germany and Australia.
45 One example at the European level is the European Youth Parliament.
It brings together over 20 000 young people at more than 100 regional,
national and international events through 35 national organisations every
year. Its aim is to raise awareness of European issues, encourage
active European citizenship and motivate students to become engaged
in European politics. It provides a forum in which young people
of Europe can express their own opinions, without reverting to role
46 For its part, our Assembly is co-organising this year in Strasbourg,
from 5 to 7 October 2012, a Youth Assembly bringing together 170
young people (aged 16 to 22). This will be our Assembly's contribution
to the 2012 Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy.
5.6 Other initiatives
A great many projects are up and running, but have
received little publicity. A recent research report by the Third
Sector Research Council found that hundreds of thousands of groups
exist under the radar.Note
48 One such example are mobile technologies. These encourage
citizens to take part in democracy. They also enable governments
to inform citizens. Another example is the INSPIRE directive in
Europe. This uses state-of-the-art Web-based mapping and visualisation
programmes. While illustrating future potential, the latter thus
also presents an opportunity for government and public administration
to meet their own standards in promoting local democracy.
6 Economic and social
6.1 Call for new structures
Research carried out by Community Server Volunteers
(CSV) in 2010Note
on consultation and civil dialogue in the
European Union found that there had not been much progress. This
was in spite of declared intentions both in the Lisbon Treaty and
in European Union States themselves. As a result, there is now a
case for devising new ways to achieve proper action on what has
50 “Crowd sourcing”, for example, has already proved its worth.
It gathers opinions from large numbers of people, and has been employed
by academic and professional enquiries. Yet in spite of its success
it is still not much considered or used. This may reflect an unfortunate
corollary; namely, that the system in place (government and public
administration) for promoting local democracy is itself not yet
as alert as it should be to a variety of useful ground expedients
6.2 Open, transparent
and regular dialogue
51 Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty urges such a dialogue.
The intention is to bring Europe's governing bodies and civil society
together in that way. So-called democratic deficits would thus be
reduced, to be replaced by more active citizenship.
52 Such open dialogue has also been incorporated in the European
Union’s Education and Training 2020 policy debate and funds have
been allocated to pilot demonstrations of the use of digital geospatial technologies.
6.3 Absence of proper
plans for local consultation
53 Even though the assurances made in the Lisbon Treaty
provide “citizens and representative associations” with the “opportunity
to make known and publicly exchange their views”, there has been insufficient
resolve to follow up these intentions, leading some to remark that
“effective consultation” is not yet being properly explored or employed.
54 The above-mentioned 2010 report surveyed 21 of the 27 European
Union member States and found effective consultation present in
only five of them. There had been no consultation at all in nine,
while moderately effective efforts had been made in the remaining
55 At one extreme, there is the committed approach adopted by
Wales. Under the Third Sector Partnership Scheme, there is: “a statutory
duty on the Welsh legislature to enter into legally binding partnership
with the voluntary sector”. Yet elsewhere, as already observed above,
there have been varying degrees of commitment.
6.4 Bodies which encourage
the solution of problems through dialogue
56 The Economic and Social Councils (ESCs) and similar
institutions derive in part from the United Nations. They are nevertheless
well represented in Europe.
57 The above institutions facilitate dialogue between employers,
employees and government. Their membership therefore comprises representatives
of employers' associations, trade unions, governments and other
relevant branches of civil society.
58 Expert advice, opinions, studies and reports on economic and
social matters are thus offered to governments and parliaments.
Therefore, if required, ESCs broker communication between governments, trade
unions, employers, employees and other relevant parties. They have
a good record for achieving positive results.
59 With separate national traditions and procedures, different
States require different handling. In this respect, ESCs have again
proved to be adaptable and successful.
6.5 Absence in the
United Kingdom of institutions to assist citizens' initiatives
60 There is no Economic and Social Council in the United
Kingdom. Nor is there any other body which promotes dialogue with
citizens. However, citizens' initiatives are now frequently debated
in the two chambers of the United Kingdom Parliament. One of its
select committees has recently recommended a procedural amendment
to the current rules for e-petitions (citizens' petitions). This
is to raise from 100 000 to a much higher figure the number of signatories
necessary to trigger a petition. The recommendation follows the scheme's
first twelve months which have produced too many petitions for the
adjudicators to handle. This response does, however, prove the success
and popularity of the scheme.
7 Relevance to the
work carried out by the Council of Europe
61 Active citizenship strengthens political and social
life throughout Council of Europe member States.
62 It also advances aims within the Council of Europe's competence,
such as community solidarity and family issues.
The Council of Europe supports participatory democracy. Between
2007 and 2010, several reports on that theme were presented to the
Parliamentary Assembly. They include those by Mr Andreas Gross (Switzerland,
SOC) of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy. They have
drawn attention to the rights and responsibilities of citizens to
participate and have suggested measures to ensure they are able
to do so. To quote some examples:
Resolution 1746 (2010) on democracy in Europe: crisis and perspectives,
the Assembly recognises the crisis in democracy and its exacerbation
by the current economic downturn. Thus it calls for new approaches
to reinvigorate traditional democracy, including the expedient of
- Resolution 1778 (2010) on volunteering in Europe connects
better democracy to active citizenship. And, regarding the latter,
it notes current opportunities for more choices and decisions to
be made at grass-roots level.
64 The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice
Commission) has also addressed the theme of participatory democracy.
65 The latter has also been advanced by Recommendation 307 (2011)
on citizen participation at local and regional level adopted by
the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of
66 Moreover, an additional protocol to the European Charter of
Local Self-Government (ETS No. 122) has been prepared to provide
the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (opened
for signature in Utrecht on 16-17 November 2009).
67 One question raised by the Assembly in its above-mentioned
Resolution 1746 (2010) was whether this right of local participation
should extend nationally and whether it also constitutes a fundamental
political freedom. The Assembly thus proposed a new protocol to
the European Convention of Human Rights (ETS No. 5) to guarantee
the right to participate in public affairs at all levels, whether
local, regional or national.
68 Another question has been how participatory democracy can
reinvigorate the democracies of Europe in the light of the 2005
69 The Warsaw Declaration (2005) advocates a change in the relationship
between State and citizen, observes that such is anyway reflected
by an increase in citizens' participation, and thus implies, conversely, that
in the 21st century increased local democracy serves to strengthen
democracy at national and international levels as well.
70 The Warsaw Declaration also produced the Conference of International
Non-governmental Organisations (INGOs) of the Council of Europe.
There are more than 400 INGOs enjoying participatory status with
the Council of Europe. Within the latter they constitute the pillar
of civil society. INGOs offer expert advice to citizens and governments.
71 The INGO Conference of the Council of Europe has produced
a Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-making
Process. This helps people to contribute to decisions at local and
national levels. The code illustrates too how NGOs are useful in
this respect: “NGOs form a crucial component of participation in
an open, democratic society through engaging large numbers of individuals”.
The INGO Conference is also about to publish practical guidelines
on intercultural dialogue.
72 Work on participatory democracy is also carried out in other
sectors of the Council of Europe. An institution particularly worth
noting in the intergovernmental sector is the European Committee
on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR), in charge of preparing decisions
by the Committee of Ministers in this area. It has also prepared
the above-mentioned additional protocol to the European Charter
of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs
of local authorities. Another key facilitator is the Centre of Expertise
on Innovation and Local Government Reform, which provides field
assistance to local authorities.
73 There is also a strong connection between participatory democracy
and the Council of Europe's work on education for democratic citizenship
and human rights.
74 Council of Europe work on citizenship education is under way
in many member States.
The Council of Europe is also working with and for young people,
encouraging them to be actively involved in strengthening civil
society in Europe and to defend the values of human rights, cultural
diversity and social cohesion. The Council of Europe's commitment
to fostering greater youth participation can be demonstrated through
its system of co-management: representatives from youth NGOs participate
in committees with government officials who together then work out
the priorities for the youth sector and make recommendations for
future budgets and programmes. These proposals are then adopted
by the Committee of Ministers.Note
8 Working links between
Council of Europe cities and localities
8.1 Consensus on participatory
76 Within the Council of Europe affiliation, an increasing
number of cities and localities support participatory democracy.
In this, they are encouraged by their own national governments.
At the same time, the essence and success of local initiatives are
that they should be independent of government. That is recognised
both by national localities and national governments themselves.
There is also consensus on building up good practice. Localities
do this through experiment and by noting what works well elsewhere.
A town or city may wish to compare what it is doing with other similar
projects in the same country. Equally, it may also compare its performance
with that of similar towns or cities abroad.
8.2 Working links between
European and non-European cities and “city diplomacy”
77 Sometimes these links are initiated in order to facilitate
trade and the exchange of intellectual and technical information.
Such connections are both inside and outside Europe. Thus they may
apply between two European cities as well as between a given European
city and another one outside Europe. Frequently, a given European
city has links with several others in different European States
in addition to yet others beyond Europe. Different localities also
compare notes and work together over their respective handling of
health, education and social matters for example. Often three or
more partners combine their efforts in this way. Such synergies
have proved to benefit citizens and local democracy.
78 The city diplomacy model is also useful for advancing local
and regional democracy outside Europe, such as in Tunisia and Morocco.
79 The fact that working structures of city diplomacy promote
active citizenship is a simple logical inference. For if two different
cities or centres, each espousing the aim of active citizenship,
work together to achieve mutual objectives, then the expedient of
city diplomacy will have assisted active citizenship, since in the
first place active citizenship was one of their shared objectives.
8.3 City diplomacy
and the Council of Europe
80 If within the Council of Europe affiliation participatory
democracy thus further progresses through the synergies and working
structures of city diplomacy, then democracy at national and international
levels will benefit as well. As also intimated by the Warsaw Declaration,
this is so since an improved practice of democracy by citizens at
local levels also enhances the quality and reputation of democracy
at national and international levels.
81 The independence of local initiatives to encourage active
citizenship is supported by national governments within the Council
of Europe. Therefore, if city diplomacy has proved to be an effective
means towards this end, then it follows that national governments
will wish to support it as well.
82 Within the Council of Europe, incentives can also be provided
by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. Congress Recommendation
234 (2008) on city diplomacy emphasises how inter-city co-operation produces
good results when specific programmes are addressed. It also distinguishes
city diplomacy from town twinning. The latter developed after the
Second World War. It served to establish goodwill between European towns
and cities. Subsequently, however, and particularly in recent years,
the practice of city diplomacy has taken over. Unlike town twinning,
city diplomacy addresses specific issues and programmes. As already indicated,
its concept is to attain mutual objectives through working together
on shared problems and issues. To further encourage its use and
methods, the Congress plans to prepare a charter for city diplomacy.
83 The local democracy agencies (LDAs), set up by the Congress
in the 1990s, pioneered help to municipalities devastated by war
in the former Yugoslavia. This was done through partnership arrangements with
towns and regions in western Europe. Initially focused upon the
crisis, agenda items then came to include democratic reforms, building
up civil society and promoting citizen participation.
8.4 City diplomacy
and the European Union
The European Union is also already in a position
to provide incentives to advance city diplomacy in order to enhance
the quality of democracy in Europe. European Union funding programmes
usually already require local authorities to work with partners
from other countries. Established links and the prospect of focused
city structures offer an excellent opportunity in this respect.
This, in turn, can boost civic pride, self-esteem and confidence.Note
9 Relevance to the
proposed Single Programme: assistance of Council of Europe chairmanships
to local and regional democracy
9.1 The concept and
85 Local and regional democracy is one of the shared
priorities of the Ukrainian, United Kingdom and Albanian Council
of Europe chairmanships. Under the Ukrainian chairmanship, the European
ministers responsible for local and regional government met in November
2011 in Kiev. The conference unanimously adopted a declaration which
highlights the importance of future pan-European work on local and
86 The current resolve is thus to start to review progress on
reforms undertaken, as indicated, during the term of office of these
successive chairmanships. To do so, the current United Kingdom chairmanship
has proposed the further development of an agenda in common covering
the Council of Europe's local and regional democracy function. Thereby
the expression and analysis of ad hoc priorities would remain unrestricted.
As also would the communication of ideas and useful suggestions
from grass roots to decision-making. However, the contributions
of existing actors would become aggregated and streamlined into
a single coherent programme of work, agreed by the Committee of
Ministers after consultation with the Congress, the Parliamentary
Assembly and the Conference of INGOs.
87 The effectiveness of such a coherent approach would depend
on the co-ordination and administrative arrangements surrounding
it. However, it is equally acknowledged that the latter might be
structured in different ways in order to make use of the expertise
of each of the actors and their respective secretariats.
88 Four specific aspects need to be addressed: the activities
which such a Single Programme might cover; the right kind of management
architecture; requisite budgetary and administrative arrangements;
and the ways and means to encourage and check that each individual
actor is performing efficiently.
9.2 The additional
case for co-ordination of work on local democracy between respective institutions
of the European Union and the Council of Europe: a pan-European
89 Such co-ordination would also much enhance efficiency
of delivery, while reducing duplication and dissipation of effort.
This advantage would follow from better co-ordination of work between
the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament, between
the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of
Europe and the European Union’s Committee of the Regions, and between
the directorates of the Secretariat General of the Council of Europe
and those of the European Commission. Improved work co-ordination
on local and regional democracy between the respective institutions
and committees of the European Union and the Council of Europe will
clearly best serve the interests of the European citizen.
90 The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers represents 47
States, including all 27 European Union member States, in addition
to 20 more non-European Union member States. The Committee of Ministers
is therefore better able to adopt a pan-European approach of co-ordination
on matters of local and regional democracy than any other relevant
body within the European Union. At least this is the opinion of
91 Regarding an improved relationship between State
and citizen in Europe, your rapporteur notes two key developments
in post-war Europe, both emanating from the Council of Europe. On
the one hand, the recognition of the right to individual petition
before the European Court of Human Rights. This puts States and individuals
on an equal footing. On the other, the 2005 Warsaw Summit Declaration,
which states that “[e]ffective democracy and good governance at
all levels are essential for preventing conflicts, promoting stability,
facilitating economic and social progress, and hence for creating
sustainable communities where people want to live and work, now
and in the future”. This enables the reinvigoration of democracy
both nationally and internationally through its strengthening at
local and grass-roots levels.
92 The aim of promoting active citizenship and the deployment
of city diplomacy as one of the means of achieving it are consistent
with the Council of Europe's own continuing resolve to enhance democracy
93 Under the current UK chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers
(until May 2012), discussions are ongoing between different bodies
and sectors of the Council of Europe about a better co-ordination
of work on local and regional democracy. The objective is to improve
visibility and impact. Central to this end is the promotion of active
citizenship, both as a consistent theme for now and the future,
and as a reminder that the point of any more efficient and improved
delivery is in any case to better serve the citizen.
94 Against this background, I would suggest that the United Kingdom
take steps to advance both end and means, as described above, during
its chairmanship of the Council of Europe in 2012 and that this
work be continued by subsequent chairmanships. As part of its initiative
to “reinforce local democracy”, the United Kingdom should build
upon the ideas proposed by the then Deputy Prime Minister of Spain,
Mr Manuel Chaves (and agreed by the Conference of Ministers responsible
for Local and Regional Government in their meeting in Kiev in November
2011), for an agenda in common to encourage collaboration between
the various actors in this sphere. Toolkits, fieldwork programmes
and the practical support of the Centre of Expertise for Local Government
Reform will also be important enablers. In this way, steps should
be taken to facilitate the exchange of experience between and amongst
cities and governments with an emphasis on examples of practical
ways to enhance participation, citizenship and good governance at
the local level.
95 Regarding the promotion of active citizenship, two types of
worthwhile expedients are identifiable: those which function externally
and those which function internally. If city diplomacy (when two
different places work together to address similar issues of mutual
concern) represents the former, examples of the latter include participatory
budgeting, corporate responsibility and citizen engagement.
96 The Assembly could ask the governments of the member States
to help restore confidence in democracy by encouraging the examination
and exchange of best practice, not least at local level. It could
also invite them to reduce dependency on public services as a result
of an increase in local initiatives and control.
In association with Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty, the Assembly
could urge the European Union to realise the ambition of citizen
involvement in decision making within the European Union. It could
also ask the European Union to broaden the focus of the 2013 “European
Year of Citizens” to include issues of active citizenship, so far
absent from its focus, which is restricted to the subject of freedom
Finally, while Council of Europe
chairmanships are seeking to expedite a common agenda within the
Council of Europe, the Assembly calls on the European Union and
the Council of Europe together to co-operate much more in their
joint handling of measures. This is to avoid duplication and to
achieve greater efficiency, thus strengthening local democracy in
Europe to the best advantage of European citizens