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Citizens’ participation at the local level in Europe and Neighbouring Countries

Contribution of the Association of Local Democracy Agencies

Edited By Antonella Valmorbida

ALDA – The Association of Local Democracy Agencies – is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of good governance and citizen participation at the local level. It is made up of over 160 members comprising local authorities and civil society organisations in the enlarged Europe.
Recently, new forms of interaction between citizens and decision makers have been put in place. By analysing ALDA’s 15 years of hands-on activities with its members and partners, this publication contributes to a better understanding of the added value of citizen participation at the local level in Europe and its neighbouring countries.
This book brings together the work of the Director and staff of ALDA and of the Local Democracy Agencies, as well as numerous practices and voices from the members and partners of its vast network. Through the field experiences presented, ALDA shows how and why citizen participation leads to the adoption of better solutions, and, at the same time, fosters long lasting, balanced development.
This publication formulates conclusions and offers insightful input for future activities aiming at building truly democratic local democracy. It is therefore particularly useful for all those who intend to work within the recently adopted programme ‘Europe for Citizens’ 2014–2020, as well as to bridge the topics of active citizenship and development – the focus of the European Years 2013 and 2015.
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Chapter 6. Citizen Participation at the Local Level and Best Practices

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Participation of citizens in the decision making process is more and more evident and visible at the local level. By definition, it is in this context that we could easily and immediately see the results of the actions. All over Europe, depending on the different levels of autonomy of the local authorities and their competences, various forms of participation are now possible and implemented, from the different consultations (regular or ad hoc) with citizens and civil society about development plans of a certain area, to shared decision making bodies in partnership with municipal offices and elected representatives. At the local level, participation gains its best direct achievements and it is usually less “politically driven” to be orientated only to concrete actions. Participatory democracy is closely linked to local democracy and the possibility of citizens to have a word to say should be clearly understood by elected representatives at the local level. Only if local democracy is enshrined in an existing status of local authorities autonomy, the real potentiality of citizens’ participation is even higher.

The issues addressed at the local level give citizens the possibility to feel engaged and responsible for their own community. In the last years, all over Europe, the relevance of local or regional authorities as real stakeholder of democracy made its own way. They were delegated competences for developing and addressing important tasks for their citizens.

A strong trend of the last years orientated the work of local authorities as being “different...

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