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

Contribution of the Association of Local Democracy Agencies

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 11. Conclusions

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Europe is a natural born phenomenon and needs to match its democratic potentiality with its democratic practice.

Not so many years ago, while we were discussing the governance of ALDA and talking over the provisions of the Statute, my lawyer suggested to me to have the Governing Board meetings where the decisions where actually made. He certainly thought that if my Board members were from Strasbourg, I should have had my meetings in Strasbourg. But the answer was straightforward: my members are from all over Europe and most of the decision-making process of ALDA is made on line, via email, via Skype, through internet. This idea, like many others, makes evident that – in many cases – traditional structures and laws as well as decision-making processes are engulfed in grids and mindsets which, de facto, do not exist any longer. Again, not so many years ago, I spent many afternoons in libraries to read books, newspapers and articles and – because of that – I realised and felt that I was a step ahead for one piece of information, which I got and others did not have. Now, the level of awareness and information around us – even without travelling – is massive, immediate. It is information, which is more democratic. We live constantly enormous changes in the perception of our society and context. Did we ever value the fact that nobody says any longer “farewell”? This word – saying bye-bye forever – does not exist anymore. The minute after we leave, we are on Skype,...

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