On November 26, 2019, the second moment of the Be Active – Shape Europe project, the National Workshop, took place at the In Europarque incubator, in Santa Maria da Feira, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, involving 29 participants.
This session addressed “Participatory Democracy”, one of the topics discussed in the structured dialogue of July 11, 2019, and which the young people decided to deepen in this workshop.
The session was attended by young people from Santa Maria da Feira, young ex-members of the active citizenship body ‘Children’s Assembly’, young ex-members of the participatory citizenship body ‘Young Mayor’, young foreigners enrolled in the European Corps of Solidarity from our Council, international adult guests (long-time friends from Lewisham, UK and Alingsas, Sweden), technicians and legislators from Santa Maria da Feira and Joué-Lès-Tours, France.
The workshop began with a visit and a brief presentation of the services of the In Europarque incubator, especially aimed at young entrepreneurs and promoting networking with the local and regional community.
Subsequently, presentations and dynamics to break the ice were held by the young people present at the workshop.
The workshop on participatory democracy began with the presentation of the introductory video “What is democracy” about the role of citizens and forms of intervention in society.
Given the diversity of the subject, participants chose to split into focus groups on sub-themes of participatory democracy, such as:
- How to promote a culture of participatory democracy?
- Is there participatory democracy in your city? How would it be ideal?
- Citizen participation: yes or no?
- What are the types / instruments of participatory democracy?
- What tools (digital or otherwise) should be used to promote participatory democracy in urban and rural settings?
In the end, the young people reached the following conclusions:
- Education is extremely important for promoting and developing a culture of participatory democracy. The development of democracy must be based on the needs of citizens, and this is only possible if they are actively involved in local life and in the active construction of society under the motto of equality and justice. Education and active involvement of citizens allow them to be aware of their rights and responsibilities, thus encouraging the inclusion of all social groups. Education for participatory democracy must involve all citizens, whether they are in schools (teaching, passing on information, encouraging action), in civil society organizations (teaching and learning from experience / action), in the media (learning, stimulating critical thinking about what is seen and read (false news), in families, in political movements, in parties, in universities. Educating for participatory democracy with a focus on non-formal education in training, workshops, meetings and exchanges. The educational program should include the following: teaching tolerance, being active in society, working together, teaching respect for all citizens, accepting differences, negotiating common goals, promoting the Common Good.
- In my city/country there is representative democracy at the level of the national parliament, local and European governments. At the level of participatory democracy, there are trade unions, human rights associations, religious groups, NGOs, voluntary organizations, citizens’ groups, consumer protection movements. These organizations exist to create changes, fight for a better quality of life, denounce injustices, defend rights and services, promote human rights, using places such as the streets, communities, metropolitan areas, companies, student associations, youth councils. The ideal participatory democracy must be diverse, representative, responsible, known and open, trustworthy, transparent, willing to bring about change, prepared for conflict, able to organize and plan. A participatory democracy that trusts the Who? and How?, which represents citizens, shares information and enables the evolution of democracy.
- Citizen participation is extremely relevant, but it could be better. Young people are the future, and more young people should be aware of the meaning of participatory democracy. We think it’s important to listen to your elders. Older people have more life experience and more knowledge about how society works, so they can play a key role in guiding young people so that all together we can make better and more informed choices. This intergenerational link can start in schools, youth offices or youth associations. The Young Mayor project is a good example.
- The instruments of participatory democracy that exist today are the referendum for people over 18; online public consultation; voting for citizens over 18 years of age; councils and assemblies, for citizens aware of their existence. The role of youth assemblies that give voice to young people is highlighted, as well as a project of the Young Mayor type. Unfortunately, there is no access to reliable/correct information, which is why political education is increasingly indispensable.
- With regard to participatory democracy tools, we can highlight student associations, the internet, youth councils, senior councils and neighborhood councils. Emphasis should be placed on training young people in activities related to political life, as well as on the dissemination of structures that encourage the struggle for democracy. Probably not all citizens have the same access to the tools of democracy, either because they live in rural areas, or because they do not dominate the Internet, or because they have difficulty deciphering the contents conveyed by the media.
The day ended with a lively dinner with the presence of the Mayor of Santa Maria da Feira, Emídio Sousa, who heard the conclusions of the workshop from the young people present. In general these highlighted the importance of education for democracy, the dynamics of intergenerational citizenship, as well as the types and tools of participatory democracy today.