On November 26, 2019 the second meeting of the Be Active – Shape Europe project, the National Workshop, took place at the In Europarque incubator, in Santa Maria da Feira, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm, involving 29 participants.
This session covered “Participatory Democracy”, one of the discussed topics in the structured dialogue of 11 July 2019, and which the young people decided to further explore in this workshop.
The session involved 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 following the European Solidarity Corps in our Municipality , adult international guests (long-time friends from Lewisham, UK and Alingsas, Sweden), technicians, and policy makers from Santa Maria da Feira and Joué-Lès-Tours, France.
The workshop began with a visit and brief presentation of the In Europe Incubator Services, especially at young entrepreneurs and the promotion of networking with the local and regional community.
Subsequently, presentation and icebreaking dynamics were carried out by the young people present at the workshop.
The workshop on participatory democracy began with the presentation of the introductory video “What is democracy” on the role of citizens and forms of intervention in society.
Given the diversity of the subject, participants chose to split into focus groups on participatory democracy subthemes, such as:
- How to promote the culture of participatory democracy?
- Participatory democracy existing in your city? What will be the ideal one?
- Citizens’ participation: yes or no?
- What are the types /instruments of participatory democracy?
- What tools (digital or others) should be used to promote participatory democracy in urban and rural environments?
At 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 the active construction of society under the motto of equality and justice. The education and active involvement of citizens allows them to be aware of their rights and responsibilities, and thus encourages the inclusion of all social groups. Education for participatory democracy should 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 one sees and reads (fake news), in families, in political movements, in parties, in universities. Educating for participatory democracy by focusing on non-formal education in training, workshops, meetings and exchanges. The educational program should include the following: teaching for tolerance, being active in society, working together, teaching to respect 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, volunteering organizations, citizens’ groups, consumer protection movements. These organizations exist to create change, fight for a better quality of life, denounce injustice, defend rights and services, publicize human rights, using places such as the streets, communities, metropolitan areas, businesses, student associations, youth councils. The ideal participatory democracy should be diverse, representative, accountable, well-known and open, reliable, transparent, willing to bring about change, prepared for conflict, capable of organizing and planning. A participatory democracy that is confident in the Who? and How?, that represents the citizens, and that shares information and enables the evolution of democracy.
- Citizen participation is extremely relevant but could be better. Young people are the future, and more young people should be aware of the meaning of participatory democracy. We think it is important to listen to our elders. Older people have more life experience and more knowledge about how society works, thus they can play a key role in mentoring young people so that all together we can make better and more informed choices. This intergenerational link can start in schools or 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 those over 18; the online public consultation; voting for citizens over 18 years old; councils and assemblies for citizens aware of their existence. The role of youth assemblies that give youth a voice should be highlighted, as well as the project of the Young Mayor type. Unfortunately, there is no access to reliable / correct information, so political education is increasingly indispensable.
- Regarding participatory democracy tools we can highlight student associations, the internet, youth councils, senior councils, neighborhood / neighborhood councils. Emphasis should be placed on educating young people with activities related to political life, as well as making known structures that stimulate the struggle for democracy. Most likely not all citizens have the same access to the tools of democracy, either because they live in rural areas, or because they do not master the Internet or because they find it hard to decipher the content disseminated by the media.
The day ended with cheerful 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, who generally highlighted the importance of education for democracy, the dynamics of intergenerational citizenship, as well as the types and tools of participatory democracy today.