Forum II: Participatory democracy against distrust

The issue of increasing dissatisfaction with the working of democratic institutions was discussed yesterday in the parallel forum: 'Democracy between distrust and participation: Re-thinking the relationship between citizens and the state?'.

Pablo Oñate from the Univeristat de Valéncia (Spain) outlined the four pillars of eroding support for democratic institutions in Europe. Firstly he explained the problem of technocracy and how decision-making and discourse are frequently concerned with management instead of politics. Another pillar, for him, is that citizens face a lack of responsiveness and accountability from political actors leading to anger, frustration and detachment. The threat that corruption poses to democracy is, for Oñate, another reason why public support decreases. Lastly he also criticised missing truly democratic commitment by citizens. The keyword he used in his speech was “permanent participation”, meaning that short-term uprisings must be turned into long-term political commitment, best achieved through an institutionalisation of political participation. He concluded by explaining why, through civic education, the base for a participatory democracy should be built to work against these negative trends in European democracies.

A different way of working towards less dissatisfaction and more participation was presented by Azelarabe Lahkim Bennani from the University of Fez (Morocco). The starting point of his argument were the problems of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. His way of working on these challenges is by starting at the grassroot level of local customs, practices and traditions, from where, as he explained, participatory democracy stems. Citizenship education, for him, aims to use local ties such as neighbourhood or family as a base for building the recognition of mutual needs. This technique would then bring about a process leading from local customs to universal human rights.

The discussion afterwards raised questions about the future of political parties, about who to trust with citizenship education, and about the pros and cons of representative, participatory, and deliberative democracy.

Political Participation
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