European Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

A potentially useful forum for promiting the use of tools like EuroPetition – even if it may be is a little obscure to some (including me, sorry!). Anyway, they’re holding a congress/conference in Strasbourg right now.

There was a session yesterday on E-democracy as a chance to increase citizens participation in local politics adopted a report by by Alison Cook (UK, EPP-CD) and Etienne van Vaerenbergh (Belgium, ILDG) which stressed that the aim of e-democracy initiatives was to encourage citizens “to see themselves as partners of the policy-makers”.

Territories are called to overcome the digital divide by providing free Internet access in public places and education to populations of all ages. Combining of electronic and non electronic participation platforms should avoid the exclusion of those who are less familiar with ICTs.

At the same time, the report warns about expectations, e-democracy tools could produce immediate results for authorities involved in these new practices. It underlines the importance of adequate planning of resources.

The full report/resolution/recommendations can be found here. Most relevantly for EuroPetition, it includes this:

31. A vibrant democracy requires its informed citizens to be an active part of policy formulation and policy making processes. The Internet, whether in the form of blogs, social networks, official fora or purpose built e-democracy online applications, has started to bring political debate back to the citizens. One example is the city of Bristol, which has been at the forefront of developing e-petitions to enable the public to influence local decision-making

Great to see such a positive mention of one of EuroPetition’s partners! I’m not quite sure what concrete actions will result of these fine words though!

More on the Congress:

  • The Council of Europe has always recognised the crucial importance of democracy at local and regional level. That is the reason for its commitment to promoting a style of local self-government that meets the needs of the citizens wherever they may be. Being intended to genuinely represent both local and regional authorities, it comprises two chambers: the Chamber of Local Authorities and the Chamber of Regions.

    It is a political assembly composed of representatives holding an electoral mandate as members of a local or regional authority appointed each by a specific procedure. Its 318 full members and 318 substitute members, representing over 200 000 European municipalities and regions, are grouped by national delegation and by political group. Thus the Congress offers an ideal forum for dialogue where representatives of local and regional authorities discuss common problems, compare notes about their experiences and then put their points of view to the national governments.

    It is also a promoter of local and regional democracy, since its inception it has  produced a body of international treaties such as the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which has become the authoritative international treaty in this sphere. Likewise, a draft European Charter of Regional Democracy is expected to supplement this machinery in order to establish the fundamental principles of regional democracy more firmly while taking account of the specific circumstances of the member states

About Peter Cruickshank

Lecturer in the School of Computing and a member of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. Interested in information systems, learning, politics, society, security and where they intersect. My attempts at rounding out my character include food, cinema, running, history and, together with my lovely wife, bringing up a cat and a couple of kids.
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