Civil Society Contact Group (CSCG) organised a conference focusing on participatory democracy in EU on 12 July, 2006. EPHA’s Latvian-based project coordinator and her colleague from Civic Alliance Latvia (CAL) attended the event.
The overall aim of the conference was to focus on participatory democracy - namely, what does it mean to EU institutions and to NGOs, and should NGOs be part of the dialogue or protest with EU institutions. The debate fed into CSCG contribution to the transparency initiative and EC Communication White Paper.
It was also an opportunity to present the study “Civil Dialogue: Making it work better”, which assesses dialogue and consultations between NGOs and EU institutions in seven different policy areas at EU and national level.
The study was presented by the authors Jeremy Smith and Elodie Fazi.
EU and national-level NGO activists discussed the study’s main outcomes and recommendations, based on participants daily experience and difficulties. Ideas and suggestions were generated through working groups.
Afterwards, two panel discussions focused on how a system should be established to make the lobbying process more transparent. The panels examined -
Transparency and accountability: which challenges for NGOs and others
Participating better: Is a new dialogue framework the way ahead
There was much debate on how to make lobbying processes more transparent.
One option is to have the register of all the lobbyists, showing what kind of organisation and suggestions are presented. In addition, officials themselves should report on what kind and with whom they have the meetings.
Discussion arose concerning the border between corruption and the lobbying. Lobbying is not a problem as itself, it is expression of democracy as well, NGOs are lobbyist as well.
Lobbying could become a problem if some of the groups have stronger arguments than others. The key element in lobbying is argumentation. The lobbying should be done not only in European level, but also in national level, with NGOs putting pressure on government ministers.
The afternoon consisted of interactive workshops under the Open Space method and focused on increasing citizen participation.
The following day, a working session on "Making participation work better" was organised by the Social Platform. The aim of the working session was to evaluate the training handbook and to accumulate the needs of national organisations. The handbook is guide on the participatory democracy, EU institutions and lobbying.
More information about the conference on the CSCG web page