Participation and civil dialogue

Authorities have the duty to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for exercising the right to participate in decision-making.

This should include accessible and inclusive consultative mechanisms, which consider those most affected, in particular women and other marginalised individuals and groups. Mechanisms should be supported by financial and human resources, media education, and digital literacy programmes for the general public and officials. Additionally, the citizens and civil society’s right to participate in the European policy-making is affirmed in the Treaty on the European Union (art. 10 and 11).  

However, across Europe, democratic civil society faces difficulties in its relationship with authorities. The participation of civil society in policy-making is affected on the one hand, by the decrease of resources, and on the other hand, by the lack of understanding or political will to pursue meaningful civil dialogue. Challenges include accessing information of public interest; opaque involvement in the decision-making process; restrictions to advocacy; lack of minimum standards on practices of public consultations. Additionally, critical voices engaged in advocacy activities are often insolated and targeted by authorities. At the European level, civil dialogue is also opaque and unstructured, as different institutions and bodies are not subject to standards in consultation with civic organisations. Spaces of civil dialogue are also increasingly captured by undemocratic civic actors, business voices and GONGOs.