Citizens often do not have the opportunity to take part in democratic institutions and decision making. This has led to a lack of trust in democratic institutions around the world.
Over the past decade, more and more governments have adopted laws and practices that constrain civic space – the set of conditions that allow civil society and individuals to organise, participate and communicate freely and equally. In doing so, governments have limited the ability of citizens to influence politics and society. According to the 2020 Civicus Civic Space Monitor, only 3% of the world population world’s population lives in countries with an open civic space.
Parliaments play a critical role in shaping civic space. They can do this by creating an environment which allows civil society to make its voice heard, and by making sure civil society is able to defend civic space.
However, parliaments have struggled to find new ways to engage meaningfully with citizens and civil society. While digital technologies offer plenty of opportunities to create more open, accountable, and engaged parliaments, many parliaments do not have enough experience of or expertise in digital ways of working and engaging.
Citizens are hungry for democratic reforms that will allow them to have more of a say in the decisions that affect their lives. Innovative practices, such as coalitions for change or citizen assemblies are testaments of this.
By giving civil society and citizens a more direct role in setting policy agendas and shaping the public decisions that affect them, democratic institutions become stronger.
What is more, involving citizens and civil society in decision making leads to better policy outcomes. This is especially true when the issues at stake are complicated or linked to values and lead to polarization in politics. Political decisions, especially the ones that create divisions among people, will be better accepted and trusted if citizens have discussed and influenced them.
Putting participation at the heart of democratic institutions is key to improving trust in those institutions and addressing democratic deficits.
WFD supports openness and participation in the following ways: