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Conference Report: Advancing Citizen-Driven Participation through Digital Tools

How can the impact of citizen-driven e-democracy tools be strengthened throughout Europe? This was the main question that the conference ‘Advancing Citizen-driven Participation through Digital Tools’ aimed to answer. On 25 February 2021, civil society representatives, policy makers, researchers and civic-tech practitioners convened to provide a multi-angle view on this topic. Organised by the European Liberal Forum (ELF) and supported by the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and Project Polska, the conference was the final point the corresponding research project e-democracy: Driving citizen advocacy through digital means’.

The opening of the conference was followed by a keynote speech by the European Commission Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, Dubravka Šuica. She explained that to ensure the sustainability of our European democracy, it is necessary to look for new ways to involve citizens and consistently review our democratic mechanisms.

In that light, the Vice-President also remarked the potential of the Conference on the Future of Europe as a process that can increase citizens’ trust in our democratic institutions. Ms Šuica explained that the Conference will include a combination of online and hybrid events, and that everyone will have the opportunity to participate. The Vice-President announced that citizens will be invited to share topics that are close to their hearts via an online platform – the first of this kind in terms of scale – that will enable all citizens to participate in their own language in this EU-wide exercise.

Vice-President Šuica concluded her remarks emphasising how deliberative democracy can complement representative democracy, but it does not replace it. She also added that in order to successfully apply e-democracy tools, it is necessary to create effective mobilisation and engagement strategies and that the European Commission will enable more support for open-source digital tools.

“The most important factors for successful e-participation are close and clear links between e-participation processes and concrete formal participation processes. These should not be limited to one event but be embedded in a culture of participation. Deliberative democracy strengthens representative democracy, it does not replace it.”

Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President, European Commission

The full livestream of the event can be viewed here. Please find the whole report, including the main takeaways from the panel discussion and the research presentation below.

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