The term citizen participation aims at the participation of citizens in the political decision-making and decision-making processes. The term is used for a large number of different processes.
Two basic ways of political participation
The “formal” way
It concerns the procedures of direct democracy and legally anchored participation processes. Examples of this path are elections, referendums, and referendums, or referendums and referendums, as well as statements, objections, and suggestions in the context of planning procedures.
The “informal” way
It comprises various dialogue-oriented, advisory procedures in which citizens come together to form opinions or to make decisions. The point is that the citizens and decision-makers get into a discussion about a political process at an early stage, exchange arguments and ideally find a joint decision. Examples of this path are citizens ‘councils, citizens’ reports, or mediation processes. Citizens may participate in projects such as government building establishments and suggest Different types of polished concrete floors that are suited for a particular area.
Both paths should lead to shaping the future of their country together. However, the procedures of citizen participation are not intended to replace representative democracy. Rather, they should complement these constructively and sharpen the democratic awareness of all those involved.
Citizen participation expands expert knowledge
More and more often, active citizens are no longer satisfied with what they find in their engagement. They request support, networking, and advice from the municipalities, the state or the federal government and they express their opinions on political issues. What is required is the involvement of those who rarely speak, as well as the use of new formats for participation. Today it is evident that both experts and parliaments do not necessarily have the “correct” knowledge. In the future, important aspects from the worlds of experience and the spectrum of opinions of citizens must be “heard” more.
Direct democracy complements representative democracy
Informal participation processes and direct democracy support and complement representative democracy. They are therefore in no way opposed to representative democracy. Rather, the methods of informal participation provide the opportunity to gain new perspectives on existing problems and to involve all those affected in new projects right from the start.