The Local Democracy Week is an annual process of events held in Europe to foster local and national participation.
Problems and Purpose
The European Local Democracy Week (ELDW) is an annual process of events held in Europe to foster local and national participation. The process was developed as a way to increase public knowledge of local democracy and local democratic participation. Founded in 2007, this relatively new event occurs every year around October 15th to commemorate the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which was signed on that date in 1985. ELDW is a joint initiative of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy. During the 2010 ELDW over 4000 towns, cities and villages in European countries participated by offering a number of events and activities open to citizens.
Overall ELDW seeks to emphasize the importance of local democracy in constructing a democratic Europe and to inform the public and elected representatives how crucial their participation in local affairs is in maintaining a strong local democracy.
Through the events and activities of the ELDW elected representatives and leaders are given a special opportunity to bring local government closer to citizens. Throughout the week they focus on informing citizens of how they operate and what their competences are through direct and close contact, furthermore increasing citizen confidence in them. Local elected representatives and leaders take this opportunity to listen to citizens and discuss subjects of local interest. They inform citizens of various ways to get involved with local government while gaining themselves a better understanding of what the citizens what and need.
ELDW provides citizens a chance to get to know their councilors and what their responsibilities are. They get the opportunity to ask their leaders questions and to be listened to. The ELDW aims for citizens to walk away from the week knowing how the local democratic intuitions managing their lives operate and about the various opportunities available for taking part in democratic life at the local level.
The Council of Europe The Council of Europe uses ELDW as a marketing tool to promote local democracy as the basis for building a strong democratic society. Through national media campaigns and the exposure the week gets at the local level, the hope is to reinforce citizens’ perception of local democracy as a common European value.
Origins and Development
At the time of the development of the ELDW there were already several existing local democracy events in member states. For example, the Local Government Association of the United Kingdom was already established and had been organizing a “Local Democracy Week” for seven years in England and Wales. In 2006 a Joint Working Group consisting of the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR) and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities was established at the Council of Europe. They felt that organizing local events across the continent with the common label of “European Local Democracy Week” would help citizens understand local democracy as a common European value and a necessity for the construction of a democratic society. With this shared view the Congress and CDLR members of the Working Group initiated the ELDW and promoted the project in their respective member states, obtaining a generally positive reception. On October 15-16 in 2007 the first ELDW was officially launched at the 15th session of the Ministerial Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Local and Regional Government. Since then the event has expanded to over 4000 European cities, towns and villages. It will continue to be promoted as a “pan-European” event aiming to encourage even more local authorities to join in.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
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How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making
Local authorities may organize different events with their citizens and elected representatives during the second week of October when the ELDW is officially held.
City councils, provincial authorities and regions can choose to contribute to ELDW in two main ways: 1. Applying as a partner of ELDW, organizing its own initiatives involving citizens and other local partners. 2. Co-operating with participating local authorities by promoting the institutional logo, supporting their initiatives financially or providing other resource (printing leaflets, providing equipment, printing ELDW posters)
Local institutions who choose to partner with the ELDW organize a variety of activities and events best suiting their area. Types of events include information/communication activities such as forums on local development, production of information material on local authorities, producing an information campaign in the local media, or a special issue of the local authority’s newsletter that focuses on local democracy and the ELDW.
Also held are activities based on exchanges between citizens and local elected representatives like public debates on topics of local interest, lectures on local democracy followed by discussion, meetings and discussions between local elected representatives and community associations, local authority open days, and allowing citizens to visit facilities (i.e. fire stations, schools) run by local authorities.
Young people are believed to play an essential role in spreading message ELDW. The participation of youth and children in the week is strongly encouraged through a variety of activities and events. Activities for youth include the organization of a youth council/parliament to discuss issues relevant to young people, visits to local institutions, school visits by elected representatives, mock elections and a variety of other games and events designed to give young people perspective on the life, community and how participating in local democracy can affect them.
Typically these types of events are planned over the preceding year and held all throughout the second week of October when the ELDW is officially celebrated. Although, some local institutions choose to use only a few days out of the week to hold events or choose to celebrate the week at another point in the year more opportunity for the community.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Through the events held, citizens became more deliberative, especially in the case of forums, debates and other activities which allowed citizens to interact with each other and elected officials (such as the Harvering, London events). The information learned through information/communication activities also ensures future deliberation is more effective.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The following lessons were drawn from observation of the 2010 ELDW:
At the local level examples of ELDW vary, but many local authorities could make improvements by holding more events and putting more effort into the week. The regions that take the time to do a lot of planning such as Northern Ireland had a very successful week that youth, adults and even government walked away from having benefited greatly.
At the level of the Council of Europe improvements can be made by more promotion of the week. The organizers of the week did an exceptional job getting over 47 countries to participate, but that means they have to market the week extra hard to countries that still haven’t made the effort. They might consider taking their promotion to a local level as some countries have committed to celebrating the week but specific local governments of that country choose not to hold events.
 Council of Europe, European Local Democracy Week 2010
- NIGLA Local Democracy Week Guide(2010)
- NIGLA Local Democracy Week (2010)
- Havering London Borough Council "Meet Havering Council's Cabinet as part of Local Democracy Week" (2010)
- COE ELDW 2010
- Havering London Borough Council "Speed dating, debates and a blog mark Local Democracy Week success" (2010)
- Keith Whitmore, Political Coordinator of ELDW Speech. Conference: "Youth, climate change and water: the stakes of territorial development and the impact on the most disadvantaged" (2010)
- Camden: Youth Question Time. (2008)
- 16th Session Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government (2009) Report on the European Local Democracy Week" '. Utrecht. MCL-16(2009)4d ]