Press Information | 17.01.2024
The following text is a excerpt (pp. 1–2, 5–6) from the European Commision’s Recommendation on promoting the engagement and effective participation of citizens and civil society organisations in public policy-making processes. Read the full document including references here.
An inclusive and effective engagement of public authorities with citizens, civil society organisations and human rights defenders in their public policy-making processes should be actively promoted. Public policy-making processes do not cover in any manner individual decisions of the administration that could affect rights of individuals. A tailored approach is needed as the conditions for the participation of individual citizens and civil society organisations are not the same.
Member States should create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society organisations and human rights defenders to enhance their effective engagement and ensure they can actively participate in public policy-making processes, and thereby exercise a key role in the democracies in the Union. Civil society organisations are frequently referred to as non-State, not-for-profit, non-partisan and non-violent structures, through which people organise to pursue shared objectives and ideals. Human rights defenders are individuals, groups and organs of society that promote and protect universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms, in line with the definition set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998) and referred to also in the EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. Human rights defenders seek the promotion and protection of civil and political rights, as well as the promotion, protection and realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. The Union commits to engage with organisations which respect the Union values and fundamental rights, as enshrined in Article 2 of TEU and in the Charter.
The participation of citizens and civil society organisations should be ensured in public policy-making processes at the local, regional, national, European and international level. This is also recognised by the United Nations Guidelines for States on the effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs, the Council of Europe Recommendations on the legal status of non-governmental organisations in Europe and on the participation of citizens in local public life, and on deliberative democracy, the OECD Recommendation on Open Government, the Conference of International Non-governmental Organisations (INGOs) Code of Good Practices for Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process, and the joint Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office’s for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR) and Venice Commission’s Guidelines on freedom of associations.
Civil society organisations working on the promotion and protection of fundamental rights are an important vehicle for channelling the voices of diverse individuals and groups in society, including of those in the most vulnerable situations and contribute to addressing societal challenges and economic development. They foster pluralism and accountability of decision-making, enhancing the quality of representative democracy, as recognised under the European Democracy Action Plan, the 2022 Report on the application of the Charter, the annual Rule of law reports, and the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024. The important role of civil society in the checks and balances of healthy democracies has been highlighted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which has consistently underlined that the manner in which public watchdogs carry out their activities may have a significant impact on the proper functioning of a democratic society.
European Commission as of 12.12.2023 | Brussels
Read the full document here.