Civil society voices in political processes

Civil society is on everyone’s lips and has become a political buzzword – but it often remains unclear what exactly we mean. Who are parliamentarians and administrators referring to, when they speak of “representatives of civil society?” Which of these representatives are involved in hearings, expert panels and consultation processes? So far, there have not been any studies on this in Germany. Within the framework of a project funded by the Otto Brenner Foundation, the Maecenata Institute for Philanthropy and Civil Society is therefore researching the form in which civil society organisations are involved in consultative boards in Germany.

About the project

The aim of the project is to record the form in which civil society organisations – along with other interest groups – are involved in the consultative, policy-advising bodies of political processes in Germany.

The project aims to answer the following questions:

  1. What opportunities for political participation and co-determination does the German constitutional framework provide for civil society organisations?
  2. What consultative bodies are there at the federal level and who are the stakeholders? Who are the representatives of CSOs, for whom and whose interests do they speak?

As a first step, we are recording the structures for political opportunity i.e an  overview of the advisory bodies in the federal government and parliament, as well as creating a summary of the constitutionally guaranteed participation opportunities for CSOs. We will then conduct a committee analysis of the composition of the experts in the 19th legislative period.

Initial results:

Although there is a legal basis for the political participation of interest groups in Germany, it gives the responsible ministries considerable leeway in their selection. The analysis so far shows that there are sometimes large gaps in the representation of civil society in the advisory bodies at the federal level and that there are major differences between the ministries. The under-representation of female committee members is also striking. The project is in its final phase and publication is planned for Summer 2022.