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Citizen-Led Approach

Citizens should be placed at the forefront of any democracy assessment process, as they best understand their countries’ dynamics, culture, history and priorities.

The State of Democracy assessment frameworks place citizens at the forefront of any democracy assessment process, with the aim of supporting home-grown policy initiatives and internally driven reform agendas. As such, they move away from country ranking and external judgement and put local ownership at the center of their methodology. This approach is based on the belief that citizens themselves are the best assessors of their own democracy.

The assessment is a two-dimensional process that combines research with inclusive dialogue and debate. Any members of the public with an interest or stake in improving democracy can initiate the assessment process, mobilize resources for it and use the assessment framework. These initiators can range from academics, local council members, government officials, media and civil society organizations to local politicians, local activists and members of minority groups.

The citizen-led approach is reform oriented and aims to both assess the quality of democracy and serve as an opportunity for citizens to further develop and deepen their democracies.

Goal: Reform

The democracy assessments are however not an end in themselves but a mean to assist a democratic reform processes. This means that publication of the assessment findings should not be regarded as a final step. Rather, the assessment findings should be used to engage policy makers and citizens in evidence-based reform processes aimed at strengthening democratic institutions and processes.

Principles: Popular Control and Political Equality

International IDEA’s approach to democracy is guided by two basic democratic principles; popular control over decisions and decision makers and equality among citizens, including equality of men and women, in the exercise of that control. Based on these two principles, democracy can take many forms and needs to be rooted in the realities of any given country and the aspirations of its men and women.

Leadership: Locally led by a diverse assessment team

The frameworks put the citizen at the forefront of the assessment process. Most assessments are carried out by independent institutions, such as civil society organizations and academic institutions, but they can also be carried out by institutions at all levels of governments. Assessment teams are gender balanced and voice marginalized groups’ concerns.

Method: Balance Between Research and Dialogue

The assessments are conducted according to internationally accepted social science research standards, but at the same time ensure active participation and contribution of citizens, both men and women, at various stages of the process. It is intended to be as much an exercise in assessing the quality of democracy as it is an opportunity for citizens to further deepen their democracy and democratic accountability.
This short video explains the benefits of the citizen-led approach to democracy assessments by presenting the outcomes of a selected number of assessments.

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