Citizen Engagement

Populist parties are winning elections across Europe. Instead of ignoring them, established parties should be taking notes.

Today, every fourth European is governed by a populist leader. Populists have grabbed the reins in Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. They’re busy reshaping the political landscape in countries such as Austria and Finland, where they are in government with established parties, and in Germany and the Netherlands, where they make up the largest opposition force.

But first, what exactly is a populist?

Read the full commentary published in Politico (Europe Edition) on 25 June 2018.

Citizen Engagement icon

Democracy happens at the interface of citizens and institutions. As new trends in technology, representative institutions, and participatory processes transform politics at all levels, so too will they redefine the way citizens and governments engage with each other.

As the traditional linkages of democratic governance show signs of wear, innovation and creativity in the civic space have flourished.  Whether through developing or using new forms of information and communications technology or through harnessing the power of social movements to drive political change, citizens across the globe have been attempting to renew the interface between people and politics. Yet as these new platforms and mechanisms transform civic discourse, governments and institutions have often faced considerable lag in their responsiveness and capacity to adapt to these new forms of engagement.

In this rapidly changing political and social landscape, International IDEA strives to meaningfully connect citizens and their representatives. Through knowledge gathering, assisting representative institutions, and influencing debates on the future of citizen engagement, we hope to help harness the power of innovation to drive a renewed sense of connectedness between institutions and those they serve.

 

Vibrant democracy requires active citizen participation during and between elections. In representative systems, this is usually conducted through intermediaries, including both national representative institutions and, increasingly, alternative movements and platforms. For democratic systems to function at their optimal level, politically engaged citizens must be involved in all phases and levels of political agenda setting and decision-making, including in critical functions such as electoral processes, peace- and constitution-building.

Today, citizens are driving change by innovating and inventing new methodologies of participation and representation. Driven by demands of more control over representative bodies, more accountability in government and more meaningful participation beyond elections, citizens are striving to influence how policies are created and politics is conducted.  This process has been profoundly transformed by new forms of technology which have given more citizens the ability to voice their views in larger public conversations that have the potential to decisively impact policy and political outcomes. Pressure to accommodate the increasing participation and changing demands of citizens, as well as a backlash against the perceived distance between citizens and professional politicians is creating space for systemic changes in many countries, particularly at the local level.

International IDEA supports implementing best practices in democracy by developing comparative knowledge, providing technical assistance and influencing global agendas to support citizen engagement. In re-energizing the relationship between citizens and representative institutions, International IDEA places its emphasis is on four interface areas:

  • Participatory processes
  • Popular movements, protests and platforms
  • Technology for inclusive engagement
  • Local-level innovation

International IDEA’s response is based on the belief that representative institutions will be more responsive to all citizens if the enabling environment, the mechanisms, and the organizational structures of the people-politics interface allow for inclusion, innovation and influence. National laws and policies, for example, must enable the participation of all groups in society, including women, minorities, and other disadvantaged groups in public affairs. Furthermore, inclusive political participation requires active citizenship. Both remain vital goals and components of conflict prevention, peacebuilding efforts, fostering respect for the rule of law and sustainable development. 

What's Going On

Mar
11
2019
Signing ceremony involving the Secretary-General of International IDEA, Yves Leterme, the Charge d’Affaires at the Embassy of Germany to the Kingdom of Sweden, Manfred Schüeler, and the Ambassador of Republic of Tunisia to the Kingdom of Sweden, Ambassador Moez Mehdi Mahmoudi. Photo: Lisa Hagman | International IDEA

Signing ceremony involving the Secretary-General of International IDEA, Yves Leterme, the Charge d’Affaires at the Embassy of Germany to the Kingdom of Sweden, Manfred Schüeler, and the Ambassador of Republic of Tunisia to the Kingdom of Sweden, Ambassador Moez Mehdi Mahmoudi. Photo: Lisa Hagman | International IDEA

News Article
Feb
12
2019
From left to right: Siegfried Bracke, Andreas Norlén, Kristien Van Vaerenbergh, Jacques Brotchi, Yves Leterme.  Image credit: International IDEA

From left to right: Siegfried Bracke, Andreas Norlén, Kristien Van Vaerenbergh, Jacques Brotchi, Yves Leterme. Image credit: International IDEA

News Article
Jan
15
2019
Image credit: Erik Asplund, International IDEA

Image credit: Erik Asplund, International IDEA

Event
Dec
21
2018
Launch of State of Local Democracy assessment in Ukraine. Image credit: International IDEA

Launch of State of Local Democracy assessment in Ukraine. Image credit: International IDEA

Feature Story
Dec
17
2018
Participants of the public forum on Strengthening Public Service Accountability through Citizen Participation in Ulaanbaatar on 6 December 2018. Image credit: Municipality of Ulaanbaatar.

Participants of the public forum on Strengthening Public Service Accountability through Citizen Participation in Ulaanbaatar on 6 December 2018. Image credit: Municipality of Ulaanbaatar.

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Rumbidzai Kandawasvika-Nhundu
Head of Political Participation and Representation
Rumbidzai Kandawasvika-Nhundu is the Head of the Political Participation and Representation Programme at International IDEA.

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