European Alternatives at the first Falun Democracy Week

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In the past few years the northern city of Falun, Capital of the Dalecarlia province in the very heart of Sweden, has developed its original infrastructure for active citizenship and participatory democracy to turn itself into a truly pilot “European Democracy City”.

Everything started to become a concrete reality in 2011 when the Falun City Parliament decided to launch the “Democracy City” process. At that time, all the political parties in the “Fullmäktige” – the Local Parliament – Falun has begun the work of establishing a modern “infrastructure for citizen participation”. The purpose was to encourage, facilitate and support its citizens in becoming truly active members of a town in which “every vote counts” on election day and “every voice is heard” at all times.
The idea behind this process was to develop ways to strengthen effective people power which matters today more than ever. Recent constitutional revisions in Sweden and the European Union have indeed reinforced citizens’ initiative rights at local, regional and transnational levels. Backing these developments, the Falun City Parliament decided in 2011 to launch the “Democracy City” process promoting active and engaged citizenship.

A Road Map to Democracy for Europe

On the way to becoming a “European Democracy City”, the elected all-party “Falun Democracy Commission” then outlined an initial roadmap featuring five main areas:

  1. Democracy Centres aiming at going beyond the existing established venues through a specific physical space hosted at the various public library venues of the City, offering places for communication, meeting, consultancy and formal decision making on election day;
  2. Democracy Navigators to guide interested citizens through the often technocratic and complex world of local politics and administration providing them non-profit professional consultancy service;
  3. Young Democracy involving  a wide range of youth democracy programmes featuring Youth Democracy Ambassadors and local democracy teaching materials and curriculums for the municipal schools;
  4. Democracy Web featuring an online back-up platform for all possible expressions of active citizenship as well as a forum for dialogue between citizens and the institutions;
  5. Democracy Networks aiming at bringing together “Democracy Cities” all over the world.

In the summer of 2012, Falun City deliberated on a “Democracy Action Plan 2015”, which indicated clear mile­stones ahead. Within this framework, European Alternatives has been invited to participate in the “Democracy Week 2013” to be held in Falun between September 25 and 29 as part of the European Union’s Year of Citizens and the Council of Europe’s Local Democracy Week.

The Upcoming Falun Democracy Week

Starting on Wednesday 25 September with a Democracy Fair and a Public Meeting on the role of public libraries in democracies, the initiative itself will run with  a wide range of workshops, debates, cultural events, story-telling sessions and a democracy market until a concluding session with music and dances from Falun, Dalecarlia, Sweden, other European countries as well, on Sunday, September 29th.
Day by day, various levels of democracy will be addressed: from the local, to the regional, national, transnational and global. This unique gathering of European and global citizens will discuss the many challenges and opportunities of both Sweden and European democracies and future prospects for the direct participation of citizens in the agenda-setting and decision-making processes. Our Campaign and Participation Manager, Anna Lodeserto, will take part with Gerald Häfner (Member of the European Parliament), Elisa Bruno (European Citizen Action Service), Daniel Schily (Democracy International) and Tamara Ehs (University of Salzburg) in the “Seminar on Transnational Democracy in Europe and how the new right of Citizens’ Initiative may influence the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament” which will be held on Saturday 28th during the “Europe Day on Transnational Democracy”.

A Special Passport to Active Citizenship

A special “Democracy Passport – The Passport to Active Citizenship” has also been expressly designed and published for this occasion: a very modern guide offering inspiration to active citizenship and participative democracy at local, regional, national, transnational and global level. It is the world’s first democracy passport originally conceived as an invitation to other cities, provinces and countries to customize this concept for their own needs. You are welcome to download your own copy – or get a hard copy at Falun Public Library or by contacting the EA Paris- or Rome-based offices.
Still one of Sweden’s smaller cities, today Falun is developing a new approach to citizen participation with some important innovation lessons for every city that can be learned in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Stay tuned!

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Anna Lodeserto coordinated public-oriented campaigns through the new supranational instrument of direct democracy “European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)” since the first year of its entry into force (2012) as a result of the Treaty of Lisbon. She has worked with policy dialogue, cross-border cooperation, capacity development and participatory democracy and tools and programmes since the mid-2000s serving as an expert for European networks, NGOs, universities and international organisations on issues such as transnational organised crime and corruption, as well as Euro-Mediterranean dialogue, EU neighbourhood and governance. She holds a Master’s Degree in Peacekeeping and Security Studies, and a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy, with a specialisation in Development Politics.
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