24th Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 19-21 March 2013)
Debate on “Fostering active citizenship” - Making local democracy thrive
Speech by Katharina WALLENBORG, Municipal commissioner with responsibility for democracy and equality, Huddinge (12-star city), Sweden
Huddinge is one of the 26 municipalities in the county of Stockholm, second largest after the capital with 100 000 residents of an surface of 141,4 km2. Last year we decided to work for being one of the three most attractive municipalities’ in Stockholm. And I think we can be that!
About 38 000 of 9 500 000 citizens are elected in the municipalities. In Huddinge we are a bit over 250 elected persons. That’s a disappointing number, only 0,25 percent. On the other hand more are political active and we have several thousand that are active in different nonprofit organizations, but for the sake of democracy I’m worried as the low number sometimes reflects the quality. However we have many knowledgeable and engaged politicians, but we need many more of us.
DMB have altogether 19 members including ordinary members and substitutes. They comes from nine of our ten parties in the municipality council. All eight parties that are represented in our parliament are also in our municipality council plus we have two local parties in Huddinge.
Sweden has local parties in 145 of its 290 municipalities.
Huddinge’s work for active residents and citizens is part of a long term strategy and we have created a “Handbook for participation”. The strategy contains three keywords: Open, Meaningful and Clarity.
Openness is a about:
- Transparency by information: what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.
- Create diversity and equal conditions for participation
- Participate at an early stage
- Participation in decision making and development of the municipality
- Clarity about what residents and citizens can influence
- Clarity about which form of participation we offer: information, consultation, dialog, cooperation or co-decision making
For us, fostering active citizenship, or active residentship, is basic and in our main document called Goals and budget, which we take decision of every year, we comment on this in many contexts and different words. Then our committees and administrations works with this and in extension all our employees who are about 6 000 persons.
We are making a playground program and here we are talking to kids in the neighborhood to have their opinion so the playgrounds will be as well adapted as possible.
In one part of Huddinge a new entrance from the freeway into the area is under planning and the plans are to have different activities there, such as business, park, sports etcetera and we have invited people living there to focus groups to say their opinion.
We are working with what we call an “overview plan” that stretches to the year 2030 and our residents have been invited to have their opinion of the plans and this fall it will be a display with the finished suggestion and then again a chance to give opinions. The document involves things like dwellings, parks, roads, environment and other things.
We are working very much with the internet, both to improve our website, develop our service on the web and develop our participation on facebook, twitter and so on where we already are very active.
In our elderly care all who needs help are involved in everything that concerns them like decisions about what help to get and so on.
For Huddinge it’s also important with elected officials that have knowledge about in their work of representing the voters and residents and therefore both the municipality and the parties offer different educations.
Political life shall also be possible to combine with the private life, which is not an easy combination all the time, but something we always have in mind and tries to develop.
Besides inviting the residents and different associations we work a lot with the higher education and entrepreneurs. We also have different councils where representatives from example the senior citizen’s organizations, the police, disability alliances and so on take part.
A feasibility study will be done this year to create a digital meeting place for youth.
Huddinge has several educational associations that we support and the theme for 2013 is: youth power.
The democracy days, democracy week 2013:
Will take part week 42 again, Monday to Saturday. The culture and leisure committee will work with the youth and at least two activities will be arranged by them.
The four public senior high schools will all be included again and last year we meet about 1 100 pupils. We, the politicians were out at the school and talked about things that were interesting to the youth. It could be everyday things like the food at school, what the elected officials are doing to make the schools better, but also questions like how to preventing crime among young people and where to find a place to live when they leave home. The difference in how prepared the pupils were was clear, but this was the first time we went out to meet them this way and both the schools and politicians want to meet again the next democracy week. During the time we are working with how we can meet also at other times during the year.
After starting our cooperation with the European council last year, we have decided to let eight of our senior high school pupils go to the youth center in Strasbourg and then share their experiences on the democracy week.
Finally I would like to give some glimps of the year 2030 but now from our Goal and budget. This year is the first time includes our future plans for a longer perspective and where we want to be in the future and here’s some of our goals:
· The municipality’s participatory work is looked at as a great model amongst other municipalities.
· Interaction together with the civil society is an important part of our democratic system which gives the inhabitants big impact on the public mandate.
· Higher voter turnout to the city council election. (It’s now 78,6 % and we want to increase it to 85 % the year 2030.)
To make it easier for immigrants to vote, we are translating our information about the election to several other languages. Also our web site is translated to English and Finnish.
Thank you for listen about our work in Huddinge!