ՀՀ տարածքային կառավարման նախարարություն
Ministry of Territorial Administration of the Republic of Armenia
A Conference on “Participatory Democracy at Local Level” was held in Yerevan
On June 19 2013, a Conference on Participatory Democracy at Local Level was held in Yerevan. The conference was organised under the Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in close co-operation with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
The Conference addressed issues related to participatory democracy at local level, in particular the current situation in member states, the role of participatory democracy in improving the efficiency of local authorities and ways of strengthening participatory democracy at local level. The Conference has also been a good opportunity for an exchange of good practice and a review of the progress achieved in Council of Europe member states.
Herwig van Staa, President of the Congress, Vice-Presidents and members of the Congress, representatives of Armenia’s relevant state structures, local self-government bodies and the civil society, as well as international and local experts participated in the Conference.
Mr. Armen Gevorgyan, Vice Prime Minister and the Minister of Territorial Administration of Armenia, read out the welcoming address of the President of the Republic, Mr. Serzh Sargsyan. The address stated:
“When defining the priorities for the Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, we specifically highlighted the local democracy area, since local democracy is the principal component for the democratic development of society.
We will continue to pay attention to the issue of raising the level of citizen participation in the decision-making processes with regard to issues of local and regional concern.
Such an international conference with the participation of European experts is a good platform for fosteringprogress and for defining directions for future work.
Armenia has amended its law on Local Self-Government in line with the provisions of the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (Utrecht Protocol, CETS No.: 207), which for Armenia will enter into force on 1 September 2013. These amendments are aimed at strengthening citizen participation in local self-government and enhancing the
transparency of work of local self-government bodies. The amended law also introduces a new provision for citizen participation in local affairs, which allows members of the local community to initiate the inclusion of issues in the agenda of the Avagani (assembly) of the local community, as of age sixteen. The law defines the obligations of members of the Avagani with respect to interaction, public meetings and discussions with the population, as well as the procedures for citizen participation in local self-government.
I am confident that the participants of this Conference will propose new approaches to implementing practical, effective and easily accessible mechanisms for citizen participation”.
Mr. Gevorgyan also noted in his speech that Armenia attaches great importance to the strengthening of local democracy and particularly to the citizen participation component: “It is one of the main principles of local democracy to ensure people’s right to influence the decision-making process at local community level on issues which directly affect their lives, living conditions and community as a whole. At the same time the state and state authorities have a specific role to play in the participatory model of government. It is the responsibility of the state to improve legislation in order to allow local communities to engage various stakeholders in the decision-making process and to discuss with them the implementation of these decisions, as well as alternative solutions to basic issues”.
The Mayor of the City of Yerevan, Mr. Taron Margaryan, also underlined the importance of the Conference in his speech. He underlined that despite the fact that the issue of participatory democracy has been discussed during the sessions of the Congress as well as during the meetings of its Committees, the topic is still relevant and fundamental not only at local but at all government levels. He stressed that citizen participation in decision-making should become an indivisible component of modern democracy.
The President of the Congress, Mr. Herwig Van Staa, in his speech pointed out that holding of such a conference in Armenia and in the framework of the Armenian Chairmanship is not a coincidence, since Armenia is a country which has ratified the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government – the Utrecht Protocol. “The issue of participation is included in the priorities of the Congress for 2013-2016 and we reaffirm our conviction that the quality of democracy depends on citizen participation in democratic processes,” underlined Mr. Van Staa.
The discussions have been organised around three main topics: the role of direct participation for today’s democracy; combining direct and representative participatory models of democracy; and new forms of civic participation and e-democracy.
The conclusions fromthe three sessions weredrawn at the end of the conference with the concluding remarks by the President of the Congress and First Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration of Armenia, Mr. Vache Terteryan.