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Council of Europe Forum for the Future of Democracy
Madrid, Spain
Municipal Congress Centre
15-17 October 2008

Description of the themes of the six parallel workshops,
to be held on 16 October 2008

Each participant in the Forum is invited to sign up to one of the workshops through the online conference registration system


Workshop 1: e-Participation

This workshop looks into the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for participatory democracy. How can ICT be used for enhancing democratic processes and to create new spaces for information, deliberation, consultation and transaction between government and its citizens and between citizens themselves? Panellists from several countries will present examples of good practice. Participants will discuss the set of guiding principles on e-democracy and a range of tools for implementing these principles proposed by the Council of Europe’s Ad Hoc Committee on e-Democracy. The workshop will also look into the opportunities for and challenges to representative democracy presented by e-democracy. Turning to e-parliament, it will be asked what results have been achieved through the implementation of e-petitioning and ICTs used for the communication between MPs and their electorate.

Workshop 2: e-participation at the Local Level

It is at the local level that the individual is closest to and most often involved in democratic processes. It is also in this dimension of public affairs that many innovative means of e-democracy have been conceived and implemented. Participatory budgeting and participatory urban and spatial planning through the Internet will receive particular attention in this workshop. What is the state-of-the-art of e-participation at the local level, in Europe and elsewhere? What results have hitherto been attained and what obstacles will have to be overcome in the future? This workshop is being organised by the City of Madrid.

Workshop 3: ICT in Electoral Processes

In strong democracies, elections are merely one of many manifestations of democracy, albeit a very important and visible one. Public as well as non-statutory elections supported by ICTs have been tested in several European countries and have given rise to a vibrant debate in recent years. In 2004, the Council of Europe’ Committee of Ministers issued a recommendation to member states on legal, operational and technical standards for e-voting. This workshop is also the second biennial review meeting of the Recommendation. Being open to all participants in the Forum, the workshop will bring together experts on e-voting from across Europe, to discuss the implementation of the recommendation against the background of recent developments in member states and beyond. Particular attention will be given to the questions of security, certification and observation of e-enabled elections.

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Workshop 4: e-Inclusion

One of the particular benefits of e-democracy is that it may take into account the needs and encourage the participation of certain groups which otherwise may be less inclined to participate politically. Examples of such groups are senior citizens, migrants and national minorities. In particular disabled people can benefit from e-democratic means of participation. There are also other groups whose political participation can be facilitated by the use of e-democracy. In this connection, what measures could be taken in order to address the expectations of young people and the gender perspective in e-democracy? A necessary requirement for the successful introduction of e-democracy is that individuals have access to its instruments, both through access to IT infrastructure and through Internet and media literacy. Another important precondition is that individuals are provided with education for democratic citizenship.

Workshop 5: e-Democracy from the Grass Roots

This workshop will first look into e-activism, social networking tools and citizens’ e-journalism as means of facilitating grass roots initiatives and participation. What experiences, positive or negative, have NGOs made when using e-democracy tools in order to promote their causes and to involve people in discussions? How could the use of e-democracy tools by civil society be taken further? Does civil society have a wish-list in terms of involvement or measures to be implemented from the side of the public authorities, the business sector or other actors? Addressing the role of the media, the workshop will discuss the public service value of the Internet, understood as people’s significant reliance on the Internet as an essential tool for their everyday activities. Furthermore, the media play an important role in democracy and in political life, e.g. by providing a space where citizens can engage in public debate and represent their interests in public spheres. How could and should media fulfill this mission with the support of ICTs? What is the impact of ICTs in election campaigns and what standards should the media adhere to in this context?

Workshop 6: International and regulatory context

This workshop will look into E-government and e-democracy developments worldwide. What are the latest developments in these fields? What is the potential impact of Web 2.0 on government and the provision of public services? The workshop will also address the existing and possible future arrangements for public participation in Internet governance. Here, the UNECE Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters is an interesting example of how such participation can be put into a regulatory framework. Could it serve as a model for regulation or as a best practice in other fields of Internet Governance? Turning to Regulatory aspects relevant for e-democracy, the workshop will consider whether and to what extent e-democracy should be the subject of rules and regulations. How do the specificities of e-democracy relate to existing national and international regulation and standards on, for example, human rights, penal law or constitutional matters? Issues of particular relevance in this context include transparency and accountability, freedom of information and access to official documents.

Closing Keynote Speaker Steven Clift: Background Documents

Ten Practical Online Steps for Government Support of Democracy
Sidewalks for Democracy Online