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Democratic citizenship is more important than ever
In a presentation to the Council of Europes Forum for the Future of Democracy in Cyprus on 14 October, the University of Kents Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby called for the development of more participative institutions that people can be involved in during their lives.
These would include the work-place, schools, neighbourhoods and public services.
Professor Taylor-Gooby explained that because society is growing more diverse and unequal, with the economic crisis intensifying these issues, the capacity of ordinary citizens to influence those who hold real power – e.g. in corporations, banks, international bodies and governments – is under pressure. Consequently, greater transparency and greater democratic scrutiny of these organisations is required.
But just as importantly, he said, people need the experience of taking part in democratic institutions. They need to see how their involvement can make a difference. This will also help develop their confidence as citizens. Democratic citizenship in everyday life is more important than ever.
When asked how more participative institutions could be developed and who should initiate or be responsible for their development, Professor Taylor-Gooby replied:
People need experience and self-confidence to succeed in participating. This can be developed through works councils, tenant groups, school councils, neighbourhood associations and similar bodies. But people need to feel they are making a difference so that their involvement is worthwhile.
Peter Taylor-Gooby is Professor of Social Policy at the Universitys School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SPSSR). He is also Director of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Social Contexts and Responses to Risk Programme. He has advised the UK government on public policy reform.
The title of his paper and presentation to the Forum was Creating and Improving Structures for Sustainable and Cohesive Democratic Societies.
Story published at 3:35pm 20 October 2011