Platforms for participation

Fundamental rights implementation requires creating mechanisms that allow for participation of everybody who is concerned by a particular issue.

Example

The City of Vienna initiated the Vienna Charter project in March 2012 and it resulted in a collection of basic principles for living together in a diverse and heterogeneous urban environment. The uniqueness of the Charter lies in the City’s efforts to ensure broad public participation in its drafting and adoption. 

Around 10,000 Viennese were actively involved in developing the Vienna Charter and the result was presented on 27 November 2012. The aim of the process was to agree on common ground rules for the future of the city based on what every individual can do to improve the way Viennese live together.

All organisations in the city were invited by the Mayor to become partners. 325 organisations joined the project and these included companies, businesses, cultural and sport associations, employer associations, trade unions, religious communities and political parties.

The city established an online forum and a “Charter hotline” through which all Viennese could suggest topics. “Charter Talks” could also be organised by partners or individuals. In total, 651 Charter talks were held in all districts of Vienna, at club houses, pubs, offices, schools, people’s flats, parks and public swimming pools. 8,500 people participated, investing a total of 12,700 hours into discussing good neighbourly living. Public events were held at other several locations.

An advisory Committee was established to ensure transparency, openness and credibility. The Committee was composed by three women and three men, from different age ranges, two of them born in a country other than Austria.

The Charta has been published in Serbian, Turkish, Bosnian and Croatian, which besides German are the languages most spoken in Vienna.

In German: https://charta.wien.gv.at/start/charta/

And in English: http://www.wien.gv.at/english/living-working/vienna-charter.html

Learning Point

This example illustrates the importance of adequate arrangements and processes to facilitate participation of individuals and civil society.

Location
The location for meetings with individuals and civil society can influence their participation. It will typically be easier for an official to travel to the communities where the individuals and organisations are based rather than asking them to come to the municipal offices. Access issues such as good public transport and special needs facilities are also important.

Meeting times
Consider scheduling meetings after working hours as this is when individuals have more free time and can attend.

Communication during meetings
In some instances, language and communication issues can be a barrier for the participation of certain individuals. Arranging language interpretation or special needs assistance can help. Individuals should feel comfortable talking to officials, which means that officials should be conscious of gender and age issues.

Using different channels
Beyond the meetings, there should be a mechanism for more people in the target community or the public to participate. Using websites and social media platforms for reaching out to more individuals and groups may be helpful.