The International Observatory on Participatory Democracy (IOPD) is a space open to all cities in the world and all associations, organizations and research centers interested in learning about, exchanging impressions and applying experiences of participatory democracy on a local scale with the aim of deepening the roots of democracy in municipal government.
The network was created in 2001 within the framework of the European Commission's URB-AL programme for decentralized cooperation. It was officially constituted in November 2001 during the 1st Annual Conference of the IOPD in Barcelona, where its internal operating regulations were approved. Since 2006 the IOPD has coordinated with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), at present the IOPD is contributing to provide local government's innovative knowledge in the specific area of citizens' participation.
In November 2011 the IOPD decided to recover and place emphasis on its original goal of becoming a space for the production of knowledge and the exchange of useful experiences for the towns and cities that make up the network. Therefore the OIDP assumed the challenge of serving as a reflection in matters of participatory democracy at a worldwide level, in order to innovate and to recommend specific policies to public administrations, preferably local, throughout the world and to make the exchange of experiences its main working base.
In order to fulfil that challenge IOPD provides incentives for knowledge in the field of participatory democracy at the local level thanks to the following activities and projects:
- Every year since it was created a different local government has been hosting the Presidency of the network for a period of 12 months. Every one of these local governments, which assume the responsibility to move forward on participatory democracy discussion or share expertise in this field, are committed to organize an international conference.
- The OIDP encourages the "Best Practice in Citizens' Participation" Distinction to recognize those innovative experiences and ideas in the area of participative democracy that promote participation and involvement of citizens in processes of elaborating and implementing public policies.
- Work groups Through the debate we aim to promote instruments and strength the exercise of an active citizenship in the discussion, decision and implementation of public policies.
- Establishing relationships with other international organizations and seeking synergies with them.
- Diversifying the composition of the network's members to reach as much as possible to all the cities and regions in the world and decentralizing the network structure.
- Reactivating the network of Local Observatories for Participatory Democracy. The project was originally included within the framework of the European Commission's URB-AL programme for decentralized cooperation. Its main goal is to create local observatories in a number of European and Latin American cities to identify, evaluate and orient the development of different forms of participatory democracy and thereby to help direct the course of experiences that are under way.
- Improving the web and its environment in order to provide network members, in the quickest and most accessible way, with the latest updates in the production of knowledge.