Consultation on Reinventing Democracy in Intermediary Cities

IOPD has supported the organization of a UCLG consultation session towards the Second International Forum on Intermediary Cities.

UCLG is organizing the Second World Forum of Intermediary Cities on 4-8 October 2021, hosted by Kütahya.This Forum will be an opportunity to bring forward the challenges that the Intermediary Cities have faced during the pandemic and the key principles, recommendations and common solutions that can commonly help building a green and resilient recovery, while drawing together the lines of the new era post-COVID. The preparation process includes a series of consultations. The first of these sessions took place on April 30 on the Human Capital of Resilience, focusing on "Reinventing Local Democracy".


In words of the UCLG Secretary General Emilia Saiz: "We have come to realise the deeper transformations that we need, and the importance of the concept of proximity and community engagement, for transformation of governance systems and renewal of democracy, transformation in relationship with the planet and the way we relate to the world and some of the complex emergencies we need to manage."

On local democracy renewal

Democracies are suffering a crisis due to increasing levels of  polarization, misinformation, mistrust towards politicians and institutions. All this is aggravated by the pandemic, where authoritarian and recentralizing temptations have re-emerged. Local democracy should not fall victim to conditions of the pandemic. The local level provides a meaningful platform to address many of these issues: to renew trust in institutions, cohesion at the community level and co-creation between residents and their representatives.

Intervention of the Mayor of Valongo José Manuel Ribeiro

About the theme, one of the ideals of democratic political systems is citizen participation, the idea of participation over time and in a different context. There is an urgent need to think and rethink our assumptions on representation and the role of citizens. In today's society, it's a priority to address growing disengagement from democracy. To understand what motivates dissatisfied citizens, it's necessary to bring public administration closer to the citizens, either by proximity networks and investing in full citizenship, peace resilience, on empowerment of our citizens to participate without depending on others. Particular emphasis should be devoted to addressing the needs of the youth, women, migrant residents and residents at risk of vulnerability, who tend to participate less in the political process. To understand problems, successes, to be the best allies of good local governments. Participatory planning is also a way to rethink policies and to face challenges with a bottom-up approach.

Open the way to participation, it is a way to legitimize systems. We need to treat our citizens as "super" citizens, that are autonomous and allies to governance. Municipalities must work as a democratic school and anti-corruption and openness must also serve to rebuild trust and confidence. This is the best way to promote a renewed social contract from the local level, based on accessible institutions and an inclusive notion of citizenship.

Local elected officials are temporarily responsible for, but not owners of the process. Democracy is a popular concept, but believing in democracy is not enough, we need to care for it every day, with words but with strong actions.

In order to reinvent democracy, we must include youth and put gender equality at the centre of the deliberation and decision process. Finally, we must advocate to ensure that national legislation does not block the democratic innovation initiatives launched by many local governments. 


Concept note of the session

Videos of the session