National Conference: Citizen engagement in the parliamentary processes

National Conference: Citizen engagement in the parliamentary processes

14 October 2022, Tirana – Over the last two years when the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM) and the Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC) joined PACEP[1]’s efforts to build citizen demand for engaging with parliamentary decision-making.

During this period, we provided expertise on local issues to be followed up through a parliamentary procedure; introduced and implemented for the first time the deliberative polling exercise; trained civic stakeholders to better understand parliamentary activity and access points for the public; raised awareness of youth across the country. However, IDM and AHC experience entails also challenges and issues which could have been addressed differently. It is the full range of such experiences – the success and non – that make it worth an inclusive debate on lessons learned and strategies to move forward more effectively and more vigorously in consolidating open and participatory parliamentary decision-making.

Our research from the last year’s deliberative polling suggests that despite high levels of public distrust in institutions, the majority of Albanians show significant support for the consultation processes with citizens and interest groups, as well as for the need for an enabling regulatory environment on various forms of channeling citizens’ engagement to the parliamentary decision-making process. Furthermore, the Albanian Parliament is making efforts to engage with citizens more effectively and to adapt to the changes in society.

In order to seek ways to mobilize efforts and key stakeholders to consolidate public participation in parliamentary decision-making, IDM organized a national conference on October 14th in Tirana. The aim was to explore how citizens’ expectations are changing, and how MPs and parliamentary staff are responding as well as inform stakeholders about key principles and best practices of participation in parliamentary activity.

The event engaged international experts as guest speakers, including Ms. Edita Tahiri, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo, Mr. Imants Breidaks, Chief Executive Officer of ManaBalss.lv, and Mr. Stefanos Loukopoulos, Director of Vouliwatch Greece as well as MPs, parliamentary staff, policymakers, and local stakeholders and project beneficiaries.

The keynote speaker Ms. Tahiri focused on the crucial role of opposition and civil society in balancing powers between parliament and government. She noted that “while the consultation mechanism is good, it is insufficient. Governments tend to dominate over the parliamentary oversight role.”

The panel speakers and participants underlined a stronger focus should be placed on a more open, inclusive, transparent parliament, increased interaction with the wider public, as well as the availability of digital tools to successfully review civic initiatives.

Conference proceedings, conclusions, and recommendations which will be shared with participants and key partners as a basis for similar forums in the future. Click here to watch the live-streamed event.

This conference was held in the framework of the “Support to Parliament and Civic Education in Albania” PACEP, a project of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, implemented by the National Democratic Institute and OSCE Presence in Albania.