Democracy in action – German system accomplishment
The Federal Republic of Germany has a stable democracy and a strong economy with relatively sound public finances and a high standard of living. German society is largely tolerant and peaceful.
One of the factors that have contributed to this is the functioning political participation of the population. The issue of civic participation has recently attained prominence on the political agenda, against the backdrop of electoral protests surrounding major infrastructure projects such as Stuttgart 21, the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link and other major projects in Germany and other countries.
Democracy is an essential prerequisite for a life of dignity and freedom. However, free and fair elections are not the only fundamental principle of democracy. Citizens must also have the right and opportunity to express their interests and to participate in political decision-making and decision-making processes between election dates – a mechanism that we take for granted in Germany today, but one which represents an accomplishment that many countries have not yet achieved.
Political participation becomes possible if democratic institutions (e.g. parliaments) are strengthened at state level and formal structures for participation are established (e.g. through participatory decision-making processes). At the same time, democratic principles and procedures must be anchored at the social level. This includes strengthening civil society as a mouthpiece and educator for the population and improving access to information.
German Development Cooperation (DC) promotes democracy as a value and a bastion of political order in the partner countries. Support is provided for the establishment of formal structures and democratic institutions, as well as the social anchoring of democratic principles and procedures. Free, general and secret elections are the most important expression of the political will of citizens. They justify the legitimacy of elected representatives and political decisions – and for sanctioning state action, they are the strongest mechanism available to citizens in democratic systems. Our parliaments and local councils are important contact points for promoting democracy. They serve as a link between the state and society, as well as a platform for discussion and decision-making on issues of importance to society as a whole. Democracy and good governance cannot be realised without a parliament that effectively fulfils the core functions of representation, legislation and control.
Ongoing dialogue and accountability between policy-makers and citizens is critical. In addition to formal participation procedures such as petitions and citizens’ decisions, a new variety of informal dialogue formats has emerged in Germany in recent years, the importance of which should not be underestimated; these formats include advisory councils and roundtables, model development processes and future workshops, civic budgets and participatory change projects, e.g. in land use planning or in the development of municipal and regional sustainability strategies. In particular, in order to achieve the goals for sustainable development (SDGs) of Agenda 2030, it is imperative to foster an intensive exchange and closer cooperation between politics, administration, business, research and civil society; only then can pragmatic and regionally-adapted solutions be found and implemented.
The aim of the Advisory Fund for Structural and Regulatory Policy Reforms (FSRP) is to make German experience with political participation available to partner countries and to support these countries in their transformation towards greater political participation of the population. FSRP instruments are expert missions, study trips, dialogue formats and education and training to promote knowledge transfer and exchange in the field of political participation.