In recent years, trust in politics has been shrinking. The Permanent Citizen Dialogue in Ostbelgien aims at fighting this phenomenon: it intends to achieve the following objectives:
- actively involve citizens;
- make political processes comprehensible;
- strengthen the support of public decisions.
Through the participation in assemblies, citizens are given a deeper insight into the work of a politician: they get a better understanding of what it means to thoroughly inform themselves on a topic, to exchange arguments and finally, to agree on a text. The involvement of citizens in the political decision-making process should help increase the legitimacy of public decision-making and thus, ultimately strengthen the democratic institutions.
In autumn 2017, the Parliament of the German-speaking Community started – as a pilot project – a first Citizen Dialogue around the topic of childcare. Motivated by positive feedback from participants, it then developed the idea of making the Citizens' Dialogue permanent.
In spring 2018, they contacted the “G1000” – a group of experts experienced in citizen involvement – in order to discuss the implementation of this idea. In summer 2018, “G1000” and the “Foundation of future generations” invited notable Belgian and international experts to develop a model for permanent citizen involvement in the German-speaking Community – the so-called “Ostbelgien model”.
Based on this model, the Parliament then elaborated and voted in February2019 in favour of a law (decree) regarding the introduction of a permanent citizen involvement in the German-speaking Community, called “Dekret zur Einführung eines permanenten Bürgerdialogs in der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft”. Thus, Citizen Participation in Ostbelgien has its own legal basis.
Implementation has started in September 2019 with the appointment of the first Citizen Council.