Raising Citizens' Awareness of European Research for the sustainable City of Tomorrow
Citizen participation in policy-making is of major importance for modern democracies. The failure to involve citizens in decisions which affect their daily lives contributes to the growing dissatisfaction with the European Union and political institutions more generally. This phenomenon can be witnessed across all EU Member States.
The RAISE Citizens' Conference set a sign in the opposite direction. For the first time, with the support of the RAISE project, a panel of 26 European citizens, randomly selected from each of the EU Member States (except Bulgaria) was involved in the review and evaluation of acceptability and practicality of EU research on sustainable urban development, funded under the "City of Tomorrow and Culture Heritage" Key Action of the 5th RTD Framework Programme. The conference process consisted of three two-day workshops, on the basis of which the citizen representatives produced a Citizens’ Declaration on the City of Tomorrow, which was presented to the European Commission and Parliament in Brussels on December 5th. Participants were chosen at random from an e-mail call for applicants, and were provided with information on research, through reports and presentations made at the first two workshops, under the headings of urban governance, sustainable transport, sustainable built Environment and cultural heritage. Communicating via email and an on-line discussion forum, and at a third workshop, the participants worked together to produce the Citizens’ Declaration (available in all EU languages at http://www.raise-eu.org/.
The RAISE Citizens' Conference was therefore a way to establish a 'public space' for European citizens, to discuss possible options for a better quality of life in urban areas stemming from EU research on urban sustainability.
The follow-up RAISE-PLUS project made a further step, testing the approach at local level, in the town of Lefkara, Cyprus, where the panel of 26 European citizens met in October 2007 local citizens to discuss how EU research on urban sustainable development may help to face local sustainability challenges. This local conference added a new dimension in the process, because the discussion of EU research and policy recommendations, as filtered down in the Citizens Declaration, and their implications in the local context, has contributed to trigger in Lefkara a process of active citizens participation to build together a more lively and sustainable "city of tomorrow". This experience can be replicated elsewhere.