Agora Arab Digest- January 2015 - The evolving relationship between citizens and parliaments in the Arab world - The case of increasing Civil Society Engagement

More countries than ever before are working to build democratic governance. Their challenge is to develop institutions and processes that are more responsive to the needs of ordinary citizen. A fundamental aspect of a democratic state is the right of its citizens to participate in decision-making processes. The success of development and participatory governance depends on both a robust state and an active civil society with healthy levels of civic engagement. Empowered and active citizenship is an end in itself: essential for inclusive growth and national ownership. Civic engagement refers to that process whereby citizens or their representatives are able to engage and influence public processes, in order to achieve civic objectives and goals . Strengthening the pathways through which parliamentarians are able to engage with grass root constituents is thus an important component of broader political transparency and accountability initiatives. Moreover, the role of the legislature as the elected representatives of the citizenry indicates that they have a particular responsibility to act as a channel for the voices of the population in the decision-making process – by listening to, synthesizing and conveying views expressed at the constituency level but also through parliamentary hearings.

This digest will look at the role of “civil society” and its relation to the parliamentary process and how can it boost parliamentary representation specifically.

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