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Civic engagement and governance

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Abstract:

Civic engagement allows people to express their voice and to contribute to the political functioning of their society. In turn, in well‐functioning democracies, civic engagement shapes the institutions that govern people's lives. While civic engagement and governance are essential for democracies, they are also very difficult to measure. This chapter presents some limited evidence, and emphasises the need for a better conceptual foundation for these concepts and for their measurement. The indicators included provide information about the possibility for citizens to express their voices in political processes, on some aspects of the quality of governance, and on people's satisfaction with public institutions. Even if these indicators are far from ideal, this chapter identifies some important patterns. First, while levels of voter turnout vary across countries, most OECD countries experienced declining participation rates over the last few decades. Second, the shift towards greater transparency and consultation in rule‐making has not translated into higher civic engagement. Third, even if all OECD citizens enjoy fundamental civic rights, they do not necessarily exercise them effectively, particularly in the case of the poor, the less educated and the youth. Overall, these patterns are important as they point to shortcomings in democratic institutions, and to a gap between how citizens and elites perceive the functioning of democratic systems.

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: October 1, 2011

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