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Citizen Commissioner: Cultivating a democratic culture is a priority (video)

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    The three pillars that the Office of the Citizen Commissioner deals with – Interview of the Commissioner with the Cyprus News Agency

    The Citizen Commissioner spoke to the Cyprus News Agency (CYPE) about the importance of citizens' participation in society and the need for the Cypriot citizen to understand the importance he himself has for democracy and the State. Panagiotis Palates, while also presenting upcoming actions planned by his Office.

    In his interview with KYPE, Mr. Palates stated that the most important priority of his Office is ” the cultivation of democratic culture” noting that goalit is for the Cypriot citizen to realize that through his participation in the democratic processes he can influence and in the end determine his own future”.

    He pointed out the role of education and education for the cultivation of democratic culture, while he estimated that in the June elections (European elections, Municipal elections) the youth will come to the polls sending their messages.

    In his interview with KYPE, referring to the role of the Commissioner, Mr. Palates said that the Office essentially deals with three pillars. As he explained, the first pillar concerns the strengthening and assistance of voluntary organizations individually but also in a wider context such as the Pan-Cypriot Volunteer Coordinating Council (CCC) and other coordinating bodies.

    The second pillar, he said, is citizenship and “how we as a State strengthen social action and how we guide citizens to involve social action in their daily lives in order to combat social pathogenic phenomena such as racism and xenophobia”.

    The Citizen Commissioner added that the third pillarconcerns democratic participation saying that an effort is being made through the European guidelines to identify the democratic deficits that exist in Cyprus first of all at the institutional level, but also at the cultural level by preparing proposals, bills and actions in order “to try to close the black hole of democratic deficit which is a wider problem both in Europe and in the world”.

    When asked to say what is the most important priority he sets as Commissioner, Mr. Palates replied that it is em> “the cultivation of democratic culture”noting that the goal is for the Cypriot citizen to realize that only through his participation in the democratic processes – and I don't mean just on election day – can he influence and in the end determine his own future. Democracy, he continued, needs all its citizens and this is a basic principle of the democratic state.

    The citizen, he said, delegates his power to the politicians, through his vote, but in his daily life he must controls and the State is responsible for giving the citizen the tools to control the politicians and guide them in a framework of participatory democracy.

    “Democracy is a daily process, in which we must all participate,” said Mr. Palates adding that “democracy is co-formation, it is dialogue, it is the desire to work with people, to see their points of view and to co-decide on a common goal”. The goal, he continued, “is to politicize, not partisanize -and this is very clear-, society, starting from the youth”.

    In March the platform “Voice of the Citizen”

    In response to a question about the actions of his Office in order to further involve the citizens in the commons, Mr. Palates said that an important action is the “Citizen's Voice” platform, which will be implemented in March.

    He explained that this is an advisory voting platform for non-binding referendums, under the supervision of the Citizen's Office, through which questions will be asked which the citizen will be able to freely answer. The citizen, he continued, will be able to enter the platform and vote once for each issue that is raised by answering “yes” or “no” to questions regarding legislation and practices that will be implemented by the State.

    He revealed that the first vote will be on lowering the voting age and it will be a split vote on whether you “agree with lowering the voting age” and “whether you think it should be 17 or at 16 years old”.

    Mr. Palates mentioned that in collaboration with the Cyprus Youth Organization (ONEK) a corresponding platform has been prepared, which will only concern the youth, “Ekfrasis”, which will aim at the interactive communication of young people with the executive power and will include various applications, such as live broadcasts (live streaming) during which the President of the Republic himself, Ministers and Commissioners representing the executive power, on a specific day and time will connect live and receive questions in real time from young people of Cyprus.

    He also said that the Commissioner's Office has started a public consultation with all organizations that deal with citizenship, democratic participation and especially with young people who have a real interest in the political system and how it works.

    At the same time, he noted that the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth, ONEK, the academic community and “generally we have invited 27 agencies and presented them with an action plan which essentially concerns democratic consolidation” are participating in the public consultation. .

    “What we want is to create a program that will put even our students in the process of understanding today's democracy, its structures, its mechanisms and above all what is the result of their involvement,” said Mr. Palates remarking that “in general, I think the problem we face is that the political system in Cyprus has been discredited in terms of its credibility. The citizen considers that 'whether I get involved or not, it has no effect'”.

    The Cypriot citizen should appreciate the Republic of Cyprus

    Mr. Palates stated that “we want to implement a big plan under the slogan 'Believe in Citizens'” noting that the Cypriot citizen should appreciate the Republic of Cyprus.

    ” We are talking about a young democracy, compared to the rest of the major European democracies, which obviously faces the pathologies of all immature political systems, such as corruption, but also mechanisms that do not immediately perceive the needs and changes in the social environment,” said Mr. Palaces noting that this is why the system was discredited.

    He pointed out that the Cypriot citizen must realize that the Republic of Cyprus is a young republic, which has had both internal and external enemies for many years and has gone through struggles and sufferings historically to arrive today to exist and to be the protector and the promotion step of the Cypriot citizen.

    “Therefore, the Republic of Cyprus must be valued and respected by us citizens,” noted the Citizen's Commissioner, stating at the same time that “the State must give a real voice and role to the Cypriot citizen”.

    He added that the new generation is both educated and trained and has a very global perception of life, indicating that the Republic of Cyprus must find the mechanisms so that this world can be exploited, can have a say, a voice and can everyone to offer to society what they can, without isolating themselves.

    Structured Democratic Dialogue

    Mr. Palates noted that in this direction “we have prepared a very ambitious plan, with small actions and larger actions in a model of micro-cycles, where this step will be given to the Cypriot citizen”.

    He stated that the flagship of this action will be the Structured Democratic Dialogue model, which will be implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth. The goal, he continued, is for the said model to be implemented at least as a pilot to be tested from Primary Education to Secondary, and even Universities.

    He added that the Structured Democratic Dialogue is a specific process, “so that all involved in a specific environment to express opinions and shape the practice to be implemented, so that a problem can be corrected or we can reach the realization of a vision”.

    The process, he said, apart from practically being able to provide valuable information about anything that concerns an organization, starting with an elementary school, a high school or a university, educates the participants about the process of democracy.

    “We hope that by the end of March we will have completed the action plan regarding the Structured Democratic Dialogue with the topics I mentioned, such as equality, accessibility with the aim of democracy”, said the Citizen Commissioner and noted that each topic will be implemented , according to proportional to levels, i.e. in municipal education, for example, there will be a more simplified discussion.

    When asked about who and how they will conduct these discussions, Mr. Palates replied that there are organizations in Cyprus that are active and have the expertise to implement the model noting that it is with these organizations that the framework is currently being shaped.

    For the purposes of implementing the model, the intention, as stated by the Citizen's Commissioner, is to institute a committee at a central level, which will draw up the specific plan and subsequently, in collaboration with the University of Cyprus, the Ministry of Education, committees will be created per province that will effectively train teachers and professors.

    The youth will come to the polls in June, the Commissioner estimates

    Asked to assess whether there will be a youth turnout in the June polls, Mr. Palates said that “the whole society must come to the polls” and expressed the assessment that the youth will do so as well. “By not coming (to the ballot box), you essentially give someone else the right to decide something that concerns you in your place,” he noted.

    Asked if actions are being planned by the Office of the Citizen's Commissioner in order to convince voters, and especially young people, to go to the polls ahead of the elections, Mr. Palates replied that actions are being planned, mainly of an informative nature, but also specific actions in collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior, which is competently responsible for conducting the elections. He noted that a communication campaign aimed at raising awareness and mobilizing citizens to participate in the elections has already been launched.

    At the same time, he pointed out that “because we really need to go to a more real time and environment to convince society to participate in the democratic processes, we are planning five essentially large provincial events, one for each province of free Cyprus”.

    < p>Mr. Palates noted that in these meetings information will be provided and the tools offered by the Citizen's Commissioner's Office for direct communication with the executive power will be presented.

    “They will be open, obviously, to the whole world and we hope they will be successful. Probably, the President of the Republic, Nikos Christodoulidis, will also participate, to give weight to the fact that it is a double election”, he said.

    He also mentioned that in this context because communication is always easier through mass media and social media, in recent years it has already started cooperation with organizations such as Support CY.

    The Citizen Commissioner reminded that there was recently a student debate with the President of the Republic and in it senior students from public and private high schools from all over Cyprus took part, with the students asking questions about the Cyprus issue, the labor market, education and issues economy.. He stated that within this framework, Support CY is preparing a series of corresponding events in which Ministers, Commissioners and others will participate.

    He also mentioned that the possibility of making some podcasts (online radio or television broadcasts) where “we will give a platform to new candidates horizontally, mainly for the European elections, which traditionally face the biggest problem in terms of voter turnout”.

    When asked what is the next action that plans the Citizen's Commissioner's office, Mr. Palates replied that within March the dates for the “Citizen's Day” will be announced in the provinces where the work of the office will be presented, while and an open dialogue, probably also with the President of the Republic, on matters concerning democratic participation and citizenship.

    Source: cyprustimes.com

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