Learn-Participate-Protect the Environment: Empowering the participation of citizens, especially the youth, in environmental decision-making

The “Learn-Participate-Protect the environment” project concludes with 28 training seminars on empowering citizens, especially the youth, in decision-making, more than 1300 participants and a new report on public consultations. Tools, good practices and recommendations for citizen empowerment emerged from the project, implemented by iSea and Τhe Green Tank.

This decade is the most crucial for tackling key environmental issues and moving towards a sustainable future. To address these issues effectively, the participation of citizens, especially the youth, in decision-making is pivotal.

With the goal to empower and shield citizens’ participation in processes related to the creation and implementation of environmental policies in Greece, iSea and Green Tank enacted the project “Learn-Participate-Protect the Environment” (2021-2024). The climate crisis, biodiversity loss and marine plastic pollution were the key pillars of this project.

In total, we carried out as part of the project:

  • 28 seminars, both online and in person, in 7 cities across Greece, aiming to inform active citizens and young people about the latest scientific data and political developments around the three thematics of the project, the information tools and means of citizen intervention – and especially advocacy – as well as the power of volunteering. A total of 1376 participants attended these seminars.
  • An online event with the participation of representatives of the European Commission Representation in Greece ahead of the European Elections 2024, aiming at evaluating the previous term of office and the challenges that the next one will face regarding the implementation of the European Green Deal.
  • Continuous information on political developments related to the project’s thematics and relevant material created through posts in the project’s Facebook group, which numbers more than 1600 members.

“The key issue that emerged from these seminars was the participants’ need to look for ways to participate, or seek alternative ways of intervention from those they had already tried, to address environmental issues in local level! We sought to encourage the people we met to use their knowledge and build their skills, so that their already existing interest transforms into action for the environment,” said Anastasia Charitou from iSea.

In addition, recognizing public consultations as one of the most reliable and effective ways for citizens to participate in policy-making, a report titled “12 years of public consultations on the environment through OpenGov: Citizen participation and the opinion of young people” was produced. This report presents the analysis and evaluation of available data from OpenGov and the findings of a targeted survey on the participation of young people (17-34 years old) in public consultations, carried out in cooperation with qed social and market research.

The report shows that public consultations on the environment constitute 33.8% of the consultations conducted through OpenGov.gr, highlighting that the environment is a central axis of developments in the political arena. However, they account for only 22.8% of the total comments submitted. Moreover, their duration is not stable, with 57.4% lasting up to 14 days, while 61.1% are not accompanied by material justifying the regulation in question and analyzing its consequences.

As far as young people are concerned, 8% say that they have participated at least once in a public consultation, with only 3% of young people answering that their participation was on environmental issues.

The assessment of the results reveals shortcomings and problems in public consultation processes. Combined with a lack of information and understanding about public consultations, the consultation processes create dissatisfaction and prejudice, particularly among young people, discouraging their participation in them.

Despite the distrust expressed by young people about the way public consultations are conducted, their attitude is not condemning. 1 in 3 young people say that they are in favor of participating in a future consultation on environmental issues.

“Seeking to increase the likelihood of young people participating in a future consultation, we recorded their opinion, looked at good practices and came up with concrete recommendations for the conduction of public consultations. If adopted by the State, they can enhance the participation of stakeholders and all citizens in public consultations in general, and not only on the environment”, said Ioli Christopoulou from The Green Tank.

Among the proposals in the conclusion of the report are:

  • implementing a preliminary consultation at the initial stage of policy development,
  • upgrading OpenGov.gr as a central and single hub where consultations of all state actors will be gathered,
  • wide and timely communication of forthcoming consultations and their launch,
  • establishing a stable and uniform duration of consultations,
  • providing easy-to-understand supporting material for all consultations,
  • functional upgrading of the hub to enhance its accessibility; and
  • mandatory consultation report.

The results of the “Learn-Participate-Protect the environment” project and the report “12 years of public consultations on the environment through OpenGov: Citizen participation and the opinion of young people” were presented at the closing event of the project on Monday 29/4/2024 in Thessaloniki.

You can find the report “12 years of public consultation on the environment through OpenGov: Citizen participation and the opinion of young people” here in English. The report has been sent to the relevant Ministries in order to communicate our proposals for the improvement of the consultation processes and the increase of youth participation in them.

Watch a short video (3 minutes animation) on public consultations here.

Find more information on the project here.

More information:

iSea is an Environmental Organization, founded in 2016 in Thessaloniki. Its main objectives include the protection of aquatic ecosystems, raising awareness on the impacts of climate change on aquatic ecosystems and the promotion of sustainable development.

The Green Tank is an independent, non-profit think tank founded in 2018 that formulates policy solutions for a sustainable future, with actions that address the triptych of sustainable development: environment – economy – society.

The project “Learn-Participate-Protect the environment” is implemented within the Active citizens fund program, by iSea and its partner The Green Tank.

Active Citizens Fund in Greece is supported through a € 15m grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as part of the EEA Grants 2014 – 2021 program. The program aims to develop the sustainability and capacity of the civil society sector in Greece, and to strengthen its role in promoting and safeguarding democratic procedures, active citizenship, and human rights. The Fund Operator for the Active Citizens Fund in Greece is Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with SolidarityNow. Read more here: www.activecitizensfund.gr.