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Highlights from the MILE event in Brussels “Bridging the democracy gap”

How can we make political participation more inclusive and accessible? Last September 28 – jointly with UNITEE and New Women Connectors, and in collaboration with the European Parliament – INTEGRIM Lab engaged with civil society representatives and policymakers to explore how to foster civic engagement and political participation, especially by migrant individuals and communities.

Two interactive sessions organized by UNITEE and New Women Connectors highlighted the need to amplify migrant voices, promote equitable partnerships between migrant-led organizations and non-migrant-led organizations working on similar topics, recognize and remove specific barriers to entry, and work collaboratively. 

In the third session of the event, Davide Gnes (INTEGRIM Lab) brought attention to institutions raising the question of how the EU can best support civil society and promote local democracy and migrant inclusion.

On this topic, Luca Barani, who works in DG HOME’s Legal pathways and integration unit, encouraged the audience to always take into consideration the great and complex diversity of situations among EU countries, while stressing the need to center migrants’ agency when talking about political participation.

Adrien Licha, Network Coordinator of the European Association for Local Democracy ALDA, which advocates for local democracy, active citizenship and cooperation between local authorities and civil society, underlined the importance of building the trust of citizens and of adopting a multistakeholder approach. He addressed the question of the sustainability of policies when talking about local democracy and raised concerns on the risk of ‘citizen washing’, instead of focusing on concrete ways to make participative processes more effective and the policy circle clearer. 

Beatrice Tommasi, from INTEGRIM Lab, shared the results of the policy brief drafted in the context of the MILE project. She highlighted the added value of EU resources, which allow to design pilot projects, build multi stakeholder and migrant-inclusive partnerships, develop transnational networks and foster social capital for the municipality. In the brief, we recommend municipalities to participate in EU projects and EU-wide city networks to build knowledge, skills and political capital.

José Antonio Moreno Diaz, Migration and Asylum Lawyer as well as member of the European Economic and Social Committee, denounced the fact that political inclusion of migrants is for the most part not on the table of national governments. He stressed the key transformative role that granting voting rights to migrant communities would carry: it would push political parties to consider migrant residents as their constituency, and migrant persons to see themselves as recognized political actors. 

Finally, Safaa Charafi, an Architect, Urbanist and UN Independent Consultant, affirmed that “spaces are not neutral”: she underlined the transformative role of urban planning and the key role that cities and municipal actors have in shaping migrant integration.

You can read more about the outcomes of the various interactive sessions of the event in the articles drafted by UNITEE at the MILE project’s website and by New Women Connectors here

Mark your calendars for MILE’s final event, taking place on November 23 and 24 in Brussels! 
More information and registration here: