Time, participation, and democracy

Local and Regional Time Agenda

Time and civic involvement determine the cadence of democratic participation. A democratic society thrives on active citizens, who need time to understand issues, engage in conversations, and contribute with ideas. This temporal component is subject to complex dynamics that can either foster or hinder involvement.

At the heart of democratic citizenship lies the implicit right to time — an inherent right premised on the idea that individuals deserve the temporal freedom to engage in civic life without compromising personal responsibilities and well-being. Ensuring this right, and that every citizen has the temporal resources necessary to participate, is key to an inclusive democracy. However, time continues to be distributed unevenly. A closer look at the most time-deprived segments of society reveals a grim reality. The engagement of women, who often bear domestic and caregiving burdens unequally, is limited. Similarly, people from lower socio-economic backgrounds who grapple with economic pressures experience time scarcity, which impedes their participation.

This Agenda provides time policies to inspire local and regional governments seeking to better place time as an essential element for democracy. It gives visibility to implementable practices from various realities, from big cities to rural areas, and includes metropolitan and regional dimensions.

Preface to the Agenda

Time management and citizens’ participation: two sides of the same coin
“The intersection of time and participation is a pivotal factor that can hinder engagement and impede the realization of effective democracy. Countless instances illustrate the critical role time plays in shaping participation [...] Time holds immense significance in enhancing the quality and balance of our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened the focus on how we evaluate and manage our time and its effect on our work, leisure, relaxation, and precious moments spent with loved ones.”
Antonella Valmorbida
Secretary General of ALDA, European Association for Local Democracy
Time, participation, and democracy
“From the perspective of citizens’ participation in politics and active involvement in collective decision-making, individual free time is, indeed, a necessary prerequisite. But under no circumstances may we remove its collective dimension. The most basic precondition of a truly democratic society, i.e., one where all citizens can collectively decide on their common affairs, is the availability of ‘free time in common’. In the absence of such time, how can citizens actively participate in deliberative processes and turn individual views into shared positions on common affairs?”
Pedro M. Rey-Araújo
Researcher at University of Santiago de Compostela
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