Active citizenship is the glue that keeps society together. Democracy doesn’t function properly without it, because effective democracy is more than just placing a mark on a voting slip.
You can read here 25 examples of how our members engage in active citizenship and get an idea how you can act as well!
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Pedro Augusto Almeida Freire has devoted most of his adult life to founding and participating in a large number of associations. And through it, he has accumulated a vast array of skills and expertise in trade, commerce, and education – skills that he now shares with his university students and with his former colleagues. He collaborated on a book, The Code of Ethics, on active ethics for commerce in Portugal. It was an endeavour, he says, that took a lot of patience, spending a considerable amount of time interviewing and discussing the subject with various stakeholders. The book is now part of the university curriculum.
As Vice-President of the Confederation of Portuguese Commerce and Services, I am involved in lots of activities. I give expertise and counsel which take up quite a bit of my time. It is a contribution to society,” he says, adding that the unfortunate victims are his family, who do not see enough of him. “One-third of my time is for me, one-third I give back to society, to other people, and this is true as well for my activities in general,” he explains. The rest is for his family.
He is a member of several associations in Portugal. He sits on the management board of Lisbon’s School of Commerce and is a member of the National Education Council. Higher education puts him in immediate contact with a lot of young people, who hold the key to Portugal’s future. He sees to it, as internship coordinator at the University of Lusophone Humanities and Technologies, that young people get a decent start on a career path. But their futures are not always guaranteed. Few companies are hiring and many remain unemployed despite years of education.
In his EESC opinion on the ‘Retail market and monitoring report’ published in January 2011, Mr Almeida Freire writes that the risk of long-term unemployment remains high because the current ﬁnancial crisis has “triggered closure, restructurings, mergers and take-overs of commercial activities across Europe”. For instance, the top ﬁve grocery retailers made up more up than 70 % of the market in 2005. The near monopoly has negative knock-on eﬀects on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
SMEs, according to Mr Almeida Freire’s opinion, “play a fundamental role in terms of employment, value creation as well as life of rural areas and city centres”. In these moments of ﬁnancial hardship, active citizenship becomes even more important.
Active citizenship in my opinion means taking responsibility for our own destiny. We cannot just let the government decide everything for us. It is important that when we develop certain skills that we also use them for the beneﬁt of society,” says Mr Almeida Freire. At the Lusophone University of Humanities and Technologies, where he also teaches as a visiting professor, he often discusses his experiences with his students.
The textbooks provide valuable facts and knowledge he explains. But his experiences supplement this knowledge. The students, as a result, become more interested and engaged in the subject. “I tell the students about some key decisions in Portugal where I was involved. My students like to hear about what really happened,” he says, adding that he has, for instance, negotiated on national social security issues. “Students prefer classes where we discuss these experiences more than what is written in the textbooks.”
Taking control over one’s own destiny may indeed be a form of active citizenship. But so is being a professor, explains Mr Almeida Freire. Sharing knowledge, sharing skills, and helping young people to get a better chance in life takes dedication, time and a real desire to make a diﬀ erence – not only for Portugal, but for Europe.