Unmasking citizenwashing: the dos and don’ts of participation

This collaborative symposium on "citizenwashing", held by the Civil Society Organisations' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee and the European Environmental Bureau, aims to develop an understanding of the concept of citizenwashing and formulate recommendations to ensure public participation processes do not fall into the trap of misrepresentation.

The momentum for citizen involvement in democratic decision-making has never been greater. In a drive to revitalise democracy, citizen participation has been growing across the EU. At the same time, more citizens and civil society organisations (CSOs) are becoming aware of the need to influence policies directly, especially in environmental and climate matters.

Unfortunately, opportunities for direct citizen engagement sometimes fall short of meaningful participation and risk taking the form of box-ticking exercises. When public authorities or politicians claim they have citizens' support but the participative processes used to justify this claim have been poorly planned or executed, or their outcomes are disregarded, this constitutes citizenwashing.

Citizenwashing has emerged as a critical issue with potentially far-reaching consequences, including the disillusionment of people with public participation processes and potentially a growing distrust of democracy and the legitimacy of the decision-making processes. Identifying citizenwashing can help us ensure that public participation processes meet the highest standards and are truly meaningful.

Objective: The discussion will focus on combining the input of experts in public participation with the voices and recommendations of civil society. The symposium will help to identify the main characteristics of citizenwashing and explore its various forms and manifestations. Both large-scale aspects and more granular examples will be examined, with the help of activists who often bear the brunt of countering citizenwashing claims. This symposium will also facilitate discussion on effective strategies and solutions to combat citizenwashing and ensure meaningful public participation. The event will be followed up with conclusions and recommendations collected throughout the discussions.

Target group: The symposium will bring together experts in political science, academics and researchers, European CSOs, environmental NGOs and policymakers. 

Come and discuss this topic with us!

The symposium will be held in a hybrid format with EN-FR interpretation.

For in-person and online registration please follow this linkDeadline Friday (10 Nov)


Biographies of the speakers