Although there is no universally accepted definition of active citizenship, it can be agreed upon that it refers to the involvement of individuals in the decision making processes by actively involving in the life of their communities, tackling issues, supporting the change or resisting it.
Oxford Dictionary defines active citizen as „a person who actively takes responsibility and initiative in areas of public concern such as crime prevention and the local community.“ Similarly, the Council of Europe, Education for Democratic Citizenship (2004) illustrates active citizen as „the one who develops the skills, knowledge and understanding to be able to make informed decisions about their communities and workplaces with the aim of improving the quality of life in these.“ Active citizenship generates a very high level of participation. It mobilizes citizens and creates bottom up approaches for public decision making. Active citizenship can also be a useful instrument against the top down development projects and policies.
However, it should be noted that „an active citizen is not necessary a good citizen“ meaning that an active citizen may not be morally or legally the most legitimate citizen or that he may not necessarily posses „good intentions“ or be „inclusionary“. Consequently, despite the fact that higher level of „active citizenship“ creates higher level of participation and democracy, it may not result in the most fair and just cities.
The Council of Europe, Education for Democratic Citizenship (2004) identifies some key characteristics of Active Citizenship, such as:
- Participation in the community (involvement in a voluntary activity or engaging with local government agencies)
- People are empowered to play a part in the decisions and processes that affect them, particularly public policy and services
- Knowledge and understanding of the political/social/economic context of their participation so that they can make informed decisions
- Able to challenge policies or actions and existing structures on the basis of principles such as equality, inclusiveness, diversity and social justice.
- Intro to Active Citizenship
- Methods, Activecitizenship.net
- European Charter of Active Citizenship