Agnieszka Pomaska of Poland participate in the IRI-hosted panel Democracy from the Bottom Up at the 5th World Movement for Democracy Assembly in Kyiv, Ukraine. The World Movement for Democracy, created by the National Endowment for Democracy in 1999, is a worldwide pro-democracy network initiated to build relationships and encourage collaboration between those working to promote democratic ideals.
Agnieszka Pomaska, deputy chair of the Gdansk City Council in Poland and chair of the Civic Education Development Center, shared her experiences in working with different groups of people and learning their needs and problems. She became a city councilor at the age of 22. Involving more young people dramatically enhances democratic performance, she said. Door-to-door campaigning taught her that people should be listened to and understood. Communication with people plays a key role in understanding them and getting helpful feedback. It is necessary to be in touch with people continuously and to respond to all e-mails, for instance. Communication via mobile phone is also very important. People feel more comfortable when they can directly call the person representing their interests. Meetings also play an important role because you can talk to many people at once interactively. It is very important to tell people the truth and to keep them informed, including about what you are doing, through the media. Educational programs help encourage citizens to get involved in the local self-government process. In Gdansk, there are public consultations on different issues before the Council makes a decision. A good, well-maintained, and regularly-updated Web site is also very important. Finally, Ms. Pomaska pointed out, Polish city mayors are now elected directly by citizens, not by city councils. In this way, the local regions have received more local powers.