The Budapest Declaration: Building European civil society through community development

A common statement created by delegates at the March 2004 Budapest conference, jointly organised by IACD, the Combined European Bureau for Social Development and the Hungarian Association for Community Development.

One hundred and thirty community workers, researchers, donors and policy-makers, and
representatives from government, civil society organisations and community groups, from 33 countries across the European Union and beyond, met March 25-28 2004 at an international conference, to prepare for the accession of ten new countries to the EU. The conference – focused on building civil society in Europe through community development – was sponsored by the International Association for Community Development, the Combined European Bureau for Social Development, and the Hungarian Association for Community Development under the patronage of the President of Hungary.
Community development is a way of strengthening civil society by prioritising the actions of communities, and their perspectives in the development of social, economic and environmental policy. It seeks the empowerment of local communities, taken to mean both geographical communities, communities of interest or identity and communities organising around specific themes or policy initiatives. It strengthens the capacity of people as active citizens through their community groups, organisations and networks; and the capacity of institutions and agencies (public, private and non-governmental) to work in dialogue with citizens to shape and determine change in their communities. It plays a crucial role in supporting active democratic life by promoting the autonomous voice of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. It has a set of core values/social principles covering human rights, social inclusion, equality and respect for diversity; and a specific skills and knowledge base.
Delegates attending the March 2004 Budapest conference, representing civil society
organisations, governments, donor agencies and community groups, acknowledge the priority now being given by the European Union to strengthen civil society and emphasise the important role which community development can play in supporting that process and
protecting the human rights of all. They request the EU, national, regional and local
governments – as appropriate – to commit themselves actively to build a socially and
economically inclusive, diverse, environmentally sustainable and socially just society, and to ensure the structures, policies and mechanisms are in place to support dialogue between the EU and members states on the one hand and civil society on the other. This will require both moral and practical support for community participation, and appropriate legal, institutional and material conditions, but with specific support for community development itself.
Delegates wish to stress the importance of community development in building mechanisms to promote the inclusion of all residents of Europe – whether permanent, seeking permanency or migrant. They reject both the increasingly explicit manifestations of racism and xenophobia and the implicit racism manifested in those current immigration policies, which lend credence to the notion of ‘Fortress Europe’. They also acknowledge the strengthening of social, cultural and economic life, which will be consequent on the enlargement of the EU.
Delegates wish to emphasise the importance of developing mechanisms which could facilitate the sharing of best practice both within the EU but also between the EU and those many countries and institutions outside the EU (including other European countries) where community development has played a significant role in addressing poverty and social exclusion, including in situations of conflict and peace-building. Finally, they also wish to stress the need to understand the differing ways in which poverty, social exclusion and marginalisation may impact upon cultural and national minorities, on migrants and on those living in rural as well as urban areas. Delegates emphasise that the practice of community development strives to endorse and give voice to minority perspectives on policy and practice development; the distinct experience of Black and Minority Ethnic communities should be an integral part of the development of policy and practice. A key conference objective was to agree a common statement on community
development in Europe, to be directed to the EU, national governments and other key
stakeholders. The following is the text of this agreed statement. The conference commends the Declaration to you and urges support for the proposals bellow. ….

Download the complete Budapest Declaration from here