Heads of states represent the whole population of their country, MPs the population of their constituencies, and Trade Unionists different types of workers. Civil society organisations are the only organisations that represent the interests of people that gather around specific characteristics: young and older people, women, children, people living in poverty, people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, migrants etc. These people are genuinely less heard than others. They might be voters or trade unionists but they have demands which are not necessarily taken up by political parties or trade unions. Therefore next to the social dialogue between trade unions and employers, there is a need for a civil dialogue that can enrich our representative democracies with participatory democracy.
In the social field, civil society organisations were set up to fight for social justice, either by providing services for people in need (e.g. shelters or food banks), or by organizing and channeling the voices of those that are often forgotten.
Following to a great extent the adoption of EU led austerity measures, we all witnessed the social unrest and demonstrations in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and the UK and in many other countries, reflecting the breakdown of trust in national and EU institutions and the democratic process.
Civil society organisations do not currently take part in structured dialogue and yet it is these groups who are directly affected by European decisions. Furthermore a proper civil dialogue at both EU and national level will reinforce legitimacy, accountability and adequacy of measures proposed and that is why we work on civil dialogue within the EU.