Democratic culture is defined as the desire and ability of individuals in a population to participate actively, individually and together, to the government of public affairs affecting them. The existence of a democratic culture within a population is characterized by the active contribution, effective and in duration, of members of civil society to development of : the common good, the terms of “living together” and the construction of collective decisions.
A democratic culture rests on the existence with the persons of forms of autonomy of thought and action. However, the contribution of civil society members is not limited to individual plan. It requires the development of dynamic interactions (structured or spontaneous) between members of civil society and of adapted forms to “act together” and co-responsibility, for the construction and maintenance of the common good.
Sustainable development is closely linked to the development of democratic culture. This is particularly necessary in more and more contexts that are marked by the complexity and interdependence of issues and actors (environment, health, safety, welfare, territorial development, scientific & technical development, …). These contexts are characterized by increasing difficulty in achieving sustainable collective choices building on traditional forms of coordination based on the representation of the general interest and on the scientific expertise.
The development of democratic culture means such as the condition for a better consideration of the common good in the exercise of democratic forms of representation and government, as in economic activities and scientific & technical development. The plurality and diversity of individuals and groups within society is, moreover, an essential resource, that must be mobilized to understand and deal with the questions posed to our society in the view of sustainable development, that highlights the example of the Aarhus Convention in the field of the environment.
The development of democratic culture is not straightforward. It is based on spontaneous and autonomous forms of engagement of civil society stakeholders. But it faces many obstacles in often highly technical process expertise and decision that are not designed to support and welcome the contribution of these people and these groups. It requires the creation of a favorable environment throughout the life of people, particularly in education forms that allow the emergence of this democratic culture. It assumes a rise in competence of actors in society, their access to sources of expertise and is part of the prospect of a lasting presence of civil society in the governance of public affairs. It must be actively supported, accompanied and encouraged by public and private institutions that develop their activities in society. It involves experimentation with democratic and cooperative forms, depending on the needs of each context. It is never definitive and must constantly redeploy in new contexts as and extent of changes in life.