Universiteit Hasselt - Knowledge in action


In our contemporary legal order, an increasing amount of mechanisms are being developed and maintained which allow citizens to participate in our legal order. These mechanisms, which may be found both in a private law and public law-context, may allow the citizen to (co-)decide on which legal rules are or will be applicable to him or her. Such participation rests, in each branch of law, on three fundamental pillars.

The first pillar concerns the manner in which citizens participate in the legal order. Here, active forms of participation may be distinguished from passive forms of participation. E.g. an action for annulment instituted by a citizen against (newly enacted) legislation before the Constitutional Court by an interest group, can be regarded as an active form of participation. The same holds true for referenda or plebiscites, where the citizen is effectively surveyed. Within this framework, such initiatives count as active forms of participation. However, jurisprudence which has developed over time, as a consequence of disputes between citizens, can be regarded as a passive form of participation by citizens.

The second pillar relates to the content of this participation in the legal order. The phenomenon of ‘participation’ cannot be interpreted in a restrictive manner. It does not only relate to participation in decision-making processes as such. Quite the contrary: the concept of participation also relates to the development of important jurisprudence through private disputes and the self-imposition of rights and duties through legal arrangements. Both differing and similar mechanisms may be uncovered in different legal branches, such as tax law, social law, criminal law, family law. For example, in many of these legal branches, citizens may regulate their own legal position through mediation. In all these cases, the citizen has a say in the determination of his or her own legal position. In this regard, a distinction can be made between mechanisms which operate on a macro-level, i.e. participation mechanisms which lead to the development, the alteration or the removal of generally binding laws, and mechanisms which operate on a micro-level, i.e. participation mechanisms which relate to the legal position of certain individuals, such as mediation or tax rulings.

The third pillar has as its object the underlying tensions within the participation-framework. Citizen participation in the legal order can be contextualized in a bottom-up approach of the legal order, and the legal design of society as a whole. The classic notion of state sovereignty may be contrasted with this approach as the latter notion is often related to a top-down approach and often leaves little room for various participation mechanisms.

During the fifth ACCA-Conference, the participation of citizens in the legal order will be elucidated and commented from various angles and perspectives. During the Conference, some of the following questions may be discussed:
   - Which participation mechanisms exist?
   - What do these mechanisms look like?
   - Do current participation mechanisms suffice? Can or should they be improved?
   - What is the situation in other countries?
   - How do these mechanisms relate to state sovereignty?
   - Are the actions of interest groups always legitimate?


09:00-09:45 Registration and reception
09:45-12:30 Welcome, speeches, panel discussion
12:30-13:15 Lunch
13:30-15:00 Presentations by conference participants (Pt. 1)
15:00-15:15 Coffee break
15:15-16:15 Presentations by conference participants (Pt. 2)
16:15-17:00 Keynote speech
17:00 Closing reception

Timing presentations