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Call: The impact of inequalities on democracy

Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 2 - Destination 1: Innovative research on democracy and governance"

Democracies are more fragile and more vulnerable than in the past. The Freedom in the World Report (2020) shows that democracies across the globe are in crisis[[]]. At the same time, various European surveys show declining levels of trust in the political institutions of democracy.[[W. Merkel, Past, Present and Future of Democracy - Policy Review, 2019:]] In terms of legitimacy, there are signs of a potential shift from governance based on expertise, multilateralism and consensual policymaking towards majoritarianism, unilateralism, nationalism, populism and polarization. Research on the past and present challenges and tensions in democracy can help to better understand and strengthen democracy, its resilience and stability. It will foster democracy’s further development with a view to enhancing representation, participation, openness, pluralism, tolerance, the effectiveness of public policy, non-discrimination, civic engagement, the protection of fundamental rights and the rule of law. These reflect the European Union’s values as defined in Article 2 of the EU Treaty[[Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union, Title 1 “Common Provisions”, Article 2: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail”.]].

Expected impact:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impacts of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan:

  • Democratic governance is reinvigorated by improving the accountability, transparency, effectiveness and trustworthiness of rule-of-law based institutions and policies and through the expansion of active and inclusive citizenship empowered by the safeguarding of fundamental rights.

The implementation of the research activities of the destination will assist in the re-invigoration and modernisation of democratic governance. The aim is to develop evidence-based innovations, policies and policy recommendations, as well as institutional frameworks that expand political participation, social dialogue, civic engagement, gender equality and inclusiveness. Activities will also contribute to enhancing the transparency, effectiveness, accountability and legitimacy of public policy-making. They will help improving trust in democratic institutions, safeguarding liberties and the rule of law and protecting democracy from multidimensional threats. Rich historical, cultural and philosophical perspectives, including a comparative dimension, will set the frame for soundly understanding present developments and help to map future pathways. In the medium to long term, the knowledge, data, scientifically robust recommendations and innovations generated will enhance decision making on all aspects relevant to democratic governance. As the Destination aims directly at citizen engagement and at producing lasting change, it is of particular importance that the research and innovation actions promote the highest standards of transparency and openness. When applicable, it is encouraged to open up the process, criteria, methodologies and data to civil society in the course of the research.

Link Link to Programme
The impact of inequalities on democracy
Description of call
"The impact of inequalities on democracy"

Expected Outcome

Projects should contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Comprehensive evidence base to explain the long-term impact of various inequalities (socio-economic, gender, disability, spatial, ethnic, etc.) on political participation, democratic quality and stability.
  • Development, validation and piloting of strategies, policies and action plans for tackling inequalities while boosting trust and resilience at different levels of governance, including at the local level.
  • Strategies, regulations and policies to support the inclusion of marginalised groups in the democratic and participatory process.


Citizens, especially in certain social groups, have been experiencing an erosion in living standards over the past decades. This process has persisted during the financial recovery and is likely to worsen following the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, social mobility stalled and the impact of inequalities increased. This has reinforced sentiments of public distrust towards the political institutions of democracy. European research suggests that a shrinking of private and public resources due to economic downturns can lead to disenchantment from politics, and even to a general deterioration of the rule of law. Moreover, persistent inequality has lifelong effects for children and undermines the ability of the more socially vulnerable and excluded to participate meaningfully in the political process, while economically powerful actors gain a greater influence. Social, economic, spatial, ethnic or gender inequalities often translate into political inequalities, especially if different areas of inequality (e.g. in economic opportunities, access to education, health and social security) are overlapping. There is a danger of having a long-lasting fissure in the egalitarian ethos of democracy produced by the almost permanent political exclusion of wide social groups. Particular attention should be paid to children and youth, who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of recession, and for whom the structuring effects of inequality and unequal opportunities may have lasting consequences in terms of education, work and life chances.

Proposals are expected to address some of the following points: To take stock of long-term trends in and types of inequalities (socio-economic, gender, age, spatial, digital gaps, ethnic, linguistic, etc.), as well as to identify the sources of these inequalities and the way they intersect. Proposals should model the relation between inequalities and levels of political trust in European societies and the emergence of protest movements and populist discourses, including in their national, transnational and spatial dimensions. What set of policy actions can enhance equality and political engagement amongst the socially excluded and vulnerable, including children and youth? The processes that allow or prevent these groups’ interests and demands from entering the political agenda should be examined. Research should relate different kinds of policies (economic, access to education, housing, employment, etc.) and the role of public services, including digital ones, to levels of democratic legitimacy and trust among different social groups, including with a spatial perspective (e.g. rural vs urban). It should also relate the structure of political representation (e.g. how much are governments, parties, parliaments, etc. representative of different social categories; the discourses of major political agents and their social relevance) to levels of political engagement and democratic legitimacy.

Based on the evidence collected and analysed, proposals should develop validation and piloting of strategies, policies and actions to tackle inequalities and to reinforce the inclusion of marginalised groups in the democratic and participatory process, including increased involvement of marginalised groups in the creation of digital public services. Active involvement of citizens and socially innovative approaches are strongly encouraged.

Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Community Integration, European Citizenship, Shared Services, Administration & Governance, Art & Culture, Cultural Heritage, History, Media, Equal Rights, Human Rights, People with Disabilities, Social Inclusion, Justice, Safety & Security, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Demographic Change, Migration, Children & Youth, Education & Training, Employment & Labour Market
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Eligible applicants Education and Training Centres, Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, Research Institution, Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, International Organization, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), NGO / NPO, Public Services, National Government, Other, Start Up Company, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Association
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State; and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.
Further info

Proposal page limits and layout:

The application form will have two parts:

  • Part A to be filled in directly online  (administrative information, summarised budget, call-specific questions, etc.)
  • Part B to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system

Page limit - Part B: 45 pages

Type of Funding Grants
Financial details
Expected EU contribution per projectThe Commission estimates that an EU contribution of between EUR 2.00 and 3.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of a proposal requesting different amounts.
Indicative budgetThe total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 9.00 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and Innovation Actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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