Democracy and Citizen Engagement

“Elections do not equal democracy.” Carlos Santiso, IDEA, June 2000 “Participation does not refer simply to voting… [but] requires that individuals have a voice in the decisions that affect them.” Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist, World Bank

The institutionalizing of a democratic electoral process in Iraq (Bush, USA) represents only the ‘form’ of democracy. It does not equate to the creation of a democratic culture and country. The ‘substance’ of democracy is the free and open engagement of citizens in conversation, exchange and meangingful participation in the various aspects, levels and decision-making processes of governance in their country.

To the quotes above, I would add: “Referendums do not equal democracy.”

After the 1995 Referendum in Quebec Canada, I was moved to organize People-to-People Search for Canada (an Open Space event), as an opportunity for ordinary citizens to participate in discussions on the future of Canada. I did not see the Quebec referendum process as a wholly democratic process because it excluded a vitally important stakeholder group from the decision-making process – the citizens of Canada outside Quebec. Beyond individual actions (writing letters, flying to Montreal), Canadian citizens were unable to participate in this crucial decision process which had the potential to dramatically affect their future forever.

Author: myriamlaberge

M.A. (Economics), Certified Professional Facilitator Founder & Managing Director