International Conference on Participatory Democracy in Prague
Preliminary term: June or September 2011
The word Participatory Democracy means to us both the best known form of Direct Democracy - Citizen Initiative and Referendum - and structured Citizen Deliberation - Planning Cells, Citizen Juries and Scientific Deliberative Polling. At the Conference, we intend to discuss ways to combine both these approaches into one single democratic process. In Europe, the best known model are the Planning Cells, conceived and practiced during several decades at the University of Wuppertal and elsewhere. The procedure is the following: Random selection of a few citizens who, assisted by two process guides, discuss, during a few days, a given problem and then put forward a recommendation to solve it. So far, this model has only been applied to local issues, mostly city planning. At the Conference, we want to discuss its potential application to problems of international, defense, and environmental policy as well, both in representative bodies (Parliament) and in processes of Direct Democracy. There is the obvious objection: Most people do not adequately understand such problems and are not interested to give them a serious thought. As a consequence, so far, between elections, politicians have been able to do what they like regardless of citizen interests. This is not democracy.
Eng.Trinkewitz has put forward a proposal to solve this problem: To create a pool consisting of persons who apply to be selected for the pool. No selection criterion other than declaration of interest would exist. The random selection for the respective Planning Cell would then take place only within this pool. So far, this idea has not been discussed at any forum. I consider it as fruitful and worth a serious consideration.
Another topic should be the proposal to create an International Foundation for the promotion of Participatory Democracy anywhere in the world.
Beside all that, we also want to discuss principles of genuine Democracy as expressed in the Draft of a Citizen´s Constitution. We want to present these principles for the public and ask the citizens to vote whether or not they want the politicians to submit these principles to a referendum. The Constitution - a document establishing the respective political system - is not something to be decided by party politicians in Parliament. It is a concern of all citizens, to be treated on the basis of equality and freedom of expression.Jiří Polák
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