We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Monday, February 4, 2008

Namibian Decentralization: The Slow but Steady March to Participatory Democracy

(Photo: Erongo Regional Council Staff)

Namibia is undergoing a program of decentralization that had its beginnings way back in 1992 with legislation that created 13 regional councils representing the 13 regions of the country. The objective has been to bring the government closer to the people and to bring participatory democracy more to the fore in regional governance, giving the grassroots a more direct role.

Although it is not exactly a transition to direct democracy that is being implemented, as the people are dependent upon elected regional councellors to represent them, it does open the door to a level of grass roots participation that has never existed before in Namibia. The transition process also involves the gradual delegation to the regional councils of many governent functions that until now have been handled at the federal level. As the regional councils become more and more relevant in this manner, their effectiveness in giving the grassroots a voice in regional and community planning decisions may also expand. It will be necessary to create new structures that open lines of communication between communities and the regional councellors to deepen participatory democracy to the fullest extent possible and take full advantage of the opportunity that the decentralization process offers.

Read the following two articles to study Namibian decentralization in deeper detail. The first, although it dates from 2005, offers an in depth history of the process and the challenges it has faced. The second gives a recent update that shows how the process is moving forward at a more accelerated pace. - Editor

Regional Councils and Decentralisation:
At the Crossroads

(Source: Graham Hopwood June 2005 Published by: NID Funded by: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung


Regional Councils have been in existence for 12 years, yet their activities and plans have received little attention outside the confines of government. Constrained by limited powers, a lack of funds, and a longstanding view among some leading politicians that they are political ‘experiments’ which may one day be abolished, Regional Councils have been waiting for the policy of decentralisation to give them a more meaningful raison d’etre.

Yet the decentralisation project has moved slowly, held back by non-cooperative ministries, a lack of staff and resources across the board, and the complex details of the policy itself. Five years after the Decentralisation Enabling Act (Act 33 of 2000) decentralisation, at least in terms of the Regional Councils, has yet to be ‘enabled’. However, much groundwork has been completed in anticipation of the delegation and later devolution of central government functions and it is possible that, with the necessary political backing, the process could speed up considerably. Decentralisation is a means of creating participatory democracy in which the grassroots can have a direct say in the decisions that affect their lives. Regional Councillors, as the only elected politicians in Namibia who have clear links with constituents, can play a huge role in this process.... (click here to read full article)

Namibia: Decentralisation Gains Momentum - Prospects and Challenges

(Source: New Era (Windhoek)
OPINION18 January 2008Posted to the web 18 January 2008
Clemens H. KashuupulwaWindhoek

Oshana Regional Council welcomes the decision taken by the government to decentralize close to 10 functions in various line ministries to regional councils with effect from the 2008/2009 financial year.

This would bring the number of functions to be decentralized to the regions to 12 since 2005...

Decentralization of functions to the regions is being implemented "to promote participatory democracy and to empower local populations to make their own decisions and improve public sector management". It is done through "the transfer of administrative, financial and planning authority from the central government to regional councils on a delegated basis as regional councils still need capacity and institutional building to manage better the agreed functions in their respective regions"... (click here to read the full article)

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