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…


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Permanent People's Tribunal Examines Corporations in Colombia

The Permanent People's Tribunal (PPT), represented by 25 notable personages from 18 different countries, allows non-government officials to arrive at conclusions regarding violent conflict or human rights violations. Its distance from any particular state or government organization gives it distinct people power that holds countries accountable for their actions. This kind of citizen monitoring is a key step toward the kind of participation we need to envision a global participatory democracy. The article below describes just one case in which the PPT defends the rights of workers and reveals the violations of corporations and complicit governments. -Editor

No. 378, April 13 - 20, 2006

Coca-Cola, Nestle, Chiquita on 'Trial' in Colombia


By Constanza Vieira

Apr. 4- The first public hearing held by the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal (PPT) in its Colombia session accused US and Swiss multinational corporations of benefiting from the civil war in the South American nation in order to boost profit margins.Employment is becoming increasingly precarious in Colombia, and the terror exercised by the extreme right-wing paramilitaries further limits labor rights. This has led to growing profits for the US corporations Chiquita Brands and Coca-Cola and the Switzerland-based Nestle, according to the PPT, whose two-day hearing on Colombia occurred on Apr. 2.

The PPT was inspired by, and is considered a successor to, the Russell Tribunal, a public international body organized by renowned British philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell.The Russell Tribunal, which was designed to investigate and draw attention to war crimes committed by US forces during the Vietnam War, held sessions on that war in 1966 and 1967, and on military dictatorships in Latin America in 1974 and 1975.

The PPT, whose resolutions are non-binding, ruled that Colombia is failing to live up to its obligation to refrain from supporting terrorism, and has failed in particular to comply with United Nations Security Council resolution 1373, adopted in 2001, with regard to taking measures to fight terrorism.

The PPT was set up by the Rome-based Lelio Basso International Foundation for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples.The PPT's main accusation against the three companies is that in Colombia they have engaged in practices that violate the most basic human rights, through connections with paramilitary networks, under the guise of protecting their investments and ensuring security.Victims of human rights violations and relatives of victims gave their testimony in the public hearing. Some of the cases discussed involved the murders of trade unionists, 10 of whom worked for Nestle and nine of whom worked for Coca-Cola....

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