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, May 19, 2008

NIGERIA: Governor calls for Participatory Democracy

In a country plagued by dictatorship, it would be easy for the people to lose hope and allow resentment to overcome their lives. But Nigerians continue the struggle toward development through participatory democracy. Having a high profile ally such as Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu is helpful, but it will obviously be a question of the peoples' commitment to creating an alternative to dictatorship through participation. Please click here to see our previous post regarding a call for participatory democracy in Nigeria through Achebe's literature. Similarly to the following article, Achebe looks toward a positive interaction between intellectuals and rural populations to create a full-circle form of communication that would allow a participatory democracy to flourish. -Editor

Gov Lists Gains of Domesticating Democracy

From Adibe Emenyonu in Benin, 05.12.2008

Niger State Governor, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu has condemned the wholesome adoption of democracy from the developed world , saying the best way for Nigerians to reap the dividends of our nascent democracy is by domesticating it,taking into cognizance the peculiarities of the country 's socio-cultural beliefs . Speaking as a guest lecturer at the foundation day ceremony of Igbinedion University , Okada in Edo state over the weekend, the Niger state Governor advocated a unit based development where the people in the grassroots would be involved in deciding what development projects they want rather than allow politicians to decide for them. Delivering a lecture titled, 'Participatory democracy, an ingredient for sustainable development,' the Niger state Chief Servant said: "Let me emphasize how strongly I share the view that unless we in the developing democracies, are able to systematically evolve a political system that takes account of our socio-cultural peculiarities and characteristics, we run the risk of thinking that the wholesale robust economic and democratic ideas and precepts of the developed world would have the magic wand to solve our development problems. " We thus may be under a dangerous illusion that we are making progress while in the actual sense we may indeed be engaging the reverse gear and be going in the reverse direction, because of wrong application to different settings and environment,” he said. "In other words, we must domesticate democratic principles to take cognizance of excellent values and institutions," he said. According to Aliyu, development must be homegrown, home-made and targeted at improving the lives of the people. He blamed the lack of good governance and the inability of Nigerians to reap the dividends of democracy since 1999 to the non participation of intellectuals in the political system, saying politics was left to charlatans and the unemployed. While commending the progress so far made by the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua which he said could be attributed to the fact that he is an academic, Aliyu who said he was drafted into politics when he was made to resign his job as a permanent secretary, called on Nigerians to hold their elected representatives accountable for whatever development they desire. "Go back to your villages, your wards, your constituencies, and demand from officials or your representatives to account for their activities and you shall by so doing be starting the process of a necessary revolution,"he said,advising that the country's development plans be institutionalized.

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