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…


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

ECUADOR: New Constitution Shifts to Participatory Democracy

In the following article, the vice president of the constituent assembly charged with drafting Ecador's new constitution describes how the document will provide for a major shift from the neoliberal and representative democracy to people power and participatory democracy. This appears to be in line with the example set by Venezuela and reflects the current trend throughout Latin America, the rise of left of center and populist democratically elected governments fueling a major transition towards grassroots empowerment in the region. We the editors view this regional phenomenon as a major improvement, one that is making Latin America one of the most inspiring places in the world for advocates of participatory democracy. - Editor

Ecuador: New Constitution Paradigmatic, Democratic

July 21, 2008

Quito, Jul 21 (PL) - The new Ecuadorean Constitution is revolutionary, paradigmatic and democratic, because it guarantees the rights of citizens and nature, according to Constituent Assembly Vice President Aminta Buenaño.

That Constitution, approved by the Constituent Assembly, marks a before and after, because if it is ratified in September referendum, it will establish the end of the neoliberal model and the beginning of a social and solidarity system, Buenaño pointed out.

It is a deep change for society, because it goes from representative democracy to participatory democracy, in which the core of everything is the citizen, she stressed.

That is why a new power is created, social and transparent control, in which individuals make decisions and public powers are supervised, she told Ecuadorean television.

Another new element, absent in several constitutions, is that it includes nature's rights, so it contains the concept of the Defender of the environment, who will oversee environmental protection, Buenaño said.

Regarding polemic issues, she denied that the Constitution will decriminalize abortions, and recalled that the State guarantees and respects life from the moment of conception.

She added that marriage could only take place between men and women, according to the final document approved by the Constituent Assembly.

The official also denied that the new Constitution hinders freedom of expression in the country, which is guaranteed, providing that citizens' rights be respected.

Buenaño warned against the opposition's disagreement with change and the new Constitution, which it is trying to distort to influence the people negatively.

Therefore, she added, a great campaign will be launched to publicize the content of the Constitution, which will meet the demands from most Ecuadoreans.

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