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, August 20, 2008

JAMAICA: Local Government Reform

Community Activism at the Heart of Local Governance - Montague

Office of the Prime Minister
Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Local Government Reform, Robert Montague, has expressed the view that community activism is at the heart of local governance in Jamaica.

The State Minister was speaking at an awards presentation ceremony for community service, at Toronto Botanical Gardens in Canada, recently.

"It (community activism) enriches our democratic process and allows citizens to explore the range of opportunities presented to them to advance their community developmental agenda.In those situations, buy-in is not difficult, because citizens can readily identify with the vision and mission of the projects and programmes they themselves help to design," Mr. Montague said.

He pointed out that accountability is better ensured when there is community activism, since the people involved usually take ownership of the initiatives and take responsibility for their outcomes.

"This bottom-up approach to local governance fosters volunteerism and engenders community pride," he added.

Community participation is called participatory democracy by academics, Mr. Montague pointed out, "because the process begins with the community, which is a defined geographical area in which the citizens share common ownership of resources and facilities and regard themselves as having common objectives, interests and needs."

"Modern local governance is an inclusive and dynamic process through which local citizens achieve effective local self-management by active participation in local decision-making processes about the way they live and interact with their environment. The challenge is to convert the energy and creativity at the community level in an organisational form, to allow the citizens to express their interest in matters that affect their daily lives and to develop the sense of responsibility for the communities in which they live and work," Mr. Montague added.

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