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, October 13, 2008

EU: Lisbon Treaty Would Bring Trans-border Direct Democracy

The Lisbon Treaty, if approved, contains a provision that would see the current spread of direct democracy in the E.U. achieve a new dimension. If enough signatures are gathered, a referendum can be held on new or existing E.U. laws. This would be the first example of referendum trancending national borders as the votte would be held in multiple countries simultaneously. -Editor

Public to have more say with 1 million EU signature plan

Institutions - 06-10-2008 - 14:17

"1 million voices, 1 Message, End poverty": German Chancellor Merkel in June '07

Citizens could have a direct impact on EU law if the Lisbon Treaty comes into force if they can gather at least 1 million signatures from across the EU. The treaty would allow citizens to ask for new EU laws or a review of existing ones. MEPs recently discussed how the signatures would be collected, verified and what would be the legal obligation to act.

Discussions by MEPs on the Constitutional Affairs Committee on 18 September come ahead of a report on the subject by Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann of the GUE/NGL group. She believes the legal position needs clarification.

Democratic "directness" appreciated

The introduction of such a system by the reform treaty would make it the first example of direct democracy between several different countries.

MEPs heard from many NGO representatives who said the move would make the EU's institutions more open to people. Several speakers thought that not just EU citizens but people who are resident in the Union should also be allowed to take part.

One million signatures represents 0.2% of the EU population. There was some discussion about whether it should be exactly 1 million (for example is 970,000 acceptable?) - and how many countries it should come from.

Don't set hurdle of participation too high

Professor Jürgen Meyer, a former member of the Bundestag said that the 1 million mark gave it weight but did not set the hurdle too high.

There was also some debate about how to collect signatures, how they should be verified and how long people should have to collect them. Whether electronic signatures were acceptable and should people give their address were also issues.

The chair of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, German Socialist Jo Leinen thought the signature idea would lead to more involvement by people in the running of the EU. He hoped the reform treaty would be adopted before the European parliamentary elections in June next year.

Ms Kaufmann said the initiative opens the door for direct democracy and is a new legal tool. She also said that it was important to draw on the legal traditions across different countries and cultures.

The report is expected by January.

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