Many of us have heard them before: “Urbi et Orbi”, the papal blessings imparted to the city of Rome and the world twice a year, on Easter and Christmas. A message from the Eternal City to the whole world. This year we – supporters of modern direct democracy across the globe – can truly relate to this vibe. At the Rome Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy this year, we started to draft a Magna Charta for an International League of Democracy Cities. A process, which underlines the growing importance of local and regional communities for the future of the planet, when it comes to critical issues like climate change, transportation, health, education – and last but not least, democracy.
70 years ago, on December 10, the then newly established United Nations gathered in Paris to adopt a very important document: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this global charter, all parties committed to a set of fundamental and basic human rights, including – in Art. 21.1. – the fundamental right to indirect and direct democracy. This historic agreement was made on the background of two devastating world wars and the Holocaust, the industrial attempt to extinguish all people of a certain faith. Since then the work to implement the Universal Declaration into every day practice has mainly been led by national leaders gathering in international organizations. But this has changed.
At the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, it became clear that there is very little left of genuine democratic leadership among the most powerful countries of the world. On the contrary, newly elected or appointed leaders from leading economies today are openly questioning our basic human rights and instead pursuing policies based on deterrence and intimidation. In some of the G20 countries, critics are systematically imprisoned and killed. Today’s true democratic leaders we actually find in smaller countries, and even more so on the regional and local level. This is what the Rome Global Forum has called for in the draft Magna Charta: a new order based on active citizenship and local direct democracy around the world.
In our Newsletter (see link below), you can read more about how citizens worldwide work and develop their communities to become more participatory, transparent and open. From the push for direct democracy during the Belgian municipal elections, over the new project linking grassroots conversations and elected leaders in Germany and the discussion on proper direct democracy processes in the wake of the Brexit-plebiscite, to Taiwan’s first referenda under new legislation.
With this I would like to extend my sincerest season’s greetings to all supportive democrats like you around the world. Your commitment and wisdom is needed more than ever to transform our cities and regions into even stronger engines for a more democratic and more peaceful world.
Bruno Kaufmann, World Democracy Reporter and Supporter, Board Member of Democracy International, Sweden.