International Day of Democracy 2012
Dialogue and inclusiveness - central to democracy
DIALOGUE AND INCLUSIVENESS
A PARLIAMENT DOES NOT GUARANTEE DEMOCRACY, BUT THERE CAN BE NO DEMOCRACY WITHOUT A PARLIAMENT
Dialogue is the best way to resolve problems. It is the only way to reach decisions that are acceptable to everybody. Dialogue is the primary means of avoiding, or resolving, conflict. What separates democracy from other political philosophies is the principle and practice of solving differences first and foremost through dialogue.
Democracy is founded on the right of everyone to take part in the management of public affairs.|
The achievement of democracy presupposes a genuine partnership between men and women in the conduct of the affairs of society.
A sustained state of democracy requires a democratic climate and culture constantly nurtured and reinforced by education and other vehicles of culture and information.
Universal Declaration on Democracy. Articles 4, 11 and 19
Parliament is the forum where a plurality of views needs to be heard. Plurality of views means including all voices in the political debate: men-women, young-old, rich-poor, minorities and indigenous peoples. The ability to listen and understand is sometimes as, if not more, important than our ability to speak.
There are different facets to the notion of dialogue:
- between different political forces, inside and outside parliament
- between parliament and citizens
- The parliamentary institution, seeking opinions from civil society during the legislative process
- Individual parliamentarians, as the link between people and the institution, maintaining a permanent dialogue with the citizens they represent, explaining the decisions taken in parliament, and gathering views that will help to inform decision-making
The institutional and individual aspects of representation are analysed in the IPU-UNDP Global Parliamentary Report on "The changing nature of representation".
Dialogue needs to be inclusive of different points of view. A lack of inclusive dialogue generates frustration and, over time, rejection and rebellion. International law specifically requires the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples to be obtained before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them. Laws may be rejected by constitutional courts if this obligation is not respected.
"Dialogue" and "inclusiveness" are part of the essence of a culture of democracy. They are qualities that need to be nurtured and demonstrated in everyday life. Educating young people about the principles of democracy is vital to developing this democratic culture. This is an ongoing process, which does not end after passing through the school gates. Respect for the rule of law, and respect for the other, are fundamental notions of democracy that apply equally to all people, whatever their position in society.
About decision-making at the local level
- What mechanisms are there to enable citizens to participate in decision-making at local level? Have any forms of participatory democracy been used?
- How satisfied are people with the level of consultation between citizens and their representatives? How responsive are representatives to the concerns that are expressed?
About the legislative process
- What opportunities does parliament provide for citizens to participate in law-making? How is this input used in the legislative process?
- What capacity does parliament have to listen to citizens' concerns? How willing is it to do so?
About the culture of democracy
- Is political culture based on dialogue or confrontation? How important is it to reach a compromise that is acceptable to all?
- What are the barriers to inclusive dialogue? How can these barriers be lowered?
- Are men and women able to participate equally in decision-making?
- Does the majority allow the minority to express their views freely?
- Do political parties practise internal democracy? Can all members of a party participate freely in policy discussions?
- What measures are being taken to strengthen the culture of democracy in society? What impact are they having?
SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTIVITIES
Since 2008, more than 70 parliaments have organized activities to mark the International Day of Democracy on 15 September. Parliaments are the most active institutions around the world in celebrating this Day. This is a clear indication of the special importance of parliaments in the democratic system of government.
The theme that has been adopted by the IPU in 2012 is "Dialogue and Inclusiveness - Central to Democracy". We invite every parliament to organize activities to engage citizens, particularly young people, on the International Day of Democracy. It is an opportunity to increase public understanding of the role of parliament, and to encourage people to get involved in politics.
The activities could take place on or around Saturday 15 September. The IPU will include all parliaments that organize activities for the International Day in the list of parliamentary events, with a link to your web site or other information about your activity. Please send us a short description (no more than 5 lines) and photos from your activities. Be sure to tell us the name of a contact person and the title, place and date of the activity.
ACTIVITIES BY PARLIAMENTS
Celebrate the International Day of Democracy in parliament
Engage in a broad discussion about developing a culture of dialogue and inclusiveness
- Organize a special plenary debate and invite all political groups to exchange their views on the state of "Dialogue and Inclusiveness" within parliament, or within society
- Adopt a parliamentary motion/resolution in support of the International Day of Democracy
- Set up a cross-party working group to examine progress and challenges in terms of "Dialogue and Inclusiveness" in political culture
Bring together politicians, representatives of civil society, academia, and journalists to make proposals for actions to develop the culture of democracy. Engage with civil society organizations that work especially on the issue of parliament (also known as "parliamentary monitoring organizations").
Organize an Open Day
Several activities could be carried out during an Open Day in parliament, such as guided tours, exhibitions, meetings with parliamentarians, mock sittings etc.
Launch a competition on the International Day of Democracy
A competition could involve creating artwork, writing essays, making videos, taking photos, etc., related to the theme of democracy and/or "Dialogue and Inclusiveness". The competition could target schools or universities, and culminate in an exhibition at parliament, where the best entries are displayed and prizes awarded.
Communicate about the International Day of Democracy
Use the parliamentary web site, communications service, social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to inform citizens and invite them to get involved in the day and the work of parliament more generally. Link to information available at the IPU web site.
Work with the media
Many parliaments have used radio programmes, televised debates, press releases and newspaper interviews to promote previous International Days of Democracy. National broadcasters, private media and parliament’s own communication channels all help to raise awareness of the role of parliament in democracy.
Connect the International Day of Democracy to the Global Parliamentary Report
The Global Parliamentary Report
was published by IPU and UNDP in April 2012. It focuses on the changing nature of representation. Many of the issues raised in the Report are connected to the theme of "Dialogue and Inclusiveness", such as the efforts that many MPs are making to enhance dialogue with their constituents and involve them in the work of parliament. Several kinds of events could be organized, such as:
- Discuss the Report in a plenary session or in a parliamentary committee with responsibility for relations with citizens
- Organize a seminar on the issues raised in the Report about representation. The IPU has a model format for such seminars, which parliaments can adapt to their specific context
- Distribute to all MPs a digital or printed copy of the Report or the 6-page Executive Summary, which is now available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese and Russian
ACTIVITIES BY PARLIAMENTARIANS
Meet with citizens
Put forward a motion in parliament
On or around 15 September, invite people to a meeting at your office or in a symbolic place related to democracy. The theme of the meeting could be, for example:
- A briefing on the most important issues/bills that are being addressed in parliament at the moment, or by the parliamentary committees in which you take part
- A debate on how to enhance dialogue between yourself and the citizens you represent
- Citizens' proposals for the medium-long term priorities of their constituency
- A discussion on the state of democracy in your country, and how to strengthen it
Table a parliamentary motion, question or other parliamentary procedure about the International Day of Democracy. Ask the executive to explain how it intends to celebrate this day, or to deepen the culture of dialogue and inclusiveness in your country.
Talk with young people
Visit local schools to discuss the meaning and practice of democracy, and how young people can get involved. Take part in an online discussion about the work of a parliamentarian and why it is important for young people to participate in politics. Invite schools to organize activities such as exhibitions, contests, special lessons on democracy.
Be an example of dialogue and inclusiveness
Take the International Day as an opportunity to do something that you might not normally do. Organize a joint activity with your political opponents to educate people about the role of a parliamentarian. Meet with civil society groups that are critical of your action as a parliamentarian. Hold a meeting with members of the most politically-marginalized groups in society.
Be accountable to your constituents
Publish a special brochure or newsletter with a summary of your work as a parliamentarian during the first half of 2012, and make it available in print and online. Distribute a record of how you voted on key bills in 2012, and an explanation of the reasons for your decisions.
Contact the media
Issue a press release expressing support for the International Day of Democracy. Talk with journalists from television, radio, print and online media. Invite journalists to follow you for a day as you meet with the citizens you represent.
Tell people about the International Day of Democracy
Mobilize your political party
Use your web site, social media, face-to-face meetings and any other channels of communication to let people know about the International Day of Democracy, and how you intend to celebrate it. Don't forget to provide a link to the IPU website (http://www.ipu.org/idd
Contact the party leadership and/or communications team, and propose that the political party issue a statement, organizes an activity, or celebrates the Day in some other way.