The global challenges and concerns we face today are well known: the peaceful coexistence of states and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the deterioration of the environment and the need for sustainable development, the threats to financial stability, the tragic inequalities across the planet in wealth and democracy.
We need to do something. And, first of all, we need to reflect on what to do.
To face such challenges and to guarantee global public goods, the international community has created after world war II a number of international organizations responsible for the pursuit of specific goals, which have been given more or less adequate competences and tools.
Are these organizations democratic? Are they efficient? If the answer is no (or not enough) how could they be improved?
Could we – 75 years later – imagine something new? Is there a better way to organize coexistence inside the human family, not just aimed at avoiding conflicts but at thriving as species, in harmony with the Earth and with all the other living beings?
The awareness on these topics is growing. It is time to become creative, to network and exchange ideas, to recreate and co-create a new way of living together on this planet (maybe to dis-create something as well…).
Democracy is the result of a social pact: we are all involved.
Democracy nowadays cannot just be national as problems and challenges are getting more and more global.
As individuals are an essential ingredient of democracy, I think that democratic international organization should be supranational, or move towards more advanced forms of supranationality. But how individuals can interact on a global stage, legitimize global fora, hold them accountable?
Multilevel democracy – from local to global- cannot be considered a utopia anymore, but the only reasonable endeavour to ensure well-being and lasting peace in the era of interdependence and interconnectedness. The Supranational Democracy Dialogue (SDD), hosted by Università del Salento, since its first edition, became a place where like-minded scholars, activists, and international professionals exchange ideas and freely discuss proposals and possible solutions. After the adoption of a Manifesto on Supranational Democracy, in the first edition, in 2018, and a Declaration on Deliberative Democracy, published on May 9, 2023, the contributors to the V Edition “Focus on tools” (May 18-19) shared their thoughts about several democratic instruments for collaboration across national borders which are collected together in a toolkit. The toolkit may evolve over time just like the SDD network is growing, one edition after the other. This is an (imperfect) synthesis of the last two-day conversation.
The first precondition for real, genuine active citizenship at all levels is the existence of a political space beyond borders, where ideas may be exchanged, and political positions built.
Unfortunately, even if social media are global, TV channels and news programs are focused on the national dimension. This is where most of the political discourse is carried and confined, notwithstanding the fact that almost all issues are nowadays global, at least the important ones, like the mass violation of fundamental rights of migrants or the disastrous effects of climate change.
Even if the European Union is a legal order and a space where European citizens’ rights find their protection, we are still far from a genuine European public sphere where civic and political rights are expressed. Not to mention how far this goal appears at the global level.
The first chapter of our toolkit for active citizenship at all levels is all about that: the building of a political sphere. And how much it relates to reliable, effective communication. This is the cornerstone of any democratic society encompassing the right to free speech as well as the right to information. To achieve that, it is important to make sure that the messages conveyed are clear, accurate, and inclusive.
Visual communication is becoming increasingly important as it is more immediate and effective than ever. Images and videos can convey messages in ways that words cannot possibly match. However, it is important to balance the use of visual communication – or any communication – with ethos, logos, and pathos. The three ingredients are all necessary: ethos refers to the credibility of the speaker, logos refers to the logic and reasoning used to support an argument, and Pathos refers to an emotional appeal made in the argument. By balancing them elements, we can ensure that the messages we convey are convincing and coherent.
Another important aspect of communication is accuracy. In today’s world, there is an increasing amount of misinformation and disinformation being spread – even more thanks to AI which allows realistic images to be shared with fake news, to manipulate public opinion. To remedy this, it is important to share sources and data so that people can check the facts for themselves as well as develop education in fact-checking. This is required to promote trust and transparency in the democratic process.
However, achieving inclusiveness in communication is easier said than done. There are obstacles to overcome, such as the digital divide and the scarce attention given to non-national issues by mainstream media. To overcome these obstacles, we need to develop ad hoc communication strategies that are accessible to everyone. This will help to ensure that the voices of all citizens are heard and that democracy remains truly participatory and representative.
The building of a public sphere beyond borders also requires movements, parties, and associations that interact transnationally. Europe would set an example if only European elections were to become truly European, with European transnational parties, European electoral law, and TV shows offering a stage for a truly European political debate.
Still, such progress at the European level (as well as the most needed and lacking ones at the global level) even if encouraged by the appropriate reforms, cannot just be top-down. There is a need to complement them bottom-up through civic engagement.
Even then, another precondition is required and that is education: education to appreciate and navigate the challenges of a multicultural society, education to democracy, i.e to critical thinking and to speak one’s mind, education to read and evaluate information that could be fake or manipulative, and education to citizenship itself, which means knowing the legal tools for participation and be willing to use them. Actually, the Union has many online tools and platforms to encourage citizens’ participation but they are underused and often totally unknown.
The SDD conference was an occasion to consider how much the Erasmus program had achieved, even involving just a little percentage of University students, and how it could set a model or at least a good practice for furthering European and global education. Exchange programs and cross-border collaboration programs could in fact be extended to most of the societal areas.
Interesting reflections arise also on the topic of cross-border communication and interactions as borders are not just the perimeter of national politics, but often also a deterrent for useful interactions in cross-border communities, those sharing cultural heritage, a language, and other commonalities. As much as allowing us to enlarge our perspective, the permeability of borders would enhance, in such cases, the true enjoyment of cultural rights. Local authorities may be actors in this dialogue just like civil society at large.
Once such preconditions are met – a public sphere over and cross border, education centred on the role of the individual at all levels as an actor and not just a passive consumer of political advertising – or while we work for these preconditions to be met, it may be useful to remember that there already are many ways for being an active citizen at all levels.
There are many ways to participate in public conversation in a public space, from demonstrating to signing petitions, from blogging and interacting through public platforms to joining transnational movements and parties.
The last one, the Conference on the Future of Europe, has been a stunning example of citizens’ involvement. It goes without saying that technology plays a fundamental role both in allowing a multilingual conversation, thanks to the automatic translation, as in organizing and making sense of the amount of data and contributions collected, through digital tools for data mining and mapping of ideas.
Europe is showing a way that could be easily followed by other areas of regional integration as well as by global organizations as these tools work, are easily created and there are no significant barriers to access them (once the access to internet is guaranteed, which is another precondition we should add to the list above).
Yet, the most important tool to be acknowledged is the citizen assembly – or the citizens’ panel in EU jargon – the deliberative democracy tool par excellence.
The new springtime of deliberative democracy, based on the lot, dates back to the last two decades. The studies conducted within the OECD were particularly significant in this regard, which actually follow some important experiments conducted at a national level on issues of primary importance, and precede others. In Europe, after the financial crisis of 2008, both Ireland and Iceland have experimented with ways of constitutional revision with this formula. However, this is a global trend (see the activity of NewDemocracy in Australia).
Making the instrument permanent (as the Belgian G1000 Citizens’ Summit or the Assemblée Citoyenne in Paris) has an additional value: it serves to communicate to citizens the message implicit in the rotation: knowing that the composition is renewed periodically by drawing lots communicates the message that sooner or later it can happen to anyone to be on board, increasing the attention and interest of citizens in public affairs. The goal is to make everyone a potential actor. Numerous civil society movements support these experiments and offer effective collaboration (for instance, Democracy Next).
The democratic nature of the process, however, is not only in drawing lots, which translates into practice an idea of equal opportunities but even more so in the deliberative moment: in the exercise of comparison that leads to the formulation of choices. The majority doctrine proves inclined to combine this type of assembly with representative democracy: the outcome of the city assembly, therefore, does preparatory work with respect to the parliamentary debate. In some experiences, however, deliberative democracy is combined with direct democracy, if there is a subsequent ratification by referendum.
The tool, is, by definition, scalable: applicable from the local to the global, see for instance the experimental Global Assembly, and seems the new Columbus’s egg to bridge the gap between citizens and politicians, especially in the time laps between an election and the next one
The four panels established as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe (2021-2011) were enough successful to be considered a test for several future legislative procedures in the Union in the transition from the Commission’s proposal to the Council and Parliament’s approval. We hope this procedure will be established as an essential ingredient also in revising the EU treaties once the limiting rule of unanimity will be finally overcome.
Courts may be precious in supporting individuals ready to take a stance for the collective, as Emilio De Capitani explained to us and as he did in defence of transparency in the European legislative process – as the case law De Capitani I and De Capitani II testify.
Climate litigation is another clear evidence of what courts and civil society may achieve together. Taking a stance for collective rights, exposing governance flaws, claiming old and new rights, and addressing the lack of implementation of existing rights (see – as a tool – the referring for preliminary ruling to ECJ in EU case law), all require adequate laws to allow actions and class actions, but also protecting whistleblowers (in need of effective guarantees about their own fundamental and labour rights) and journalists exposing corrupt politicians and powerful manipulators. There is a need for laws effectively stopping the strategic lawsuits against public participation (so-called SLAPP), intended to silence, intimidate or impoverish those who have courage enough to expose powerful enemies of the public interest through abuse of legal instruments (see e.g. see the EU Directive)
Technology is an essential ingredient in this picture as the building of a public online sphere, the creation and management of online platforms, data protection, cyber security, and the countering of the risks of manipulation, all underlie the arguments already expressed.
Artificial intelligence is a precious tool to use with caution to make sense, for instance, of the large number of inputs collected through participatory and deliberative democracy channels – see crowdlaw -as well as to check facts. An example may be provided by iVerify, the UNDP’s automated fact-checking tool that can be used to identify false information and prevent and mitigate its spread. It is supported through the UNDP Chief Digital Office and the UNDP Brussels-based Task Force on Electoral Assistance. Yet, a force for good may be misused as a force for evil, and like many tools, it is neutral in essentials.
Balancing ethics and technological advancement is widely understood as one of the current challenges, a topic we can only briefly touch upon here. Another need, not less important, is the improvement of internet governance to guarantee access rights as well as fair conditions to all.
Balancing conflicting interests
Democracy is a multifaceted system that involves managing complexity across various aspects of governance. It encompasses designing policies, adopting legislation, interpreting legislation, choosing the most effective enforcement tools, and managing conflicts. This discourse will delve into how these processes can be facilitated using different tools and approaches.
One key aspect of democracy is mapping needs, which involves understanding the diverse requirements and priorities of the people. By adopting a needs-based approach, policymakers can better identify the issues that require attention and formulate policies accordingly. Furthermore, digitalizing governmental processes can enhance efficiency and accessibility, ensuring that decision-making is transparent and inclusive.
Another crucial element is prioritization, where democratic systems must weigh different concerns and allocate resources accordingly. For example, environmental protection can be prioritized to address pressing ecological challenges. To accomplish this, building partnerships is essential. Initiatives like the UN Partner Portal facilitate collaboration between governments, international organizations, and civil society, fostering coordinated efforts to tackle global issues effectively.
In the democratic context, building synergies is crucial for sustainable development. Balancing environmental policy, economic growth, and human development is a complex task, but it is necessary to ensure comprehensive and well-rounded progress. By identifying common goals and aligning strategies, policymakers can work towards mutually beneficial outcomes.
Building structured dialogues among stakeholders is an important element in this strategy, and it is vital in a democratic framework. This can be achieved through various means, an example is provided in the EU by the AI Alliance.
Also, a culture of collaboration may be developed in the political arena learning from the corporate experience, where team building, role-playing, and other exercises for personal and collective growth are the rule of the day to facilitate interactions foster understanding, strengthen effective approaches to collaboration, and facilitate decision-making. By engaging stakeholders from different sectors and backgrounds – and learning how to better interact with them – policymakers can enhance the legitimacy and effectiveness of their policies.
However, democracy also entails trade-offs. It is impossible to please everyone, and conflicting interests and opinions are inevitable. Therefore, it becomes crucial to manage these trade-offs effectively using all the aforementioned tools and approaches. By engaging in open and transparent dialogue, weighing the pros and cons, and considering the long-term consequences, policymakers can navigate trade-offs and make informed decisions that may serve the greater good with the support of citizens, also helping them to accept unpopular decisions when beneficial in the long run.
In summary, democracy entails managing complexity across different stages of governance. Through needs mapping, digitalization, prioritization, partnerships, synergies, structured dialogue, and managing trade-offs, democratic systems can address societal challenges and ensure inclusive and effective decision-making.
The evolution of multilateralism
All the tools already mentioned rely on a collaborative approach, among states and other international actors as well as among individuals. Not by chance, the UN Sustainable Development Goals are considered all to be interconnected and the last one (no.17) is “Partnership for the Goals”.
After the era of competition, we all hope to see the dawn of the era of collaboration as a result of the increased interdependence inside the world we live in: multinational, multicultural, multidisciplinary multistakeholder, multilayer, just “multi.”
More than before we see platforms of international actors acting together – as the project “Initiate2” in the area of humanitarian response. Key players from different backgrounds may come together for a result that is more a multiplication than an addition of capacities, expertise, and strength.
The new models are well beyond the dichotomy national/international or even international/supranational, as they involve horizontal, grid collaboration at the transnational level among local authorities or even involving business actors inside multistakeholder partnerships.
Promoting a new economic model intended for the well-being of people and the planet.
Promoting a new economic model that prioritizes the well-being of people and the planet is a crucial endeavour in our contemporary world. To achieve this, several key strategies can be implemented to counter short-termism (what we could call “casino capitalism”), reduce the dominance of finance over actual GDP, foster responsible business practices, protect social and environmental rights, and encourage long-term investments.
One fundamental aspect of promoting a new economic model is countering short-termism. A suggested step towards achieving this is abolishing quarterly reports of companies, which often prioritize short-term financial gains over long-term sustainability. By shifting the focus to longer-term perspectives, businesses can better consider the social and environmental impacts of their actions, leading to more responsible and sustainable practices.
Additionally, reducing the impressive volume of finance compared to actual GDP is vital for a more balanced and equitable economic system. This can be achieved through the implementation of adequate laws and regulations. By enacting measures that address excessive financialization and promote stability, governments can create an environment that aligns financial activities with real economic growth, reducing the risks of speculative bubbles and market instability.
Fostering codes of conduct and human rights instruments for businesses is another essential element. The EU Action Plan on Democracy and Human Rights serves as a valuable example in this regard. By establishing clear guidelines and expectations for corporate behaviour, businesses can be encouraged to operate in a socially and ethically responsible manner, ensuring that human rights are respected throughout their operations.
Furthermore, trade agreements can be instrumental in shaping a new economic model that benefits individuals and protects social and environmental rights. Agreements such as the EU-Canada Trade Agreement (CETA) demonstrate the potential for incorporating provisions that safeguard social and environmental standards, as well as consumers’ rights. By making trade agreements more comprehensive and inclusive, the negative impacts of globalization can be mitigated, ensuring that economic activities contribute to sustainable development.
Spreading knowledge about rights, tools, and enforcement mechanisms to the public at large is crucial for empowering individuals and communities. By enhancing public awareness of their rights, consumers can make informed choices and hold businesses accountable for their actions. Governments and organizations can play a vital role in providing accessible information, educational campaigns, and platforms for public engagement, enabling citizens to actively participate in shaping the economic model that serves their well-being.
Taking care of global public goods at the global level, like the EU’s commitment at the regional/continental level, is essential. Embracing multilateralism and international cooperation allows for the protection of common resources, such as the environment, public health, and peace. By engaging in global initiatives and partnerships, countries can collectively address global challenges and promote sustainable development on a planetary scale.
Encouraging long-term investments is a crucial element of the new economic model. Another interesting proposal that surfaced at the conference is about the use of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) through multilateral development banks for investments. Governments and international financial organizations may facilitate long-term financing for sustainable projects. This approach supports the transition to a more environmentally friendly and socially inclusive economy, promoting innovation and addressing long-term societal needs.
In conclusion, promoting a new economic model that prioritizes the well-being of people and the planet requires a multi-faceted approach. By countering short-termism, reducing the dominance of finance, fostering responsible business practices, protecting social and environmental rights, spreading knowledge to the public, prioritizing global public goods, and encouraging long-term investments, we can create a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future. These strategies, combined with multilevel governance, active citizens’ participation at all levels, and international cooperation, can shape an economic model that serves the interests of both present and future generations.
The Supranational Democracy Dialogue is not just an event series, it is a network, growing year after year as an epistemic community, and it is a lab in itself for multidisciplinary, multistakeholder, intergenerational conversation as well as a place for reflection out of the box, challenging the current narrative about global governance and democracy.
It may appear that such a topic is just too broad for a single conference or even a series, yet, in the long term it is more than that: it is a constant conversation among concerned individuals bringing to the table their own expertise and experience and accepting the challenge to learn new, different perspectives in order to reach a better understanding of current times, to focus and fine-tune their own contribution and to combine it with that provided by other like-minded experts and activists.
The last (and fifth) edition of the Supranational Democracy Dialogue – held on May 18-19 – has been a success. We organizers are very proud of it and very grateful to all those who contributed.
As this year’s topic was “Focus on Tools”, we have accomplished putting together a toolkit for active citizens’ engagement. I am really happy to share it and encourage anyone to do the same. Here it is:
THE TOOLKIT FOR ACTIVE CITIZENSHIP AT ALL LEVELS,
FROM LOCAL TO GLOBAL
Multilevel democracy – from local to global- cannot be considered a utopia anymore, but the only reasonable endeavour to ensure well-being and lasting peace in the era of interdependence and interconnectedness. The Supranational Democracy Dialogue (SDD), since its first edition, became a place where like-minded scholars, activists and international professionals exchange ideas and freely discuss proposals and possible solutions. After the adoption of a Manifesto on Supranational Democracy, in the first edition, in 2018 and a Declaration on Deliberative Democracy, published on May 9, 2023, the contributors to the V Edition (“Focus on tools”) shared their thoughts about several democratic instruments for collaboration across national borders which are collected together in the present toolkit. The toolkit may evolve over time just like the SDD network grows, one edition after the other.
I. The building of a public sphere
Visual communication is more immediate and effective
Balancing ethos logos and pathos
Accuracy as a remedy to manipulation (sharing sources and data)
Inclusiveness (overcoming obstacles like the digital divide, finding a way to counter the scarce attention of the main mass media, like TV, to the non-national political dimension)
Education and education to democracy
Encouraging transnational conversation among civil society actors and among local authorities;
Enhancing the recognition of cross-border transnational shared heritage;
Developing European and global communication tools.
II. Civic Participation
There are many different ways to participate in the public conversation in a public space (blogging, signing petitions, demonstrating, joining transnational movements and parties, interacting through public platforms, using litigation and claiming mechanisms, spreading information and countering fake news and hate speech, unmasking manipulation).
Platforms of international actors (ex. Initiate) as key players from different backgrounds integrating different goals and perspectives;
Horizontal, transnational grids – as network model;
Participation of non-governmental, non-international actors in the partnership for SDGs – as individuals, civil society, local authorities
The involvement of civil society in international decision-making through protests, petitions, consultations, participatory and/or deliberative democracy mechanisms inside international organizations and multistakeholder platforms would greatly enhance democracy.
Making trade agreements work also for individuals, to protect social and environmental rights as well as consumers’ rights (for example, EU-Canada Trade Agreement or CETA);
Spreading knowledge about rights, tools and enforcement mechanisms to the public at large;
Taking care of global public goods at the global level, as the EU already does at the regional/continental level (back to multilateralism);
Encouraging long-term investments (for example, allowing the issuance of SDRs and their use through multilateral development banks);
IX. Developing the SDD network as an epistemic community, and a lab in itself, for multidisciplinary, multistakeholder, intergenerational conversation as well as a place for thinking out of the box, challenging the current narrative about global governance and democracy.
The University of Salento will host a new edition of the two-day event – the only one of its kind – aimed at bringing together scholars from any background, NGO leaders and activists, and innovative thinkers to discuss together the most significant challenges facing humanity. The event has gained traction over the years being the only one in the world focused on democratic governance beyond borders.
The 2023 edition will be centred on democratic features and tools for governance which could be applied at any level of government from local to global, those that are, in a word, “scalable”.
The seven sessions will be dedicated to: the building of a political public sphere beyond borders; civic participation and citizens’ activism; digital democracy & AI; litigation for the advancement of collective rights; regional integrations and multilateralism; and the balancing of interests which is a responsibility for policymakers as well as for judges.
The main difference with the previous editions is highlighting tools instead of policy areas. Therefore, each session could touch upon different policy areas as case studies or be helpful for all of them in a horizontal way.
In each session, scholars, activists as well as international officers will interact among themselves and engage the audience with the aim of enlarging the perspective and triggering new insights and connections.
As our primary source of inspiration is the UN 2030 agenda, we firmly believe that the Sustainable Development Goals are interconnected. In particular, goal 17 “Partnership for the goals” is the key to unleashing the potential of each of them. Democracy and good governance serve them all.
Among the partners, we are particularly grateful to the Maison Jean Monnet – European Parliament, in Paris, that hosted a preparatory workshop on April 6-7 on European Supranational Democracy and Civic Engagement as a Model for Citizens’ Participation beyond Borders and that will host the entire event in streaming on its Facebook page and to the Democracy and Culture Foundation, organizer of the Athens Democracy Forum each year in September, as they are willing to support this unique event as the external projection of their core topic in a post-national perspective.
An international workshop will be hosted on May 5-7, by the Europe Experience in Paris and the Maison Monnet, owned by the European Parliament, as a preparatory moment for the 2023 edition of the Supranational Democracy Dialogue, which will take place in Brindisi in May 2023. The event is organized by the chairs of European Union Law at Università del Salento held by professors Susanna Cafaro and Claudia Morini who hold a Chair and a Module Jean Monnet respectively.
The French event will in particular address the topic of citizens’ participation across borders, through the popular vote for a supranational Parliament and transnational participation beyond the vote, through instruments such as the European Citizens’ Initiative and innovative experiments in deliberative democracy such as the European Citizens’ Panels – which paved the road for a possible future European Citizens’ Assembly- as well as others on which the discussion is still ongoing (from the Pan-European Referendum to Participatory Budgeting).
It will also explore how this complex ecosystem of democracy that is both transnational and supranational at the same time – and that is now attempting to combine representative elements with ‘direct’ and ‘participatory’ elements – is increasingly inspiring other areas of the world that are attempting, inspired by the European Union, similar processes of macro-regional integration (Mercosur, African Union, ASEAN…), as well as how this model can also be scaled up to the global level, in the perspective of a full global democracy of institutions and citizens, combining representative with deliberative-participatory democracy.
Students, PhD students, researchers and professors from the University of Salento will be involved in the seminar together with lecturers and experts in European affairs and deliberative democracy, mainly from Paris and Brussels.
The Maison Monnet, the historical museum-house of one of the fathers of European integration – now the training centre of the European Parliament- will host for free in its guesthouse the whole Unisalento delegation, providing an immersive experience for students and lecturers.
The Maison Jean Monnet will also partner with Unisalento in the organization of the Supranational Democracy Dialogue Vth Edition (Brindisi May 18-19), alongside the Democracy and Culture Foundation – the organizer of the famous Athens Democracy Forum – and several other think tanks in Europe and US. This event organized by the University of Salento is now firmly established as the main international event dedicated to democracy beyond borders and a crossroad where academia, civil society and international officers meet to discuss openly together the great challenges facing humanity as well as the democratic management of the global commons.
The entire team of international and European Law at Unisalento has been proudly in charge of this initiative since 2018.
At the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (or, as everybody says, the COP27), held in Egypt from 6 to 20 November 2022, delegates from 197 countries, civil society and other institutions met again to discuss the further implementation of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The usual “too little, too late” refrain usually filling the comments was somehow disrupted by an apparently colossal step forward: the historical (?) decision to establish a new financial instrument: a Loss and Damage Fund. Its goal would be to share among the richer countries the burden on those most affected by climate change, unfortunately mainly classified among the developing or least developed countries.
Yet, reading the papers anyone can quickly realize that the historical decision is an empty one: it is easy to agree on the establishment of a new institution/fund/financial tool (still we don’t know what it will be) if you don’t have to agree to the how, when, where and who…. and especially to who pays and how much.
Yet, at least one decision was taken: who would be on the Transitional Committee in charge of all these decisions. Almost. In fact, this “who” is quite unspecified.
We just know they will represent 24 countries, comprising 10 members from developed countries and 14 from developing countries. Among the 14, we also know that 3 will be from Africa, 3 from Asia and Pacific, 3 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 2 from small island developing States, 2 members from the least developed countries; and to get to 14, 1 from some category non specified above (which?).
Why 24? Maybe because this is the size of the IMF and (until a few years ago) World Bank boards. Does it mean that the fund, more than a financial instrument will be an international financial institution? One that we could classify as an international organization? Maybe.
If so, great opportunities lay ahead. After so many years of discussions on how to revise IMF and WB to make them more equitable and closer to their “clients”, both geographically and culturally, we could just take the new Fund as an occasion to design an entirely different way to build an equitable world organization. In fact, what best opportunity than starting from scratch?
The process in itself is not exactly transparent
The same Decision -/CP.27 -/CMA.4 establishing the Committee (not the Fund) was quite hidden among the COP27 documents. Moreover, it would be interesting to know who are the 24 selected countries and who are their appointed representatives. As these 24 people are in charge of submitting a detailed proposal for the real creation of the Fund on the occasion of the next COP, their knowledge, experience and wisdom are quite relevant.
I would also love – and maybe many experts and activists would as well – to know how to get in touch with them to submit suggestions or, even better, contribute to the work in progress.
I had a very interesting conversation about this topic with Nico Heller, founder and CEO of the Democracy School. You can listen to it here:
And here are a few suggestions to add some democratic features to the new financial institution, if they dare!
A Multistakeholder Assembly, as a second chamber flanking the (usually intergovernmental) Governing Council;
A Ministerial Committee with the same composition as the Transitional Committee to be renewed on a rotating basis, to provide political guidance;
An independent Executive Board, appointed by the chambers after a proposal by the Ministerial Committee;
Membership of regional integration organizations as an alternative to membership of States, with full rights;
Transparency, transparency, transparency (e.g. motivated decisions, to be published online);
An advisory role for civil society (e.g. online consultations on drafts of policy and strategy documents;
Structural links with other international organizations whose role is related or overlapping to avoid duplication of functions, fragmentation and dispersion of resources. We could start with…
It does not happen every day that an interesting case study for institutional engineering is also a crucial tool to tackle a global issue.
And we didn’t talk about financing! There we have an even greater challenge as the new institution should be able to support itself and finance its grants somehow. Would be too much bold to imagine states’ contributions based on some kind of algorithm where both emissions and GDP are part of the equation? Could that not encourage indirectly reducing emissions? Just saying…
On January 17, the Deliberative Democracy Cohort was launched as a multi-stakeholder group forming part of the Summit for Democracy. The group is co-led by the European Commission and the Government of Ireland.
To understand the historical meaning of this further step to enhance democracy in times of crisis we need to enlarge the perspective.
Democracy, in its multiple meaning of government “of” the people, “for” the people -or the even more elusive – “in the interest” of the people is a controversial concept, which has received in the course of its now multi-millennial but episodic history various attempts at theorization and even more varied concrete applications.
The idea that its first complete application takes place in the Athens of Pericles is highly accredited, despite it being an improvement of the legacy from previous generations. The first conceptualizations of Plato and Aristotle are well known. However, even then the word was ambivalent: “demos” means undeniably people, yet “kratos” is power (or strength), not necessarily good governance. Other words were preferred by the Athenians themselves to designate their own form of government, because the power of the people, or more correctly of the majority, resembles much to what we would call populism today.
The introduction, over time, of a series of counterbalances to the majority rule, has been decisive in the evolution of the very idea of democracy. Another determining element of evolution, which has gradually merged with the previous one, is in the set of individual rights and freedoms which – starting from equality before the law – makes democracy effective.
The notion of democracy is an evolving phenomenon whose connotations change over time and according to cultures. The typically western formula that informs liberal democracies today has evolved quite a bit from the Athenian polis to the American and French revolutions and from these to the present day; although history has decreed its success, the experiments of other peoples and cultures must not be forgotten. The fair sharing of choices and responsibilities in a given social grouping can take various forms as Amartya Sen pointed out.
The recurring democratic element seems to be the presence of assemblies. The decisional process may be closer to consensus than to the majority voting, achieved through methods of comparison and composition of interests ranging from dialogue to storytelling. The delegation of power to those in the assembly may be some kind of election but the appointment may be achieved in other different ways, based for example on age and experience, or even on rotation and sortition. The attention of this contribution focuses precisely on the latter hypothesis: the rotation carried out by drawing lots, with all the interesting enrichments that come nowadays from the use of mathematical and IT tools.
The reason for the growing attention to deliberative democracy and specifically to the assemblies of citizens designated by lot is not the happiest.
The ongoing crisis of democracy is attested by numerous indexes and can be easily verified: the number of undemocratic or not fully democratic countries is increasing and even where democracy resists it is threatened by anti-politics and abstentionism – serious symptoms of the distance between administrators and administered. The polarization that takes place in the political arena as well as on social media – also due to political profiling – and behaviors such as the diffusion of fake news and the use of hate speech don’t help the conversation and civil confrontation among different groups and parties which is an essential element of parliamentarism. If all this were not bad enough, recent scandals have revealed how attacks on democracy via social networks can be the result of precise strategies, as revealed by the scandal of Cambridge Analytica or by the UN reports concerning the Rohingya genocide in Myanmair.
There is a clear need to restore trust in the process of democratically challenging the others as well as, once elected, reaching a consensus with them on the big issues. A need to accept the debate and the other’s perspectives as equally legitimate. We need to take a stape back and adopt a fresh look.
Maybe we can start where it all started, in Athens, Vth century BC.
At the origins of deliberative democracy by drawing lots is the Athenian experience of the classical era. The Boulé – the council of 500 – was composed as a result of a draw among those who were available. The mechanism of sortition was intended to guarantee the equality of citizens and aimed at avoiding the interference that wealth or social position in the selection. Laws were voted on by the Ecclesia, the assembly of all the citizens, but only after the initiative of Boulé, a combination of deliberative and direct democracy.
The democratic nature of the process, however, was not only in the drawing of lots, which translates into practice an idea of equal opportunities, but even more so in the deliberative moment: in the exercise of debating that led to the formulation of choices.
In direct democracy, the positions expressed by the individuals are the result of autonomous deliberation whenever we are in a dimension bigger than a small community where everyone can be part of a conversation. Its current typical instrument is the referendum. Each individual choice sum-up with those of the others but is formed autonomously, at risk of manipulation or polarization. Conversely, in a deliberative democracy model, i.e. in an assembly, the main goal is achieving a shared will or at least gaining some collective wisdom, through a process of smoothing out the differences through dialogue.
The spring of deliberative democracy based on the lot dates to the last two decades. Particularly significant in this area were the studies conducted within the OECD, which actually followed a series of interesting experiments conducted at a national level on issues of primary importance which demonstrated the effectiveness of the formula. In Europe, after the financial crisis of 2008, both Ireland and Iceland experienced constitutional revision with this formula. However, this is a global trend (see, among others, the experience of British Columbia in Canada in 2004 and Australia in 1998).
Fast forward, we have now permanent assemblies by sortition running from the local level, such as the Paris’ Assemblée citoyenne or the G1000 in Belgium, to the European level as the panels of the Conference on the Future of Europe, run from May 9, 2021, to May 9, 2022. We will see more of them as the European Commission has announced that the same kind of gatherings by sortition will precede the adoption of important legislative proposals on food waste, learning mobility and virtual worlds.
Making the instrument permanent has an added value, it serves to communicate to citizens the message implicit in the rotation: anybody could be next to sit in the assembly and take decisions. It makes all citizens potential actors. Not surprisingly, many think tanks and grassroots movements are supporting these processes.
Technological evolution has brought two important evolutionary factors into the process:
a) The sortition may be the result of an algorithm aimed at reflecting the diversity of the administrated or at favouring certain specifically interested categories. The four panels set up within the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe were intended to pay attention to both objectives: they reflected socio-economic, geographical and gender diversity and at the same time privileged the category of citizens under 25, who were assigned a third of the seats.
The second is the fact that artificial intelligence can contribute significantly to pooling ideas and organizing the outcomes of discussions, to extract the shared will and the main options. This too has already been tested in the European process. More digital tools are being produced and tested for this aim.
The Conference on the Future of Europe concluded its work with the presentation of the Final Report to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission. It includes 49 proposals comprising more than 300 measures spread across 9 themes.
On 4 May 2022, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the follow-up to be given to the Conference, and shortly after, on 17 June, the Commission released a Communication. Both the supranational institutions clearly took the side of the citizens and chose to respond to their expectations. In fact, the Commission prepared an analysis with the 49 proposals divided into thematic areas and subdivided into categories according to whether there were legislative initiatives already in progress, actions planned for follow-up on proposals (but not yet or not necessarily at the initial stage) and new initiatives, but also requests that require revision of the Treaties, accompanied by the intention of following them up. It also specified that implementing the proposals through existing instruments and revising the Treaties were not alternative options, but that what could be done without resorting to revision should be done. The Commission also declared the intention to remain “on the side of those who want to reform the Union to make it work better”, also through the reform of the Treaties, if necessary, as may be necessary for the fields of health and foreign and security policy.
The Parliament was even more direct, adopting on June 9th, a Resolution with the formal request to convene a Convention for the revision of the Treaties.
Among the citizens proposals, one, the 36 no 7, is particularly meaningful:
“Holding Citizens’ assemblies periodically, on the basis of legally binding EU law. Participants must be selected randomly, with representativeness criteria, and participation should be incentivized. If needed, there will be support of experts so that assembly members have enough information for deliberation. If the outcomes are not taken on board by the institutions, this should be duly justified. (…)”. It clearly shows that those in the process found it to be useful and learned within it a new way to be citizens.
SUPRANATIONAL DEMOCRACY DIALOGUE A dialogue among scholars, civil society, and creative thinkers about global democratic solutions to global challenges. V Edition “FOCUS ON TOOLS” Brindisi May 18-19, 2023
The University of Salento will host the new edition of the two days event – the only one of its kind aimed at bringing together scholars from any background, NGO leaders and political activists, businessmen and innovative thinkers to discuss together the big challenges facing humanity.
Those willing to contribute are invited to send an abstract by February 28, 2023, addressing one of the following topics:
I. The Building of a Political Public Sphere beyond Borders. II. Civic Participation and Citizens’ Activism. III. Digital Democracy & AI IV. Litigation for the Advancement of Collective Rights. V. Regional Integrations and Multilateralism. VI. Balancing Conflicting Interests: a Task for Politics and Jurisdictions
Contributions are also welcome if they lay at the intersection of two or more topics (cross-cutting themes such as governance, inequality, transparency…) or if they have a wider focus and include a case study falling within one of the four topics listed above. The ideal contribution is not just an analysis of the problem, but a proposal for addressing it democratically in some original or unconventional way, yet feasible. The abstract (max 500 words), together with a short bio (max 300 words), may be sent to the e-mail address email@example.com. The authors of the selected abstracts will receive two-night accommodation.
With the support of
UNGSC, Maison Jean Monnet, Democracy and Culture Foundation, Atlas, Democracy Without Borders, The Streit Council for a Union of Democracies, CesUE, Euractiv.it, The Democracy School, Italian Association of International Law Professors (SIDI)- Interest Groups on International Economic Law (SIDI DIEcon) and on Humar Rights (DIEDU); Association of Italian Experts of European Law (AISDUE)- Forum on International Projection of European Union (PIUE); Jean Monnait Chair and modules at Università del Salento.
A Few weeks ago, in Brindisi, Italy, the Università del Salento – actually my wonderful little team and myself – hosted the fourth edition of the Supranational Democracy Dialogue. It is a two-days recurring event, one of its kind, aimed at bringing together scholars from any background, NGO leaders and political activists, businessmen and innovative thinkers to discuss together the big challenges facing humanity. Since 2019, this event is supported by the Jean Monnet Chair “Legal Theory of European Integration: a Supranational Democracy Model?”.
The formula is very simple: we publish yearly a call for papers, some months in advance, to invite all those willing to contribute, listing a few topics which are hot or which can be considered a permanent challenge humanity is facing. What we ask to our potential panelists is to be positive, to offer solutions instead of analyses of current problems.
It is easy to see how this kind of conversation cannot but be fruitful for everybody: as creativity is a requirement and speakers come from different paths in life, everybody has something to offer and much to learn from others.
Another interesting quality of the event is that it is quite serendipitous. The special random combination of people and content is different every time, so both their contributions and the interactions among them are always a discovery. As a result, we do not know in advance what will be the real focus of the conversation when people meet.
This year it did not start under the better auspices.The event was in person after two on-line editions and still resenting the effect of the pandemic which took us in physical isolation for nearly two weeks. Yet, the enthusiasm at having again real people meeting under the same roof was hindered by the shadow cast by the war in Ukraine.
Talking of global democracy while we face a reality of war, after several years of regression of democracy in many countries – according to all the renowned democracy indexes- after a pandemic which for safety reasons limited significantly personal freedom, after a global financial crisis, after wave after wave of migrants and refugees…. well, it takes unshakable optimism and strong determination, or – and this is something many panelists since 2018 shared with us – the certainty that no other choice is left.
As counter-intuitive as it may appear, we need vision more than ever. Not by chance, the first topic listed on this years’ call for papers was “The Seeds of Supranationality. From Jean Monnet to Global Governance”. We cannot forget that the seeds of European integration as well those of global multilateralism (UN, IMF, World Bank, WTO- back than ITO- and so many international organizations) were planted during the Second World War. Those who had witnessed the war, who had even fought in it, were the leaders and front-runners in building what they hoped would be lasting peace.
Some of them were political leaders but others were just citizens like you and me, sharing innovative ideas. The Ventotene Manifesto – written by Altiero Spinelli, Ernesto Rossi and Eugenio Colorni in 1941 – while in confinement accused of anti-fascism – is a brilliant example. The road open by these few pages smuggled into Switzerland is history. Not less known is the recognized influence of Jean Monnet, another private citizen, in shaping with his ideas the European Coal and Steal Community, as testified by the 9 May 1950 declaration, which, after, expanded and flourished into the European integration process. It was, nonetheless, essential to this aim the fervent support of the French minister Schumann and, immediately after, that of the political leaders of the six founding member countries.
Addressing this topic during the awful war in Ukraine, we could sense some similarities in trying to imagine a better world when the current order is showing devastating flaws. Yet we could also take stock of what worked and what didn’t in the institutional formulas imagined more than 70 years ago.
Clearly the UN Security Council is to be placed among the tools which did not work. In more general terms, the UN allowed the countries of the world to collaborate on many significant issues. Yet collaboration is maybe not enough and when it comes to peace and war, it happens that collaboration is totally suspended. It is even too easy to consider hopeless an international body where the US, Russia or China enjoy a veto power, and for sure it cannot be considered a bulwark against wars. Needless to say, any war started or supported by a permanent member of the UN Security Council will never be addressed, even less sanctioned.
Yet the discourse is larger than that. The reason for addressing supranationality and not international multilateralism as a topic for our conference is that traditional international organizations like the UN may prove effective and even successful in bringing many states around a table or even having them voting on something, but they do not address the very roots of pacific coexistence. Being international, which means intergovernmental, they bring around that table states’ representatives focused on their national interest, and it is starting from there that they try to compromise. An addition of national interests is not the same as a genuine common interest.
The EU proved a bit more effective in dealing with the emergency as it decided immediate sanctions, supported in several ways Ukraine and allowed protection to refugees. Even there, though, when it comes to foreign and security policy the model is international and the veto power of all the member states is there. It is much easier to adopt a decision on asylum seekers, as we have seen, than to move in the direction of a single voice in negotiating a truce and a humanitarian corridor. Yet, an organization which is mostly supranational, i.e. with its own legitimacy and accountability – an elected Parliament, a Court of Justice an executive body, the Commission, independent from member states but accountable to the Parliament- exerts a force of attraction far more effective than the international ones and allows States to coalesce around a core of common values by offering a predefined path.
Our conversation in Brindisi, in its first session, focused on the seeds of supranationality and explored it from an original perspective, that of individuals – an essential ingredient in any democratic formula, yet totally absent in the intergovernmental and diplomatic formulas. So, it was a talk about what it takes to make the Union a real Republic, about the role of individuals in pushing for its evolution since its very beginning, not only in the political arena but even in courts, through litigation. And, also, enlarging the perspective to the top and to the bottom, about how one could imagine a multilevel governance from the local to the global dimension. In this big picture, the role of individuals appears relevant not only in their personal capacity, but also as members of social bodies and as economic actors.
Particularly fascinating has been, in this framework, the contribution by dr. Wolfgang Pape on omnilateralism, a term used by him to define a model, beyond multilateralism, both multilevel and multistakeholder.
Two following topics have been at the core of further discussions, both addressing the increasing interconnection in the human family from different perspectives: The first one has been the environmental perspective, the second the technological one. Both address a core necessity of our times, the need to take responsibility for global commons in terms of management/governance as well as in terms of awareness and personal responsibility. The biosphere has no borders and ecosystems do have borders different from the national ones, their fragile balance when altered may result in a permanent damage endangering all the species, humans included.
Internet too has no borders and is similarly a global public good which needs to be managed with care. Rights and threats come from the same infrastructure, civic participation may depend on it and misinformation may spread on it significantly impacting democracies and legal orders.
The two conversations had different focuses and if the first one was centered on sustainability, future generations, and rights of nature, the second turned on a spotlight on the big divide among more and less advanced economies and more and less democratic and open societies. Yet both benefited of a true open interdisciplinary dialogue, made up not only of presentations, but also of questions and answers, comments and doubts. It is certainly not possible to solve the problems of the world in two days, but it is at least possible to open the mind to the diversity of perspectives and consider the point of view of the other.
The challenge of inclusion and participation has never been so acutely perceived as in the era of interdependence we live in, in which everyone is connected and interconnected, not only by technology, but also by cause-and-effect phenomena as the environmental and atmospheric ones, or as recently the pandemic. The last and all-encompassing topic has been the one of civic engagement and, in the current situation, it seemed relevant to assess that it is a tool for peace in the broadest sense as it is a tool for coexistence and collaboration and as a way to practice awareness and compassion.
It has been interesting to discuss the role of citizens in the perspective of the participatory and deliberative democracy, as recently in the process called Conference on the future of Europe, but also in the challenge of inclusion, which could be effectively pursued through very practical projects and, in the end. also in daily life of citizens who chose to engage in worthy causes.
It may be interesting to notice that supranational and transnational models, those involving directly citizens, support a smooth process leading to pacification i.e. reconciliation, which is more than peace, or, maybe, it is the real peace. Only when people are involved, work together, participate to common decisions, former enemies may overcome hatred and distrust and – as pointed out in the Schumann Declaration “create a de facto solidarity”. Young Europeans from Germany, France, Italy and all the other EU countries do not hate each other and make easy friendships through their free circulation and the exchange programs among their universities.
Unfortunately, hatred and distrust are not only heritage of wars, but also of other past wounds. In several former member countries of the Soviet Union and of the Warsaw pact, the feelings towards Russia are not exactly friendly, they span from detestation to suspicion to fear. Even more now after the brutal aggression to Ukraine. Nevertheless, it is good to remember that the choices of the Russian government do not reflect those of a people who has inside it divergent positions – brutally repressed – and non-irrelevant manipulations. Even if, apparently, it was non needed, a pacification among former controlling and controlled countries would have been most useful for pacific coexistence, even if we cannot say it would have prevented war. It will be the next challenge on the European continent once the most urgent one, that of peace as the end of war, will be accomplished.
The full recording of the conference is online here, as are online the previous editions. Hope to meet you at the next one!
It has been a pleasure and an honour to be hosted by Nico A. Heller in one of the conversations about the reshaping of democracy. It has been the occasion to talk about European democracy – what works and what doesn’t and how it could evolve – plus discussing reforming international global organisations and the need for postnational democracy in the XXI century to face global issues and manage global commons as the human family we are.
Once again, we are pleased to invite you to this flagship initiative at Università del Salento, the Supranational Democracy Dialogue (or SDD, as we call it), in Brindisi (Italy) in May 6-7, 2022.
In this dark hour, it is difficult to stop thinking of war and how it shakes the very roots of our coexistence, after the pandemic and with the ongoing deterioration of global commons, we could not imagine that things could be worse, yet they are, far worse.
Yet, building peace and understanding is more important than ever, as well as keeping alive the spirit that brings us to believe that a different world is possible (and even within reach).
As we had planned already for the 2020 edition (then moved online because of the Covid -19 pandemic, this edition will be hosted in my hometown, Brindisi. The city, located only half an hour away from Lecce, hosts some new courses of Università del Salento, namely a master degree in Science for international cooperation (which has as institutional partners UNGSC and UNHRD) and a degree in Climate Change and Sustainability. This town is, furthermore, a symbol of peace around the world as it is the main hub for the UN peacekeeping activity and for most of the international humanitarian aid. It is also an easy place to reach as its airport is well connected with many daily flights with Rome and Milan and several low-cost flights with other European capitals. After two virtual editions, it will be great to meet again in person and share interesting conversations and pleasant moments.
For those who wish to contribute, here is the call for papers:
SUPRANATIONAL DEMOCRACY DIALOGUE
A dialogue among scholars, civil society, and creative thinkers about global democratic solutions to global challenges.
Brindisi May 6-7, 2022
The University of Salento will host the two days event – the only one of its kind – aimed at bringing together scholars from any background, NGO leaders and political activists, businessmen and innovative thinkers to discuss together the big challenges facing humanity. Those willing to contribute are invited to send an abstract by March 31 2022, addressing one of the following topics:
Contributions are also welcomed if they lay at the intersection of two or more topics (cross-cutting themes such as governance, inequality, transparency…) or if they have a wider focus and include a case study falling within one of the four topics listed above.
The Seeds of Supranationality. From Jean Monnet to Global Governance.
Democratic Models for Sustainability. A Conversation across Social and Natural Sciences.
Technology in the Age of Interdependence. Democratic Spaces and Threatens to Democracy.
Civic Engagement as a Tool for Peace.
The ideal contribution is not just an analysis of the problem, but a proposal for addressing it democratically in some original or unconventional way, yet feasible. The abstract (max 500 words), together with a short bio (max 300 words), may be sent at the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
The authors of the selected abstracts will receive two nights’ accommodation.