Socrates once said that democracy itself will lead to the election of demagogues and dictators. Witnessing today's events one could claim he was right. What are the pitfalls of democracy? Is an electoral representative system in a media era inevitably leading to populism? Is a welfare state bound to end up in the erosion of the sense of community? Will the growing reliance on bottom-up initiatives and DIY promote inequality? What are the strategies and tools to overcome this possible negative effects? In a roundtable conversation with Hille Hinsberg, Dick Pels, Godelieve van Heteren and Firoez Azarhoosh we discuss both the pitfalls and breakthroughs in current democracies and how these can be used to create alternative forms of democratic governance on the local as well as on the European scale.
With among others
As civil society and governance expert Hille Hinsberg was one of the co-organizers of The People’s Assembly in Estonia. In 2012 the Estonian Parliament questioned how they could make Estonian politics more democratic. Together with civil society organizations the online platform The People’s Assembly was initiated in order to crowdsource new legislation on political parties, the electoral system and citizen engagement. Hille will share her experience with this innovative method that generated 6.000 policy proposals from which 15 have been presented to Parliament and 7 have been accepted.
Dick Pels is a sociologist and political writer. He is former director of the think-tank of the Dutch political party Groenlinks. He has worked at the universities of Amsterdam and Groningen, was research fellow at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, visiting professor at the University of Cape Town, and until 2002 professor at Brunel University in London. Since 2003 Dick works as freelance writer for several Dutch magazines and is often asked political commentator on television and radio. His most recent books are: Het Volk bestaat niet. Leiderschap en populisme in de mediademocratie (2011) and A Heart for Europe (2016).
A perspective on the state of Dutch and European democracy is given by Godelieve van Heteren who actively works on the development of democratic alternatives and stronger forms of citizen engagement. She is director of her organization Europe Arena, which is a network organization that facilitates public debate on the future of Europe, and president of the Europese Beweging Nederland (EBN). Godelieve is also senior health system expert and was member of Dutch parliament from 2002 to 2006 with an extra focus on European and international affairs.
Firoez Azaroosh is a community builder and social entrepreneur. He was co-founder of the Meevaart, a community center in Amsterdam East that is largely based on the principle of self-governance. Firoez has fulfilled different management functions related to the topics of participation and co-creation inside governments as well as civil society organizations. He has established himself as an expert in community building, urban renewal and an innovator in creating new methods of participative governance and cooperative forms of social entrepreneurship.
This event is part of the Dutch digital democracy project of the Dutch Ministry of Interior and Kingdom relations together with Netwerk Democratie and Waag society. The aim of this project is to boost the use of digital participation tools in the Netherlands by tapping into already successfully used e-democracy tools throughout Europe. It is realized as a part of the European Citizens Crowdsourcing (EUCROWD) conference organised by Netwerk Democratie. The EUCROWD project has been funded with the support of the Europe for Citizens programme 2016 of the European Union. The project aims to raise awareness of the possibilities and to develop the skills at national and European level for using innovative channels of e-participation of citizens in politics and policy with a focus on the application of crowdsourcing in fostering a democratic debate on the future of the European Union.