Democracy to the test of the web ” “

World forum in Strasbourg: how it changes in the digital era

(Foto Siciliani-Gennari/SIR)

“Retisser la démocratie: connecter les institutions avec les citoyens à l’ère du numérique” (Democratic interweaving: connecting institutions and citizens in the digital era) is the theme of the second World Forum for Democracy that will bring together in Strasbourg November 27-29 1700 participants – policymakers, political analysts, intellectuals, journalists and representatives of civil society – from 130 world countries. The initiative is promoted by the Council of Europe with the support of the French Government, the Région Alsace e the Ville de Strasbourg. Three days for pundits, along with events open to the general public kicked off on Sunday, November 23. Info: www.coe.int. New forms of participation? The bad state of “health” of democracy – citizens are disillusioned and they feel increasingly distant from politics – and the use of the Internet as a new and promising tool of participatory democracy were the centre of the reflections of the Forum. In the background, a recent survey commissioned by the Council of Europe, titled “Exploiting the web as a tool of democracy: new ways forward in the study and practice of digital democracy”, shows significant reduction in many world countries in terms of citizens’ participation in elections and affiliation to political parties and unions in the years 2007 – 2013 and at the same time an increase in social networks, blogs and online media, in particular websites of governments, parliaments and local institutions that create new areas for the citizens, representing unprecedented opportunities to actively access public life. Such access consists in real time participation in public debate and contribution to decision-making processes, influencing the operative decisions of their representatives. The underlying questions are: are these new forms of online participation revolutionizing democratic participation, thereby calling for their re-definition? Can they lay the grounds for a “democracy 2.0” and represent an answer to the so-called crisis in politics? The experts… Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the CoE, Roland Ries, Mayor of Strasbourg, and Philippe Richert, president of the Région Alsace, will deliver the welcoming remarks on November 27, followed by a debate on the participation of citizens, including trends and prospects, moderated by Jean-Claude Mignon, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. “Democracy in Motion” is the theme of the plenary session of Wednesday, November 28th, followed by workshops dedicated, among other things, to the possible alternatives to representative democracy, the path to democracy 2.0, and the tracks to follow in the future. Among the events planned on the same day figure the launch of a campaign against hate speech on the Internet and the presentation of the Network of Schools of Political Studies of the Council of Europe. The final day, November 29, workshops will focus on “Governing with citizens” (direct democracy, participatory budgeting, local digital democracy ) and on “Imagining the Future” (skills for democracy, empowerment, EU global trends 2030). Among the participants figure Biarnason Robert, co-founder of Citizens Foundation (Iceland), Adam Nyman, Director of Debating Europe; Dmitry Dedov, Judge of the European Court of Human Rights; Mark Johnson, a journalist of “The Economist”, Gagik Harutynyan, president of the constitutional Court of the Republic of Armenia. …and not only. In the framework of the “parallel” program for the public at large, figures the awarding ceremony of the Giovanni Falcone Prize for Justice and democracy conferred by the Ville de Strasbourg. The items on the agenda include a Forum on the year 2013 viewed from the geopolitical angle; a conference on “the need for Europe”, debates promoted by Reporters sans Frontières on the right to information in Syria, on the future of information, on independence and freedom of the press; an international movie festival on human rights and a concert for peace. But Strasbourg intends to become not only the “capital” of politics and democracy. The city, which is the seat of the Council of Europe and of the European Parliament, from December 28 to January 1st 2014 will be, on the invitation of Catholic dioceses and Protestant Churches on the shores of the Rhine, the venue of the annual Taizé meeting, confirming its role as the crossroads of culture and dialogue, sign of hope and faith.

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