Jon Gnarr, in his official capacity as mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland. Gnarr, a sketch comedian, was elected in 2009 on satirical platform of providing free towels at public pools, a polar bear at the zoo and a drug-free parliament by 2020.
In the last decade, a proliferation of anti-establishment parties in the Euro-Atlantic region has led to increased numbers of protest candidates elected to local, national and European office. Protest parties reject mainstream politics and incumbency, opting instead for sensational campaigns that often advocate for a single issue. Pirates in the UK or anarcho-surrealists in Iceland make for interesting debates, but what happens when candidates who reject a system become part of it? Recent examples show that citizens will vote for protest candidates to highlight “elephant-in-the-room” issues, but in the long run candidates need to be able to deliver on critical issues to maintain support.
In Liberia, engineer James Kendor explains to Senator Joyce Freeman Sumo how water is distributed to her constituents. Credit: Varney Karneh
In most places where NDI operates, the relationship between citizens and government needs work. Instead of serving citizens, government institutions are often weak, co-opted by elite interests, or ineffective due to corruption and impunity. When government is unable or unwilling to address basic needs, citizens suffer.
While the international community of parliaments and parliamentary support organizations has successfully developed international standards or benchmarks for the institution of parliament, far less attention has been dedicated to developing standards for the ethical conduct of individual members. To help fill this gap and to start a global conversation, members of the Open Government Partnership’s Legislative Openness Working Group have drafted Common Ethical Principles for Members of Parliament.
Sudanese citizens gather around NDI-distributed radios in the village of Leer to listen to the Let’s Talk program. NDI distributed thousands of wind-up and solar-powered blue radios in Sudan as part of a two-year program that brought dialogue about national issues to isolated communities.
NDI provides technology services to our democracy programs and political partners around the world, and support to our employees and field offices in 60 countries. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) provides leadership, directs technology strategy and is responsible for overall management of all technology support and programs. The CIO also is responsible for establishing strategic partnerships, identifying opportunities to secure program funding and leading the institute’s information security efforts. NDI is a global organization running production business systems and regularly conducting program activities abroad during non-US business hours, thus this job requires the team leader to be accessible at any time as needed (including evenings and weekends).
Nearly 60 million people around the world are refugees -- either displaced within the borders of their own country or living in countries not their own, according to a new UN study. Just this year, there were 14 million new internally displaced people, which is an all-time high.
World Refugee Day, which will be observed tomorrow, brings attention to this growing global crisis. While discussions about internally displaced persons (IDPs) often focus on immediate needs, such as food, medical aid and shelter, another need should not be overlooked: democratic participation.
Shari Bryan speaks on a panel on urbanization and the challenges of local government and citizen engagement in New Delhi, March 2015.
Cities, for the first time in history, are now home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population. This is an incredible demographic shift, and in their rise to prominence, urban centers have begun to shape national and global-level discussions. After all, there are now megacities in Asia and Latin America with larger populations than some European countries. These megacities drive more than 70 percent of the world’s economic activity, and some of their local governments are acting across national borders to strike their own trade deals and address climate change issues.
The Declaration on Parliamentary Openness is a call to the world’s parliaments to increase their commitment to citizen engagement in legislative work. Collaboratively drafted by the global parliamentary monitoring community, the declaration has been endorsed by more than 180 civil society organizations (CSOs) in over 80 countries. Increasingly, parliaments are also signing on to the declaration. On May 4, the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo formally endorsed the declaration, joining a small vanguard of parliaments around the world.
Officials open the polls in Indonesia in September 2004.
No single trend -- neither retreat nor revival -- defines the direction of democracy in Asia. We recently have seen a military coup, followed by a ban on political activity in Thailand; in Hong Kong, the government in Beijing has remained intransigent, insisting on its version of universal suffrage; and in Burma, progress toward political reform seems to have stalled as critical elections approach, although constitutional reform remains a possibility.
The Third International Open Data Conference in Ottawa last week brought together more than 1,000 open data advocates from a diverse array of countries and professional backgrounds for discussions intended to add transparency to government Compared with the First International Open Data Conference -- a small gathering of technologists at the World Bank in 2010 -- the event’s growth constituted a clear statement that open data is here to stay and the global community of advocates is growing.
Each week, NDI’s Citizen Participation team sends materials to staff around the world that offer practical tools and guiding concepts to consider in their programming. In a rapidly changing world, new ideas and strategies are constantly being developed by practitioners, funders and other organizations. By sharing a digest of our “Citizen Participation Weekly Resource,” we hope to highlight the most innovative and effective knowledge-based approaches to making democracy work.