DAYS 'REFLECTIONS AND EXPERIENCES' TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF DEMOCRACY (2010)



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16 and December 17, 2010 the General direction of citizen participation organised the Conference 'Reflections and experiences to improve the quality of democracy' in order to discuss the threats and opportunities of this political system and act to improve and strengthen it. A hundred people attended this meeting in which subject matter experts analyzed the State of democracy "in a time when urgently needs it", said the general director of citizen participation, Nacho Celaya.

 

 

00960414"I am aware of that have a dramatic and urgent problem is unemployment; but I am convinced that the most important problem we have as a society is to give policy their ability to transform and govern the society." With this statement, the Minister of Presidency, Eva Almunia, stressed the need of an event like this, for reflection on the threats and opportunities of democracy, to act in order to improve the quality and strengthen the political system. The Minister opened December 16 sessions 'Reflections and experiences to improve the quality of democracy', together with the general director of citizen participation, Nacho Celaya, the Aragonese Corporación de Radio y Television, Ramón Tejedor, director and director of the Institute of Government and policies public of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Quim Brugué.

 

In Auditorium José Luis Borao the Corporación Aragonesa of Radio and Television, the Minister of Presidency of the Government of Aragon, Eva Almunia, said that the commitment of the regional Executive for public participation has consolidated an experience that "is avant-garde in the autonomous". In addition, he stressed that, in this matter, the Government of Aragon has defined its own model of doing things. "We have marked the rules of the game, have defined methodologies and indicators on participation and now we intend to design a regulatory model that ensures that both the right of citizenship, and the duty of public authorities to facilitate their participation in the construction of public policies, are secured," he recalled. Almunia also said that the creation of the General Directorate of citizen participation "has been good news for the democratic quality of Aragon".

 

 

Referring to the theme of the Conference, the Minister said that one of the challenges facing the society is "to give politics the ability to transform and govern the society". "Because this policy - said - it is which has led to the Covenants, dialogue and social consultation and which has made possible the enormous transformation that Spain and Aragon have experienced in recent decades." In this sense, Eva Almunia referred to democracy as a political system not only, but also as "a way of life".

 

In addition to the Minister, at the opening of this Conference also spoke the Aragonese Corporación de Radio y Television, Ramón Tejedor, director who began appreciating the work of the General Directorate of citizen participation to revitalize and deepen the concept of participatory democracy. Weaver insisted that this meeting underlines that democracy has to be much more than voting every four years, "in this way save the disaffection of the citizens towards the policy showing the polls".

 

For his part, the director of IGOP, Quim Brugué, recalled that the fragility of democracy deserves "effort and dedication". Believes it necessary to ask whether we want it to preserve and what kind of democracy we want to live, for this way know to act accordingly. Brugué pointed out that the Government of Aragon, through the General Directorate of citizen participation, has made these questions.

 

"WE ARE IN A DEMOCRACY ON HOLD, NOT SUSPENDED. "IN THIS TRANSITION ALREADY THERE ARE PEOPLE A LOT DOING THINGS"

 

00960495Professor of Sociology of the University of the Basque country and the PSOE/PSE by Vizacaya, Imanol Zubero, Senator began the papers reflecting on the quality of democracy. First, he noted that it is essential to make a democracy that is supported by one sufficient number of active Democrats.

 

Zubero reviewed some indicative of disaffection citizen politics and, by extension, toward the democratic system: polls show a wide dissatisfaction with the functioning of democracy, in many places do not vote the majority of the citizens... He indicated two possible diagnoses for this situation: the first, a widespread decline in social capital - the most critical view-; and second, that we are in a time of transition in which is emerging a new civic generation, the sons of liberty.

 

Zubero was raised if we face a crisis of participation or a particular form of participation. "There are certain forms of participation which already are useless," he said. He also warned of the danger of a concerned, individualistic and demanding participation. Democracy, as collective action which is - said-, need active Democrats who assume the cost of participating.

 

Finally, Zubero has listed six proposals for intervention to make democracy win health:

-Giving real value to the policy; show which serves to create something and not be seen as mere Manager of what we have.

-Expand the concept of participation; ask what democracy we want and how we'll carry out.

-Make it possible materially participation. To be able to reconcile working with policy or the civic life, now that we are in an era where just we have time for anything.

-Relocate the policy; ask what are the spaces for policy since democracy always refers to specific places.

-Create liberated areas wherever possible to encourage democratic proposals.

-Tell policy; give idealism and values that build political discourse.

 

Zubero ended by pointing out that democracy is not suspended, but suspended. He said that we are in a moment of transition in which there are already many people who are doing things to improve democracy.

 

 

THERE IS A CRISIS OF SOCIAL CAPITAL AND IT IS NECESSARY TO RETHINK THE REPRESENTATIVENESS?

 

00960534Then, Jaume Magre, director of the Fundació Pi i Sunyer and Professor of political science at the University of Barcelona critically reviewed the myths and realities about the democratic disaffection. He began by pointing out two initial clues to analyze important levels of disaffection that occur in Spain.

 

First, if we ask ourselves what makes democracy is stable, we would see that democracy is maintained over time if individuals in a country share a set of values. A type of political culture that is consistent with democracy is civic culture. More civic culture, therefore, implies more stable democracy in time and higher quality.

 

Two indicators that largely explain the strength of a democracy and that should not worry us too much in Spain would be: the acceptance of the democratic system (diffuse support), which in Spain is equal or very similar to the of other Western democracies; and the feeling of belonging to the nation (plurinationalism).

 

_BEL1044The indicators that are going wrong, since they are very low, but they have always had a downward trend in Spain are:

1. the subjective political effectiveness: the perception of the citizen about the pressure that can be submitted to political power so that it meets their demands. Largest EPS increased electoral participation.

2. the interest in policy, relating to the attitude and it correlates with political and electoral participation. What produces the system is what value negatively respondents for CIS, if citizens agree with the democratic system.

 

Given this scenario, Jaume Magre said some paradoxes. If citizens negatively valued politicians, parties, to which the Government produces, why not manifested against when they exercise their sovereignty with the vote?, why citizens - requiring transparency - penalize internal dissent in a game when this becomes public?, why for the time being has not been shown open lists involve greater electoral participation?

 

Magre believes that we are obliged to consider new perspectives to explain democratic disaffection, new analyses which can be controversial and provocative. He cited two examples: the influence of residential mobility in voting behavior and the influence of the new settlers and migratory movements; that lead us to reformulations and the need to clarify concepts, "we would talk of loss of social capital rather than abstention or political disaffection," said.

 

During his presentation wondered if it should "rethink the citizen". Although cost us to acknowledge him, he continued, would will not be before a majority of apathetic citizens who ignore political issues, preferring to resolve things from your nearest area, on which fall decisions that depend on agencies who "may not be too democratic", as for example the IMF?

 

Why Magre considered that it would take measure to this variant of "good enought citizen" (not good enough citizen), which fights for the survival of democracy but about who can not target too many expectations in terms of participation. They are, in his opinion, reasonable doubts over the projected horizon and at least, you think that you should rethink "representativeness".

 

THE STORY OF THE MEDIA AS THE CAUSE OF DISAFFECTION

 

Professor of political sciences of the Autonomous University of Barcelona and former Minister of Justice of the Generalitat, Josep María Vallés, addressed the relationship between democracy and the media. Communication and politics are networks that connect and capture, said Vallés. Their initial relationship (retorica-politica) has intensified. The means of mass communication have somehow transformed democracy and in parallel to that greater impact occurs paradoxically the phenomenon of disaffection, he said.

 

Vallès was asked to what extent there is concordance between democratic politics to which we aspire and the communicative logic of the media of mass communication.

 

It is bad news, in his view, that dominate a communicative logic (which drags professionals and politicians) little consistent with the aspirations of a quality (Republican, deliberative, participative) democracy. The result is negative for the encouragement of citizen participation.

 

00960672According to Professor and former adviser to the communicative logic is characterized by a preference for long processes, hobby specific events by deep contrasts, preference for novelty, predilection by strong emotional impacts, predilection for prototype characters and a predominance of opinion. In this way, media are tributaries of a communicative system made from the advertising creation.

 

This is because, according to his argument, give importance to facts that have little effect on the social reality; because they ignore a deeper political processes, of longer duration that are difficult to adapt to the common communication format; create pseudo-hechos, provoked artificially to produce newsworthy material; elect politicians based on the story that offered through the media; They provide pseudo-debates or talk shows no willingness to dialogue or apparent listening.

 

All this causes some contrasting consequences: politicians tend to a preventive automediatizacion which denatures the contents and we offer communication shows that generate more disaffection, remoteness, discredit, disappointment, mistrust...

 

00960447To avoid falling into fatalism, Valles said other ways to explore:

-Although it is early to make an assessment (ciberoptimistas / ciberpesimistas) would have to explore the impact and opportunities offered by systems that allow universal access to communication systems.

-Missing a training refined citizens and professionals to "grow with one background of more critical" in relation to the media.

-Better preparation of communication professionals.

-More effective protection of the constitutional right to receive information.

-Intervention public communication activities, for example on audiovisual tips, and communication policies.

-Guarantee the right to public information by all citizens.

-Introduction of new information and open the public debate spaces funded with public resources.

 

THREE EXPERIENCES OF CITIZEN PARTICIPATION TO CLOSE THE CONFERENCE: GENOVA MOTORWAY

 

The second day of fourth, three experts analyzed participatory experiences. First, the Professor of science policy at the University of Bologna, in Italy, Luigui Bobbio, shared her experience of public debate on the motorway from Genoa. Bobbio stressed the importance of experiment and innovate according to some references already contrasted in other countries. In the Italian case was followed the French model, requiring by law that all great works, prior to its complete definition projects, should be subjected to public debate.

 

This was with the West Gronda (Gronda Genoa) motorway. Italian professor said that in Italy they departed without any legislation on the matter. In this way, a very problematic case - dealt with since it is very congested, with direct condition on housing, with important conditions some valleys, etc..-that affects a small stretch of Highway 20 kilometers, in which direct stakeholders discussed five alternatives: 1 and 2 of the Town Hall, the 3 proposed by the society of the motorways(, the 4 of 2006 and 5 proposed by the region).

 

During the three months of duration of the process is supported in a number of complementary tools:

1. the creation of an independent Commission that guarantees that the process was open and to develop properly;

2. the distribution of a brochure of all the newspapers with paths and the calendar of meetings and forced the developer to use understandable language;

3. the Forum of the website;

4. make the assemblies in the involved districts;

5. collateral meetings more restricted;

6. laboratory on mobility;

7. tables of guarantees;

8. the 45 actors notebooks, 18 of which individual citizens;

9. the local Observatory, about the project and the follow-up of the works.

 

00960760Bobbio said that the challenge was to manage a tense situation in a relatively short time. Thus, sought the formula for managing a high level of participation, initially reactive and 'arrabiata' (up to 600 people in some of the meetings), which mobilized mostly opponents to the project. In addition, opened the debate citizen at two levels, one on the real need or not to Highway and another on alternatives of the path.

 

This experience resulted in a common space in which to refocus the conflict, expressing positions, arguments and proposals without excluding any with a frame of reference light.

 

Despite the fact that in the meetings was dominated by conflict through testimony or through protests, there was room for debate argued - particularly in the less-crowded formats-, to the contribution of new ideas by citizens or to make visible problems of mapping in areas not foreseen initially; knowing from the start that the debate was not binding and that "force is the redefinition of the problem, the content of the arguments and not the power of decision", he said Bobbio.

 

_BEL0832At the end were different interpretations - possibly all certain and true, clarified - what happened and finally adopted outcome:

1. the optimistic: innovative solution that would not have been possible without the public debate;

2. the criticism: solution that avoids a reflection deep on mobility in the metropolitan area;

3. also critical: you get to what I wanted to the city from the outset;

4. the result is an objective coalition between all the sites involved against the rest of Italian motorists.

 

The balance sheet and key success factors of this Italian experience of public debate were as follows:

1. has forced promoter to put the cards on the table and argue in public choices.

2 has made it possible to disseminate information among the population.

3 it has promoted the mobilization of local communities and has facilitated the identification of partners.

4 has caused latent conflicts emerged at the beginning, which allows to improve the technical proposal before his execution.

5 it has forced the parties to find good technical arguments.

6 it has facilitated the debate between very different views.

7 he has played a catalyst role to focus the attention of the citizenry on the new highway.

8 it has paved the way for the involvement of the territory in the aftermath.

 

 

REFERENDUM ON THE DIAGONAL IN BARCELONA

 

00961381Xavier Patón, director of participation of Barcelona City Council, presented an analysis of its recent experience in the popular consultation on the draft amendment of a section of the Avenida Diagonal in Barcelona.

 

He began describing what is considered as a legitimate aspiration: company implemented a process of urban renewal and improving strategic mobility in the city.

 

To do this, they promoted mechanisms of democratic innovation governance in relation to a project (3.6 of the 11 km from Diagonal) closely linked with the great processes of transformation of the city leaning:

1. in tools of technical innovation as electronic voting;

2. important technical work to provide the contents of urban citizens, as well as to share the difficulty of management competence in the management of the public space as finite public good.

 

But stressed that the entire generated too much 'noise': the follow-up media was almost election campaign or more (more than one thousand of news during the process).

 

Then outlined five reasons objective to transform this stretch of the Diagonal:

1. the historical evolution and the growth of the city, forced to redefine the functions of the Diagonal shaft;

2. it has the highest accident of all avenues of Barcelona;

3 it is uncomfortable for pedestrians and residents;

4. the public transport are collapsed;

5. high levels of pollution and poor state of woodland.

 

In this way is made clear objectives of the participatory process and a methodological design "of note". The participatory process was developed in five phases (F0-Constitution of the technical office / F1 - information and communication / F2 - collection of contributions / F3 - return of contributions / F4 - preparation and submission of projects / F5 - consultation citizen) that had for objectives:

1. make the maximum information from the project, the urban structure of the Diagonal,

2 provide instruments and mechanisms necessary to citizenship so that they can express and make contributions to the project and later for what they can choose between the alternative technical proposals and

3. make a personalized return of contributions.

 

But the initiative finally collided with the harsh reality. Patón wondered then if we talk about failure or a good initiative from which we can learn. Despite the dissemination and visibility that had the process noted several reasons why possibly be distorted:

1. excessive politicization of the query. Pre-eminence of the partisan debate with the debate of the values.

2. the majority party in the opposition forced to include the C option to give necessary support to the consultation. It was probably a strategic mistake of the municipal government.

3. socio-context - changing political (local and general) for a defined process to develop a two-year view.

4. While the municipal Government was intended to focus messages on the transformation of public space the citizenship is interrogated about effects that would have on mobility.

5. perhaps not properly aired to citizenship the existence of certain problems or they were not shared or priority for citizenship.

6. difficulties in the implementation of the e-voting too many innovations together?

7. degree of real involvement of the organs of participation.

 

 

TABLE MOUNTAIN, A PARTICIPATORY EXPERIENCE IN ARAGON

 

00960005Quim Brugué, director of the IGOP and Professor of political science at the UAB, presented an initial assessment of the Aragonese Table of the mountain as a deliberative space experience.

 

 

Brugué said that the table meets note the five basic criteria required to a deliberative space:

1 has led to an exchange of arguments and reasons (has been dedicated enough time and resources, has boosted professionally to get it and all this has been documented and it is clear).

2 there is agreement between the actors involved as in the table were the diversity of voices that ought to be.

3 it has been a space accessible and comprehensible. There has been an effort of transparency in information and traceability is very important.

4 it has generated behaviors of moral economy of disagreement. The participants highly valued the work climate, respect for the position of others and the ability to discuss from opposing positions.

5. the process can be linked to concrete decisions, such as the three basic documents signed by the Bureau.

 

In addition, these five criteria Brugué pointed out that:

1. in addition to an I space deliberative, the Bureau has also been a bargaining space (to reach accord approved basic texts) and this may have bothered some.

2. Despite a diversity of voices, table by its reduced composition has been left away from people standing. Somehow, it is as if had asked the society that it delegated public debate to the men that were at the table.

3 despite good weather and mutual recognition, there was the abandonment by the platform (which is in part also due to their own environment-related reasons).

4. There is great impatience to see how translate the agreements on impact of Government.

 

He also noted the good perceptions of participants in terms of the functioning of the Board. Respondents stated:

1 be surprised by the honesty, the exquisiteness, seriousness, well prepared that was all;

2. the feeling of sowing relationships and understandings; have learned to work in a climate of respect, trust and symmetry between the actors;

3 recognize that through the implementation of the table the Government has said a high level of commitment which has pushed them to work.

 

But he also added some hints and suggestions. At times, the perception of some participants was that it progressed slowly and was devoted too much time to clarify the documents agreed formulations. Also indicated the interest that process had involved an independent Commission, with a leadership that is more distant from the Government, to contribute to defuse some conflicts.

 

According to Brugu results are tangible and intangible. It seems premature, he said, evaluate the more tangible results of table that have to do with the incidence of the contributions in government action. However, we can already confirm the intangible results, which put in value the process and speak of the improvement of mutual relations and trust. This is a solid foundation on which improves the policy, he said.

 

00961364Eventually, he left four lessons to continue reflecting:

1. the deliberative difficult balance: between what has to be a general public debate and a panel discussion of interests;

2 leadership and driving are the bases of the cocktail, possibly accompanied by a more neutral independent Commission;

3. clear rules, good climate and results that combine the dimensions more general and abstract with more concrete realities;

4. the tangibility and intangibility (value of the results and the process); they are the two important and mutually conditioned.

 

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