“As a community of people living on the same planet, we have to ask ourselves how we want to govern living together. And the answer to this question can only be in a democratic way,” said Stefan Kalberer, Chair of Democracy Without Borders Switzerland at the 10th Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy.
From 21-25 September 2022, the Global Forum brought together more than 500 participants from over 60 countries in Lucerne, Switzerland. For five days, they discussed the most pressing issues in democracy and how democratic systems can be developed and strengthened. At the end of the Global Forum, participants approved of a joint declaration on strengthening democracy around the world and at the global scale.
Democracy under pressure
With a broad range of approaches to democracy, the Forum aimed to discuss different issues related to democracy. In her opening speech, Irène Kälin, President of the Swiss Parliament, pointed out that engagement for democracy is not only necessary in countries that are not yet democratic, but also in established democracies like her home country, Switzerland. Inclusion is crucial for a strong and legitimate democracy, Kälin said. Nowadays, around 25% of the people living in Switzerland are not part of the electorate as they are not citizens or do not have the right to vote for other reasons. With a view to global developments, Moritz Leuenberger, former member of the Swiss government, followed this up by saying that there have been better times for democracy and that democracies around the world face many challenges. But democracies will adapt to them and transform themselves, Leuenberger predicted.
Transnational democracy was a focus of this year’s Global Forum. In various workshops and panel discussions with representatives from civil society, NGOs, public administration, and academia, the participants discussed the need for global democracy and existing attempts to implement it. Even though global democracy seems to be a utopia for some, we should start working on it, said Eston McKeague, President of the Young World Federalist. “Democracy Without Borders is working on concrete campaigns to establish a democratic global community. With our vision for a World Parliament and the campaigns for a UN Parliamentary Assembly, a UN World Citizens’ Initiative, and a UN Civil Society Envoy we are engaging in concrete projects together with Democracy International, CIVICUS, and a coalition of over 200 groups,” Kalberer said, introducing the We the Peoples campaign for inclusive global governance. According to him, it is crucial that politics at the international level become more democratic. “So far, only the governments of nation-states are formally represented in international politics. It is time for global citizens to be represented as well.”
In a seminar Rasmus Tenbergen presented the Global Voting Platform of Democracy Without Borders, the World Parliament Experiment, which seeks to enable world citizens to participate in global political discussions and vote on various proposals. According to Tenbergen, building a reliable, secure, and attractive online platform is essential for establishing a global democracy.
An important platform
By bringing together relevant actors in the field of global democracy, the Global Forum provides an important platform for building and deepening collaboration between like-minded organisations and experts. “Occasions like this allow us to strengthen our work for a democratic global community,” Kalberer noted. The engagement of various organisations and the growing support of citizens worldwide for the idea of global citizenship are two encouraging facts in a difficult time for democracy, Kalberer concluded optimistically.