Yesterday, the 27th of November 2013, it was the official opening of the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg. As an introduction to the topic “Rewiring democracy: connecting institutions and citizens in the digital age” not only the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, expressed his view on democracy. Hélène Conway-Mouret, the Minister Delegate for French Nationals Abroad, said that democracy is something we should not take for granted but that it is something everyone must feel concerned about. In order to ensure this, she is convinced that diversity must be increased. There is a change in the means of communication. New technologies can be seen as an instrument for freedom and democratic participation. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that it is still not possible for everyone and everywhere to express his or her own opinion.
For Abdou Diouf, the Secretary General of La Francophonie, freedom cannot exist without responsibility. Therefore, in his eyes, the use of new media and communication tools could strengthen as well as weaken democracy. Instead of focusing on new tools, he would rather prefer focusing on how to strengthen human rights and equality, for example. What he is very sure about is that “we have to save democracy, and we have to save it today”.
Another interesting view on democracy was presented by Irina Yasina, a journalist and civil society activist from Russia. In her work for the Open Russia initiative she put much effort into developing and setting up educational programmes targeting public policy as well as the internet. “You can’t run before you walk” is her statement regarding democracy in Russia where people more and more stand up to fight for democracy. So the educational part is very important in her eyes to make the whole process work. Furthermore, she is very much concerned about how the Russian government deals with its political prisoners, who according to the government, do not exist.
In the following days more of these topics will be discussed during different presentations and debates of initiatives from all over the world focused on new forms of democracy and citizen participation. Articles about that can be found on this website in the course of this week.