What are the greatest engines of democratization? Cities. At the seventh Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracyexternal link in Rome, some 800 participants from almost 100 countries launched an offensive: they drafted a Magna Charta for a global alliance of cities to allow citizens to also participate in government.
"Cities are the most innovative democratic actors because it is there that citizens can exert the greatest influence on governments," said Joe Mathews, co-President of the Forum.
The Magna Charta for an International League of Democracy Citiesexternal link is "a step back into the future," Mathews said. "This is because democracy is strengthened at the local level, as it was in the city of Athens 2,500 years ago.
What does it say?
The Charta should include best practices for effective local, direct and participatory democracy of citizens.
Which cities are the drivers?
Rome (Italy), Seoul (South Korea) and Taichung (Taiwan) were in charge of the first draft, making them in a sense ideal "founding cities".
Tweet from a participant in Rome:
What is the goal?
The Charta provides answers to the question: "What does it mean to be a democracy city?” It is intended to serve as a compass for city mayors, parliamentarians, authorities and organisations around the globe on how they can better share power and decision-making power with their citizens.
Where are the main threats to cities?
In most cases, the threat to democracy comes from above - ie from national governments. Populist, nationalist and autocratic rulers are dismantling liberal freedoms and human rights. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are the focus of their attention. In addition, rights for ethnic minorities or gays and lesbians are restricted.
What is the status quo?
The first draft of the democracy cities statutes of the democracy cities is currently availableexternal link.
What is the next step?
The Charta is both a democratic project and a democratic process: the public is invited to comment on the draft statutes over the next 12 months - and add their own ideas and suggestions about what should be contained in the Magna Charta. This can be done online.
What’s the intention?
The Charta is the basis for a new international association of cities, the "International League of Democracy Cities". This organisation will be be founded in Taiwan in one year's time.