Many Around the World Are Disengaged From Politics


Richard Wike and Alexandra Castillo at Pew Research Center: “An engaged citizenry is often considered a sign of a healthy democracy. High levels of political and civic participation increase the likelihood that the voices of ordinary citizens will be heard in important debates, and they confer a degree of legitimacy on democratic institutions. However, in many nations around the world, much of the public is disengaged from politics.

To better understand public attitudes toward civic engagement, Pew Research Center conducted face-to-face surveys in 14 nations encompassing a wide range of political systems. The study, conducted in collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as part of their International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), includes countries from Africa, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Because it does not represent every region, the study cannot reflect the globe as a whole. But with 14,875 participants across such a wide variety of countries, it remains a useful snapshot of key, cross-national patterns in civic life.

The survey finds that, aside from voting, relatively few people take part in other forms of political and civic participation. Still, some types of engagement are more common among young people, those with more education, those on the political left and social network users. And certain issues – especially health care, poverty and education – are more likely than others to inspire political action. Here are eight key takeaways from the survey, which was conducted from May 20 to Aug. 12, 2018, via face-to-face interviews.

Most people vote, but other forms of participation are much less common. Across the 14 nations polled, a median of 78% say they have voted at least once in the past. Another 9% say they might vote in the future, while 7% say they would never vote.

With at least 9-in-10 reporting they have voted in the past, participation is highest in three of the four countries with compulsory voting (Brazil, Argentina and Greece). Voting is similarly high in both Indonesia (91%) and the Philippines (91%), two countries that do not have compulsory voting laws.

The lowest percentage is found in Tunisia (62%), which has only held two national elections since the Jasmine Revolution overthrew long-serving President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and spurred the Arab Spring protests across the Middle East.

Chart showing that beyond voting, political participation is relatively low.

Attending a political campaign event or speech is the second most common type of participation among those surveyed – a median of 33% have done this at least once. Fewer people report participating in volunteer organizations (a median of 27%), posting comments on political issues online (17%), participating in an organized protest (14%) or donating money to a social or political organization (12%)….(More)”.

China’s Aggressive Surveillance Technology Will Spread Beyond Its Borders


Already there are reports that Zimbabwe, for example, is turning to Chinese firms to implement nationwide facial-recognition and surveillance programs, wrapped into China’s infrastructure investments and a larger set of security agreements as well, including for policing online communication. The acquisition of black African faces will help China’s tech sector improve its overall data set.

Malaysia, too, announced new partnerships this spring with China to equip police with wearable facial-recognition cameras. There are quiet reports of Arab Gulf countries turning to China not just for the drone technologies America has denied but also for the authoritarian suite of surveillance, recognition, and data tools perfected in China’s provinces. In a recent article on Egypt’s military-led efforts to build a new capital city beyond Cairo’s chaos and revolutionary squares, a retired general acting as project spokesman declared, “a smart city means a safe city, with cameras and sensors everywhere. There will be a command center to control the entire city.” Who is financing construction? China.

While many governments are making attempts to secure this information, there have been several alarming stories of data leaks. Moreover, these national identifiers create an unprecedented opportunity for state surveillance at scale. What about collecting biometric information in nondemocratic regimes? In 2016, the personal details of nearly 50 million people in Turkey were leaked….

China and other determined authoritarian states may prove undeterrable in their zeal to adopt repressive technologies. A more realistic goal, as Georgetown University scholar Nicholas Wright has argued, is to sway countries on the fence by pointing out the reputational costs of repression and supporting those who are advocating for civil liberties in this domain within their own countries. Democracy promoters (which we hope will one day again include the White House) will also want to recognize the coming changes to the authoritarian public sphere. They can start now in helping vulnerable populations and civil society to gain greater technological literacy to advocate for their rights in new domains. It is not too early for governments and civil society groups alike to study what technological and tactical countermeasures exist to circumvent and disrupt new authoritarian tools.

Seven years ago, techno-optimists expressed hope that a wave of new digital tools for social networking and self-expression could help young people in the Middle East and elsewhere to find their voices. Today, a new wave of Chinese-led technological advances threatens to blossom into what we consider an “Arab spring in reverse”—in which the next digital wave shifts the pendulum back, enabling state domination and repression at a staggering scale and algorithmic effectiveness.

Americans are absolutely right to be urgently focused on countering Russian weaponized hacking and leaking as its primary beneficiary sits in the Oval Office. But we also need to be more proactive in countering the tools of algorithmic authoritarianism that will shape the worldwide future of individual freedom….(More)”.

CrowdLaw Manifesto


At the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center this spring, assembled participants  met to discuss CrowdLaw, namely how to use technology to improve the quality and effectiveness of law and policymaking through greater public engagement. We put together and signed 12 principles to promote the use of CrowdLaw by local legislatures and national parliaments, calling for legislatures, technologists and the public to participate in creating more open and participatory lawmaking practices. We invite you to sign the Manifesto using the form below.

Draft dated May 29, 2018

  1. To improve public trust in democratic institutions, we must improve how we govern in the 21st century.
  2. CrowdLaw is any law, policy-making or public decision-making that offers a meaningful opportunity for the public to participate in one or multiples stages of decision-making, including but not limited to the processes of problem identification, solution identification, proposal drafting, ratification, implementation or evaluation.
  3. CrowdLaw draws on innovative processes and technologies and encompasses diverse forms of engagement among elected representatives, public officials, and those they represent.
  4. When designed well, CrowdLaw may help governing institutions obtain more relevant facts and knowledge as well as more diverse perspectives, opinions and ideas to inform governing at each stage and may help the public exercise political will.
  5. When designed well, CrowdLaw may help democratic institutions build trust and the public to play a more active role in their communities and strengthen both active citizenship and democratic culture.
  6. When designed well, CrowdLaw may enable engagement that is thoughtful, inclusive, informed but also efficient, manageable and sustainable.
  7. Therefore, governing institutions at every level should experiment and iterate with CrowdLaw initiatives in order to create formal processes for diverse members of society to participate in order to improve the legitimacy of decision-making, strengthen public trust and produce better outcomes.
  8. Governing institutions at every level should encourage research and learning about CrowdLaw and its impact on individuals, on institutions and on society.
  9. The public also has a responsibility to improve our democracy by demanding and creating opportunities to engage and then actively contributing expertise, experience, data and opinions.
  10. Technologists should work collaboratively across disciplines to develop, evaluate and iterate varied, ethical and secure CrowdLaw platforms and tools, keeping in mind that different participation mechanisms will achieve different goals.
  11. Governing institutions at every level should encourage collaboration across organizations and sectors to test what works and share good practices.
  12. Governing institutions at every level should create the legal and regulatory frameworks necessary to promote CrowdLaw and better forms of public engagement and usher in a new era of more open, participatory and effective governing.

The CrowdLaw Manifesto has been signed by the following individuals and organizations:

Individuals

  • Victoria Alsina, Senior Fellow at The GovLab and Faculty Associate at Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University
  • Marta Poblet Balcell , Associate Professor, RMIT University
  • Robert Bjarnason — President & Co-founder, Citizens Foundation; Better Reykjavik
  • Pablo Collada — Former Executive Director, Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente
  • Mukelani Dimba — Co-chair, Open Government Partnership
  • Hélène Landemore, Associate Professor of Political Science, Yale University
  • Shu-Yang Lin, re:architect & co-founder, PDIS.tw
  • José Luis Martí , Vice-Rector for Innovation and Professor of Legal Philosophy, Pompeu Fabra University
  • Jessica Musila — Executive Director, Mzalendo
  • Sabine Romon — Chief Smart City Officer — General Secretariat, Paris City Council
  • Cristiano Ferri Faría — Director, Hacker Lab, Brazilian House of Representatives
  • Nicola Forster — President and Founder, Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy
  • Raffaele Lillo — Chief Data Officer, Digital Transformation Team, Government of Italy
  • Tarik Nesh-Nash — CEO & Co-founder, GovRight; Ashoka Fellow
  • Beth Simone Noveck, Director, The GovLab and Professor at New York University Tandon School of Engineering
  • Ehud Shapiro , Professor of Computer Science and Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science

Organizations

  • Citizens Foundation, Iceland
  • Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente, Chile
  • International School for Transparency, South Africa
  • Mzalendo, Kenya
  • Smart Cities, Paris City Council, Paris, France
  • Hacker Lab, Brazilian House of Representatives, Brazil
  • Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy, Switzerland
  • Digital Transformation Team, Government of Italy, Italy
  • The Governance Lab, New York, United States
  • GovRight, Morocco
  • ICT4Dev, Morocco

Examining Civil Society Legitimacy


Saskia Brechenmacher and Thomas Carothers at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: “Civil society is under stress globally as dozens of governments across multiple regions are reducing space for independent civil society organizations, restricting or prohibiting international support for civic groups, and propagating government-controlled nongovernmental organizations. Although civic activists in most places are no strangers to repression, this wave of anti–civil society actions and attitudes is the widest and deepest in decades. It is an integral part of two broader global shifts that raise concerns about the overall health of the international liberal order: the stagnation of democracy worldwide and the rekindling of nationalistic sovereignty, often with authoritarian features.

Attacks on civil society take myriad forms, from legal and regulatory measures to physical harassment, and usually include efforts to delegitimize civil society. Governments engaged in closing civil society spaces not only target specific civic groups but also spread doubt about the legitimacy of the very idea of an autonomous civic sphere that can activate and channel citizens’ interests and demands. These legitimacy attacks typically revolve around four arguments or accusations:

  • That civil society organizations are self-appointed rather than elected, and thus do not represent the popular will. For example, the Hungarian government justified new restrictions on foreign-funded civil society organizations by arguing that “society is represented by the elected governments and elected politicians, and no one voted for a single civil organization.”
  • That civil society organizations receiving foreign funding are accountable to external rather than domestic constituencies, and advance foreign rather than local agendas. In India, for example, the Modi government has denounced foreign-funded environmental NGOs as “anti-national,” echoing similar accusations in Egypt, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and elsewhere.
  • That civil society groups are partisan political actors disguised as nonpartisan civic actors: political wolves in citizen sheep’s clothing. Governments denounce both the goals and methods of civic groups as being illegitimately political, and hold up any contacts between civic groups and opposition parties as proof of the accusation.
  • That civil society groups are elite actors who are not representative of the people they claim to represent. Critics point to the foreign education backgrounds, high salaries, and frequent foreign travel of civic activists to portray them as out of touch with the concerns of ordinary citizens and only working to perpetuate their own privileged lifestyle.

Attacks on civil society legitimacy are particularly appealing for populist leaders who draw on their nationalist, majoritarian, and anti-elite positioning to deride civil society groups as foreign, unrepresentative, and elitist. Other leaders borrow from the populist toolbox to boost their negative campaigns against civil society support. The overall aim is clear: to close civil society space, governments seek to exploit and widen existing cleavages between civil society and potential supporters in the population. Rather than engaging with the substantive issues and critiques raised by civil society groups, they draw public attention to the real and alleged shortcomings of civil society actors as channels for citizen grievances and demands.

The widening attacks on the legitimacy of civil society oblige civil society organizations and their supporters to revisit various fundamental questions: What are the sources of legitimacy of civil society? How can civil society organizations strengthen their legitimacy to help them weather government attacks and build strong coalitions to advance their causes? And how can international actors ensure that their support reinforces rather than undermines the legitimacy of local civic activism?

To help us find answers to these questions, we asked civil society activists working in ten countries around the world—from Guatemala to Tunisia and from Kenya to Thailand—to write about their experiences with and responses to legitimacy challenges. Their essays follow here. We conclude with a final section in which we extract and discuss the key themes that emerge from their contributions as well as our own research…

  1. Saskia Brechenmacher and Thomas Carothers, The Legitimacy Landscape
  2. César Rodríguez-Garavito, Objectivity Without Neutrality: Reflections From Colombia
  3. Walter Flores, Legitimacy From Below: Supporting Indigenous Rights in Guatemala
  4. Arthur Larok, Pushing Back: Lessons From Civic Activism in Uganda
  5. Kimani Njogu, Confronting Partisanship and Divisions in Kenya
  6. Youssef Cherif, Delegitimizing Civil Society in Tunisia
  7. Janjira Sombatpoonsiri, The Legitimacy Deficit of Thailand’s Civil Society
  8. Özge Zihnioğlu, Navigating Politics and Polarization in Turkey
  9. Stefánia Kapronczay, Beyond Apathy and Mistrust: Defending Civic Activism in Hungary
  10. Zohra Moosa, On Our Own Behalf: The Legitimacy of Feminist Movements
  11. Nilda Bullain and Douglas Rutzen, All for One, One for All: Protecting Sectoral Legitimacy
  12. Saskia Brechenmacher and Thomas Carothers, The Legitimacy Menu.(More)”.

When Fighting Fake News Aids Censorship


Courtney C. Radsch at Project Syndicate: “Many media analysts have rightly identified the dangers posed by “fake news,” but often overlook what the phenomenon means for journalists themselves. Not only has the term become a shorthand way to malign an entire industry; autocrats are invoking it as an excuse to jail reporters and justify censorship, often on trumped-up charges of supporting terrorism.

Around the world, the number of honest journalists jailed for publishing fake or fictitious news is at an all-time high of at least 21. As non-democratic leaders increasingly use the “fake news” backlash to clamp down on independent media, that number is likely to climb.

The United States, once a world leader in defending free speech, has retreated from this role. President Donald Trump’s Twitter tirades about “fake news” have given autocratic regimes an example by which to justify their own media crackdowns. In December, China’s state-run People’s Daily newspaper posted tweets and a Facebook post welcoming Trump’s fake news mantra, noting that it “speaks to a larger truth about Western media.” This followed the Egyptian government’s praise for the Trump administration in February 2017, when the country’s foreign ministry criticized Western journalists for their coverage of global terrorism.

And in January 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praised Trump for berating a CNN reporter during a live news conference. Erdoğan, who criticized the network for its coverage of pro-democracy protests in Turkey in 2013, said that Trump had put the journalist “in his place.” Trump returned the compliment when he met Erdoğan a few months later. Praising his counterpart for being an ally in the fight against terrorism, Trump made no mention of Erdoğan’s own dismal record on press freedom.

It is no accident that these three countries have been quickest to embrace Trump’s “fake news” trope. China, Egypt, and Turkey jailed more than half of the world’s journalists in 2017, continuing a trend from the previous year. The international community’s silence in the face of these governments’ attacks on independent media seems to have been interpreted as consent….(More)”.

How Blockchain can benefit migration programmes and migrants


Solon Ardittis at the Migration Data Portal: “According to a recent report published by CB Insights, there are today at least 36 major industries that are likely to benefit from the use of Blockchain technology, ranging from voting procedures, critical infrastructure security, education and healthcare, to car leasing, forecasting, real estate, energy management, government and public records, wills and inheritance, corporate governance and crowdfunding.

In the international aid sector, a number of experiments are currently being conducted to distribute aid funding through the use of Blockchain and thus to improve the tracing of the ways in which aid is disbursed. Among several other examples, the Start Network, which consists of 42 aid agencies across five continents, ranging from large international organizations to national NGOs, has launched a Blockchain-based project that enables the organization both to speed up the distribution of aid funding and to facilitate the tracing of every single payment, from the original donor to each individual assisted.

As Katherine Purvis of The Guardian noted, “Blockchain enthusiasts are hopeful it could be the next big development disruptor. In providing a transparent, instantaneous and indisputable record of transactions, its potential to remove corruption and provide transparency and accountability is one area of intrigue.”

In the field of international migration and refugee affairs, however, Blockchain technology is still in its infancy.

One of the few notable examples is the launch by the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) in May 2017 of a project in the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan which, through the use of Blockchain technology, enables the creation of virtual accounts for refugees and the uploading of monthly entitlements that can be spent in the camp’s supermarket through the use of an authorization code. Reportedly, the programme has contributed to a reduction by 98% of the bank costs entailed by the use of a financial service provider.

This is a noteworthy achievement considering that organizations working in international relief can lose up to 3.5% of each aid transaction to various fees and costs and that an estimated 30% of all development funds do not reach their intended recipients because of third-party theft or mismanagement.

At least six other UN agencies including the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Development Group (UNDG), are now considering Blockchain applications that could help support international assistance, particularly supply chain management tools, self-auditing of payments, identity management and data storage.

The potential of Blockchain technology in the field of migration and asylum affairs should therefore be fully explored.

At the European Union (EU) level, while a Blockchain task force has been established by the European Parliament to assess the ways in which the technology could be used to provide digital identities to refugees, and while the European Commission has recently launched a call for project proposals to examine the potential of Blockchain in a range of sectors, little focus has been placed so far on EU assistance in the field of migration and asylum, both within the EU and in third countries with which the EU has negotiated migration partnership agreements.

This is despite the fact that the use of Blockchain in a number of major programme interventions in the field of migration and asylum could help improve not only their cost-efficiency but also, at least as importantly, their degree of transparency and accountability. This at a time when media and civil society organizations exercise increased scrutiny over the quality and ethical standards of such interventions.

In Europe, for example, Blockchain could help administer the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), both in terms of transferring funds from the European Commission to the eligible NGOs in the Member States and in terms of project managers then reporting on spending. This would help alleviate many of the recurrent challenges faced by NGOs in managing funds in line with stringent EU regulations.

As crucially, Blockchain would have the potential to increase transparency and accountability in the channeling and spending of EU funds in third countries, particularly under the Partnership Framework and other recent schemes to prevent irregular migration to Europe.

A case in point is the administration of EU aid in response to the refugee emergency in Greece where, reportedly, there continues to be insufficient oversight of the full range of commitments and outcomes of large EU-funded investments, particularly in the housing sector. Another example is the set of recent programme interventions in Libya, where a growing number of incidents of human rights abuses and financial mismanagement are being brought to light….(More)”.

Selected Readings on CrowdLaw


By Beth Simone Noveck and Gabriella Capone

The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of CrowdLaw was published in 2018, and most recently updated on February 13, 2019.

Introduction

The public is beginning to demand — and governments are beginning to provide — new opportunities for the engagement of citizens on an ongoing basis as collaborators in public problem-solving rather than merely as voters. Nowhere is the explosion in citizen participation accelerating more than in the context of lawmaking, where legislators and regulators are turning to new technology to solicit both public opinion and know-how to improve the legitimacy and effectiveness of the legislative process.

Such participatory lawmaking, known as crowdlaw (also, CrowdLaw), is a tech-enabled approach for the collaborative drafting of legislation, policies or constitutions between governments and citizens. CrowdLaw is an alternative to the traditional method of lawmaking, which is typically done by the political elite — politicians, bureaucrats, and staff — working in legislatures behind closed doors, with little input from the people affected. Instead, this new form of inclusive lawmaking opens the legislative function of government to a broader array of actors.

From Brazil to Iceland to Libya, there is an explosion in new collaborative lawmaking experiments. Despite the growing movement, the field of participatory lawmaking requires further research and experimentation. Given the traditionally deep distrust of groups expressed in the social psychology literature on groupthink, which condemns the presumed tendency of groups to drift to extreme positions, it is not self-evident that crowdlaw practices are better and should be institutionalized. Also, depending on its design, crowdlaw has the potential to accomplish different normative goals, which are often viewed as being at odds, including: improving democratic legitimacy by giving more people a voice in the process, or creating better quality legislation by introducing greater expertise. There is a need to study crowdlaw practices and assess their impact.

To complement our evolving theoretical and empirical research on and case studies of crowdlaw, we have compiled these selected readings on public engagement in lawmaking and policymaking. For reasons of space, we do not include readings on citizen engagement or crowdsourcing and open innovation generally (see GovLab’s Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Opinions and Ideas) but focus, instead, on engagement in these specific institutional contexts.

We invite you to visit Crowd.Law for additional resources, as well as:

CrowdLaw Design Recommendations

CrowdLaw Twitter List

CrowLaw Unconferences:

Annotated Readings

Aitamurto, Tanja – Collective Intelligence in Law Reforms: When the Logic of the Crowds and the Logic of Policymaking Collide (Paper, 10 pages, 2016)

  • This paper explores the risks of crowdsourcing for policymaking and the challenges that arise as a result of a severe conflict between the logics of the crowds and the logics of policymaking. Furthermore, he highlights the differences between traditional policymaking, which is done by a small group of experts, and crowdsourced policymaking, which utilizes a large, anonymous crowd with mixed levels of expertise.
  • “By drawing on data from a crowdsourced law-making process in Finland, the paper shows how the logics of the crowds and policymaking collide in practice,” and thus how this conflict prevents governments from gathering valuable insights from the crowd’s input. Poblet then addresses how to resolve this conflict and further overcome these challenges.

Atlee, Tom – vTaiwan (Blog series, 5 parts, 2018)

  • In this five-part blog series, Atlee describes in detail Taiwan’s citizen engagement platform vTaiwan and his takeaways after several months of research.
  • In order to cover what he deems “an inspiring beginning of a potentially profound evolutionary shift in all aspects of our collective governance,” Atlee divides his findings into the following sections:
    • The first post includes a quick introduction and overview of the platform.
    • The second delves deeper into its origins, process, and mechanics.
    • The third describes two real actions completed by vTaiwan and its associated g0v community.
    • The fourth provides a long list of useful sources discovered by Atlee.
    • The fifth and final post offers a high-level examination of vTaiwan and makes comments to provide lessons for other governments.

Capone, Gabriella and Beth Simone Noveck – “CrowdLaw”: Online Public Participation in Lawmaking, (Report, 71 pages, 2017)

  • Capone and Noveck provide recommendations for the thoughtful design of crowdlaw initiatives, a model legislative framework for institutionalizing legislative participation, and a summary of 25 citizen engagement case studies from around the world — all in an effort to acknowledge and promote best crowdlaw practices. The report, written to inform the public engagement strategy of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, can apply to crowdlaw initiatives across different contexts and jurisdictions.
  • CrowdLaw advocates for engagement opportunities that go beyond citizens suggesting ideas, and inviting integration of participation throughout the legislative life-cycle — from agenda-setting to evaluation of implemented legislation. Additionally, Capone and Noveck highlight the importance of engaging with the recipient public institutions to ensure that participatory actions are useful and desired. Finally, they lay out a research and experimentation agenda for crowdlaw, noting that the increased data capture and sharing, as well as the creation of empirical standards for evaluating initiatives, are integral to the progress and promise of crowdlaw.
  • The 25 case studies are organized by a six-part taxonomy of: (1) the participatory task requested, (2) the methods employed by the process, (3) the stages of the legislative process, (4) the platforms used, from mobile to in-person meetings, (5) the institutionalization or degree of legal formalization of the initiative, and (6) the mechanisms and metrics for ongoing evaluation of the initiative

Faria, Cristiano Ferri Soares de – The open parliament in the age of the internet: can the people now collaborate with legislatures in lawmaking? (Book, 352 pages, 2013)

  • Faria explores the concept of participatory parliaments, and how participatory and deliberative democracy can complement existing systems of representative democracy. Currently the first and only full-length book surveying citizen engagement in lawmaking.
  • As the World Bank’s Tiago Peixoto writes: “This is a text that brings the reader into contact with the main theories and arguments relating to issues of transparency, participation, actors’ strategies, and processes of institutional and technological innovation. […] Cristiano Faria captures the state of the art in electronic democracy experiences in the legislative at the beginning of the 21st century.”
  • Chapters 4 and 5, deep dive into two case studies: the Chilean Senate’s Virtual Senator project, and the Brazilian House of Representatives e-Democracy project.

Johns, Melissa, and Valentina Saltane (World Bank Global Indicators Group) – Citizen Engagement in Rulemaking: Evidence on Regulatory Practices in 185 Countries (Report, 45 pages, 2016)

  • This report “presents a new database of indicators measuring the extent to which rulemaking processes are transparent and participatory across 185 countries. […] [It] presents a nses ew global data set on citizen engagement in rulemaking and provides detailed descriptive statistics for the indicators. The paper then provides preliminary analysis on how the level of citizen engagement correlates with other social and economic outcomes. To support this analysis, we developed a composite citizen engagement in rulemaking score around the publication of proposed regulations, consultation on their content and the use of regulatory impact assessments.”
  • The authors outline the global landscape of regulatory processes and the extent to which citizens are kept privy to regulatory happenings and/or able to participate in them.
  • Findings include that: “30 of the sampled economies regulators voluntarily publish proposed regulations despite having no formal requirement to do so” and that, “In 98 of the 185 countries surveyed for this paper, ministries and regulatory agencies do not conduct impact assessments of proposed regulations.” Also: “High-income countries tend to perform well on the citizen engagement in rulemaking score.”

Noveck, Beth Simone – The Electronic Revolution in Rulemaking (Journal article, 90 pages, 2004)

  • Noveck addresses the need for the design of effective practices, beyond the legal procedure that enables participation, in order to fully institutionalize the right to participate in e-rulemaking processes. At the time of writing, e-rulemaking practices failed to “do democracy,” which requires building a community of practice and taking advantage of enabling technology. The work, which focuses on public participation in informal rulemaking processes, explores “how the use of technology in rulemaking can promote more collaborative, less hierarchical, and more sustained forms of participation — in effect, myriad policy juries — where groups deliberate together.”
  • Noveck looks to reorient on the improvement of participatory practices that exploit new technologies: a design-centered approach as opposed a critique the shortcomings of participation. Technology can be a critical tool in promoting meaningful, deliberative engagement among citizens and government. With this, participation is to be not a procedural right, but a set of technologically-enabled practices enabled by government.

Peña-López, Ismael – decidim.barcelona, Spain. Voice or chatter? Case studies (Report, 54 pages, 2017)

  • Peña-López analyzes the origins and impact of the opensource decidim.barcelona platform, a component of the city’s broader movement towards participatory democracy. The case is divided into “the institutionalization of the ethos of the 15M Spanish Indignados movement, the context building up to the decidim.barcelona initiative,” and then reviews “its design and philosophy […] in greater detail. […] In the final section, the results of the project are analyzed and the shifts of the initiative in meaning, norms and power, both from the government and the citizen end are discussed.”
  • A main finding includes that “decidim.barcelona has increased the amount of information in the hands of the citizens, and gathered more citizens around key issues. There has been an increase in participation, with many citizen created proposals being widely supported, legitimated and accepted to be part of the municipality strategic plan. As pluralism has been enhanced without damaging the existing social capital, we can only think that the increase of participation has led to an improvement of democratic processes, especially in bolstering legitimacy around decision making.”

Simon, Julie, Theo Bass, Victoria Boelman, and Geoff Mulgan (Nesta) – Digital Democracy: The Tools Transforming Political Engagement (Report, 100 pages, 2017)

  • Reviews the origins, implementation, and outcomes of 13 case studies representing the best in digital democracy practices that are consistently reviewed. The report then provides six key themes that underpin a “good digital democracy process.” Particularly instructive are the interviews with actors in each of the different projects, and their accounts of what contributed to their project’s successes or failures. The Nesta team also provides insightful analysis as to what contributed to the relative success or failure of the initiatives.

Suteu, Silvia – Constitutional Conventions in the Digital Era: Lessons from Iceland and Ireland (Journal article, 26 pages, 2015)

  • This piece from the Boston College International & Comparative Law Review “assesses whether the novelty in the means used in modern constitution-making translates further into novelty at a more substantive level, namely, in the quality of the constitution-making process and legitimacy of the end product. Additionally, this Essay analyzes standards of direct democratic engagements, which adequately fit these new developments, with a focus on the cases of Iceland and Ireland.”
  • It provides four motivations for focusing on constitution-making processes:
    • legitimacy: a good process can create a model for future political interactions,
    • the correlation between participatory constitution-making and the increased availability of popular involvement mechanisms,
    • the breadth of participation is a key factor to ensuring constitutional survival, and
    • democratic renewal.
  • Suteu traces the Icelandic and Irish processes of crowdsourcing their constitutions, the former being known as the first crowdsourced constitution, and the latter being known for its civil society-led We the Citizens initiative which spurred a constitutional convention and the adoption of a citizen assembly in the process.

Bernal, Carlos – How Constitutional Crowd-drafting can enhance Legitimacy in Constitution-Making(Paper, 27 pages, 2018)

  • Bernal examines the use of online engagement for facilitating citizen participation in constitutional drafting, a process he dubs “Crowddrafting.” Highlighting examples from places such as Kenya, Iceland, and Egypt, he lays out the details the process including key players, methods, actions, and tools.
  • Bernal poses three stages where citizens can participate in constitutional crowddrafting: foundational, deliberation, and pre-ratification. Citing more examples, he concisely explains how each process works and states their expected outcomes. Although he acknowledges the challenges that it may face, Bernal concludes by proposing that “constitutional crowddrafting is a strategy for strengthening the democratic legitimacy of constitution-making processes by enabling inclusive mechanisms of popular participation of individuals and groups in deliberations, expression of preferences, and decisions related to the content of the constitution.”
  • He suggests that crowddrafting can increase autonomy, transparency, and equality, and can engage groups or individuals that are often left out of deliberative processes. While it may create potential risks, Bernal explains how to mitigate those risks and achieve the full power of enhanced legitimacy from constitutional crowddrafting.

Finnbogadóttir, Vigdís & Gylfason,Thorvaldur – The New Icelandic Constitution: How did it come about? Where is it? (Book, 2016)

  • This book, co-authored by a former President of Iceland (also the world’s first democratically directly elected female president) tells the story the crowdsourced Icelandic constitution as a powerful example of participatory democracy.
  • “In 2010 a nationally elected Constitutional Council met, and four months later a draft constitution was born. On the 20th. of October 2012, The People of Iceland voted to tell their Parliament to ratify it as its new constitution.” Four years later, the book discusses the current state of the Icelandic constitution and explores whether Parliament is respecting the will of the people.

Mitozo, Isabele & Marques, Francisco Paulo Jamil – Context Matters! Looking Beyond Platform Structure to Understand Citizen Deliberation on Brazil’s Portal e‐Democracia (Article, 21 pages, 2019)

  • This article analyzes the Portal e‐Democracia participatory platform, sponsored by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies. Since 2009, the online initiative has provided different opportunities for legislators to engage with constituents and representatives through various methods such as surveys, forums, and collaborative wiki tools. Hence, the article examines the participatory behavior of Brazilian citizens during four particular forums hosted on Portal e-Democracia.
  • The researchers confirmed their hypothesis (i.e., that debates with diverse characteristics can develop even under the same design structures) and also drew several additional conclusions, suggesting that the issue at stake and sociopolitical context of the issue might be more important to characterizing the debate than the structure is.

Alsina, Victòria and Luis Martí, José – The Birth of the CrowdLaw Movement: Tech-Based Citizen Participation, Legitimacy and the Quality of Lawmaking

  • This paper introduces the idea of CrowdLaw followed by a deep dive into its roots, true meaning, and the inspiration behind its launch.
  • The authors first distinguish CrowdLaw from other forms of political participation, setting the movement apart from others. They then restate and explain the CrowdLaw Manifesto, a set 12 collaboratively-written principles intended to booster the design, implementation and evaluation of new tech-enabled practices of public engagement in law and policymaking. Finally, the authors conclude by emphasizing the importance of certain qualities that are inherent to the concept of CrowdLaw.

Beth Simone Noveck – Crowdlaw: Collective Intelligence and Lawmaking

  • In this essay, Noveck provides an all-encompassing and detailed description of the CrowdLaw concept. After establishing the value proposition for CrowdLaw methods, Noveck explores good practices for incorporating them into each stage of the law and policymaking process
  • Using illustrative examples of successful cases from around the world, Noveck affirms why CrowdLaw should become more widely adopted by highlighting its potential, while simultaneously suggesting how to implement CrowdLaw processes for interested institutions

Public Brainpower: Civil Society and Natural Resource Management


Book edited by Indra Øverland: ” …examines how civil society, public debate and freedom of speech affect natural resource governance. Drawing on the theories of Robert Dahl, Jurgen Habermas and Robert Putnam, the book introduces the concept of ‘public brainpower’, proposing that good institutions require: fertile public debate involving many and varied contributors to provide a broad base for conceiving new institutions; checks and balances on existing institutions; and the continuous dynamic evolution of institutions as the needs of society change.

The book explores the strength of these ideas through case studies of 18 oil and gas-producing countries: Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Saudi, UAE, UK and Venezuela. The concluding chapter includes 10 tenets on how states can maximize their public brainpower, and a ranking of 33 resource-rich countries and the degree to which they succeed in doing so.

The Introduction and the chapters ‘Norway: Public Debate and the Management of Petroleum Resources and Revenues’, ‘Kazakhstan: Civil Society and Natural-Resource Policy in Kazakhstan’, and ‘Russia: Public Debate and the Petroleum Sector’ of this book are available open access under a CC BY 4.0 license at link.springer.com….(More)”.

Can we predict political uprisings?


 at The Conversation: “Forecasting political unrest is a challenging task, especially in this era of post-truth and opinion polls.

Several studies by economists such as Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler in 1998 and 2002 describe how economic indicators, such as slow income growth and natural resource dependence, can explain political upheaval. More specifically, low per capita income has been a significant trigger of civil unrest.

Economists James Fearon and David Laitin have also followed this hypothesis, showing how specific factors played an important role in Chad, Sudan and Somalia in outbreaks of political violence.

According to the International Country Risk Guide index, the internal political stability of Sudan fell by 15% in 2014, compared to the previous year. This decrease was after a reduction of its per capita income growth rate from 12% in 2012 to 2% in 2013.

By contrast, when the income per capita growth increased in 1997 compared to 1996, the score for political stability in Sudan increased by more than 100% in 1998. Political stability across any given year seems to be a function of income growth in the previous one.

When economics lie

But as the World Bank admitted, “economic indicators failed to predict Arab Spring”.

Usual economic performance indicators, such as gross domestic product, trade, foreign direct investment, showed higher economic development and globalisation of the Arab Spring countries over a decade. Yet, in 2010, the region witnessed unprecedented uprisings that caused the collapse of regimes such as those in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

In our 2016 study we used data for more than 100 countries for the 1984–2012 period. We wanted to look at criteria other than economics to better understand the rise of political upheavals.

We found out and quantified how corruption is a destabilising factor when youth (15-24 years old) exceeds 20% of adult population.

Let’s examine the two main components of the study: demographics and corruption….

We are 90% confident that a youth bulge beyond 20% of adult population, on average, combined with high levels of corruption can significantly destabilise political systems within specific countries when other factors described above also taken into account. We are 99% confident about a youth bulge beyond 30% levels.

Our results can help explain the risk of internal conflict and the possible time window for it happening. They could guide policy makers and international organisations in allocating their anti-corruption budget better, taking into account the demographic structure of societies and the risk of political instability….(More).

South Sudan: Satellite Images Used to Track Food Insecurity


Salem Solomon at VOA news: “The world is watching closely as food shortages grip parts of Africa and the Middle East. As humanitarian groups respond to the crisis, they have to solve a major problem: how to track food security in areas that are simply too remote or too dangerous to access.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) has come up with an innovative answer. The U.S.-funded organization is working with DigitalGlobe, a Colorado satellite company, to crowdsource analysis of satellite imagery of South Sudan.

The effort will rely on thousands of volunteers — normal people with no subject matter expertise — to scour satellite images looking for things like livestock herds, temporary dwellings and permanent dwellings. The group has selected an area of 18,000 square kilometers across five counties in South Sudan to analyze.

“The crowd can identify settlement imagery, they can identify roads, hospitals, airplanes, you name it. It allows us to tap into this network of folks around the world, not necessarily in country, but they are folks who are interested and compelled by whatever the campaign is,” said Rhiannan Price, senior manager of the Seeing a Better World Program at DigitalGlobe….(More)”.