The Yellow Vests movement and the urge to update democracy

Paula Forteza at OGP: “…The Yellow Vests movement in France is a complex social movement that points out social injustices from a political system that has excluded voices for decades. The movement shows the negative effects of the lack of participatory mechanisms in our institutional architecture. If the Yellow Vests are protesting in the streets today, it is certainly because an institutional dialogue was not possible, because their claims did not find an official channel of communication to reach the decision makers.

The inception of this movement is also symptomatic of the need to update our democracies. Organized through Facebook groups, the Yellow Vests is a leaderless movement that is challenging the hierarchical and vertical organization of the decision-making process. We need a more horizontal, agile and decentralized democracy to match the way civil society is getting organized on the internet. Social media platforms are not made for political mobilisation, as the rise of fake news, polarisation and foreign intervention have showed. Learning from these social media flaws, we can back an institutional change with the creation of dedicated platforms for political expression that are transparent, accountable and democratically governed.

Our reaction to this crisis needs to match the expectations. It is urgent to revitalise our democracies through a robust and impactful set of participatory initiatives. We have in our hands the future of the social contract and, in a way, the future of our democracy. Some initiatives have emerged in France: citizen questions to the government, legislative consultations, a collaborative space in the Parliament, more than 80 local participatory budgets and dozens of participatory experimentations. We need to scale up many local initiatives and include impactful and continuous participatory mechanisms into the institutional decision-making process. A constitutional reform is expected in France next January – let’s take this opportunity to institutionalize these mechanisms….(More)”.