"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Participative Democracy & NGOs

Participative Democracy is a practice emphasizing the participation and involvement of civil society in the political process and the operation of the political system. Societal involvement in a democratic system can take many different forms, from electing a representative by voting to direct participation in political decision making; but in essence, social participation limits state power and restores power to the citizens and organizations in civil society. Although the democratic form of governance has been around since the end of the Great War, participative democracy took its major stride in the 21st Century when the public felt more educated and capable of taking part in the decision-making process. At the same time, the world saw the rise of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that formed another way for society to become more politically involved. Today, NGOs are responsible for many of the social movements that take place and commit themselves to addressing national and global problems that they feel are no being adequately address by the government.

Social participation in politics is an important element for democratic sustainability. It pressures the government to listen to society’s needs and directly address the public when making major changes. The absence of citizen involvement carries a cost in that governments have the liberty to operate without much public scrutiny. Government leaders can thus use their power for personal benefits and neglect the needs of their citizens. As levels of participation increase, governments can no longer operate under the radar and come under greater pressure to act with accountability and openness. NGOs have been a great form of social participation in politics because as an organization with societal support, they carry great power to influence decisions made by the national government, as well as impact international relations-as seen by the United Nations.

The future brings with it many possibilities for civil society to become more directly involved in politics. People are beginning to learn that each individual has the power to make change, and with that comes to drive to set up more NGOs, start new social movements, and address issues that are being overlooked by the state government. The world is moving towards a new form of unity as problems we face are cross-border issues. Political corruption is a particular problem in developing countries because it hinders the economy, blocks societal access to global aid, health care and education, and causes international distrust and civil wars. With more active participation from civil society, we can combine our knowledge, ideas and skills to tackle these

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