The Biden Administration has committed to regulatingSummit for DemocracyTo garner support for combating authoritarianism, fighting corruption often associated with authoritarianism, and promoting human rights. The Global Assembly is part of the president’s stated goal to place democracy and human rights at the center His foreign policy.
One of the most difficult elements in organizing a forum will be drafting an invitation list. This delicate task will involve deciding which states should have a seat at the table, particularly whether states of strategic importance should be included even if they are emerging democracies or their leaders have taken major – even horrific – steps back in terms of civil liberties and human rights.
This debate, despite its importance, obscures the intention of the summit: to find solutions to the common and pressing challenges of democratic governance and the values for which it has traditionally stood, albeit imperfect. In fact, it is a file summit “For” democracy, not “for” democracies.
With this framework in mind, who is best suited to identify and share practices to meet the challenges of democracy? Governments at the national level are necessary but not sufficient. The nature of democratic governance today – how it works and the challenges it faces – means that the summit must also include local governments. These subnational representatives include leaders of municipalities, cities, states, provinces, and regions.
Local governments – from city mayors to state governors – are the face of representative democracy for most citizens. These individuals and their institutions are responsible for understanding and addressing the needs of the citizens through effective policy. Whether you are a citizen of rural South Korea or Massachusetts, you likely are calling your local representative – not the president, member of parliament, or congress – to report problems and demand action. And these local leaders are growing Participate internationallyWhether in trade or in exchanges with counterparts around the world, for example.
While national governments have remained largely flat in the face of the global crisis of representation, many sub-national players have responded by trying to reinvent the shape of democracy in the twenty-first century. Local authorities around the world are experimenting with different formulations of Deliberative democracy To deepen democratic participation, from adopting citizen councils to using civil lotteries where ordinary people are randomly selected to deliberate on an important issue.
Perhaps the biggest democratic innovation in the past 30 years has arisen at the municipal level. Participatory budgeting, a mechanism by which citizens allocate a direct portion of the budget, appeared in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989. Since then, the practice has been adopted by more than 7,000 municipalities and other subnational entities worldwide. In addition to a better alignment of expenditures with social priorities, increased direct participation in the budget process has Ability To improve government efficiency and address some common manifestations of corruption. from India to Kenya, Participatory budgeting reduced favoritism and improved teamwork.
Local actors are also on the front lines of uncovering the challenges to democracy – from corruption to responding to epidemics – and developing innovative local solutions. Cities like Baltimore It launched large-scale public information panels for COVID-19 and held online meetings to respond to voters at a time when public engagement is of the utmost value.
So the issue of involving local government representatives in the Summit for Democracy is clear. The Biden administration could take three steps to achieve this with maximum impact.
First, when planning sessions to discuss and find solutions to pressing challenges and threats – tyranny, corruption, climate change, the inclusion of marginalized populations, among others – the White House should include a broad cross-section of sub-national actors. On each topic, governors, mayors, or legislators can explain how the challenge emerged locally and share the practices they used to address it.
Including representatives from local governments will help ensure that the summit captures a full picture of the challenges and solutions applied at the national and local levels. This can also provide a means to engage representatives from countries where democracy is declining at the national level who are committed to democratic governance but who are working at the local level. Doing so can help increase the image and influence of democracy advocates at the local level who continue to do so Press for openness and transparency Despite the illiberal tendencies in the central government.
Second, the summit planning team should schedule stand-alone sessions on democratic municipal governance. Topics may include best practices in reducing carbon emissions, curbing corruption by increasing data transparency, or using digital tools to increase inclusiveness. City representatives can share the innovative practices they have adopted and set a path forward to ensure that the city’s innovations are responsive and inclusive for all citizens.
Finally, the Biden administration could use the Open Government Partnership (OGP) as a tool to create, track, and track commitments after the summit. The Open Government Partnership is the global advocate for reformers committed to promoting key principles of democratic governance, including financial transparency, access to information, and citizen engagement, through the adoption of action plans. Finally, the Open Government Partnership includes 78 countries and 76 local governments, representing more than 2 billion people. The relatively new sub-national initiative for the Open Government Partnership – Local OGP It can help ensure that states and municipalities are a core component of the democracy agenda moving forward.
I look forward
Cities and local governments have been ramping up efforts to meet the challenges and provide assistance to their citizens. Such as City diplomacy Gaining momentum, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time to acknowledge the role that municipal governments play in stimulating and delivering democratic innovation to citizens. Doing so, and implementing the Biden administration’s democracy agenda, begins with their inclusion in the next summit.