What is democracy? Freedom, equality, participation? Everyone has his or her own definition. Across the world countries have a least the minimum trappings of democracy, but for many this is just the beginning. Following decades of US-backed dictatorships, civil wars and structural adjustment policies in the South, and corporate control, electoral corruption and fraud in the North, representative politics in the Americas is in crisis. Citizens are now choosing to redefine democracy under their own terms: local, direct and participatory. In Brazil, they have installed participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, in Venezuela President Chavez came to power with the promise of granting direct participation to the people, and all across the Americas social movements and constitutional assemblies are taking authority away from the ruling elites and putting power into the hands of their members and citizens. This DVD features interviews with Eduardo Galeano, Amy Goodman, Emir Sader, Martha Harnecker, Ward Churchill and Leonardo Avritzer as well as cooperative and community members, elected representatives, academics and activists from Brazil, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, United States, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia and more. It takes us on a journey across the Americas in an attempt to answer the question "What is Democracy?"
Conceptualising empowerment and the implications for pro poor growth: a paper for the DAC Poverty Network
This paper proposes a framework for how empowerment can be conceptually understood and operationally explored. It makes recommendations for forthcoming areas of work within the POVNET Work Programme on empowering poor women and men to participate in, contribute to and benefit from growth. In responding to our terms of reference the authors have sought to introduce ideas and evidence from latest publications on this theme, combined with findings from our own research.
In 2006 oil was discovered in Uganda. With the country’s economy highly dependent on fuel imports, national oil production could make a long-term contribution to poverty alleviation. But for sustainable development to occur, participatory governance must ensure that people are involved in the decision-making processes affecting their lives. This paper, therefore, first analyses the adequacy of the existing legal framework on access to information and participation. Its findings show that although law and policy in Uganda indicate certain efforts to open up environmental decision-making processes to public influence, this is not the case in the oil production sector. On the basis of interviews and focus group studies it further examines the main practical barriers to better public participation. The author finds that in practice, public participation is subject to several financial, technical and political constraints. The culture of secrecy within government bodies, weak civil society structures as well as the politics of patronage remain substantive challenges for the fair and equitable management of natural resources in Uganda.