Diplomats, UN officials and civil society representatives gathered during the opening of the UN General Assembly for the launch of the UNDEF/Hunger Project 2013 State of Participatory Democracy Report. The report is part of a two-year project to cultivate a global community of practice, develop a multidimensional Participatory Local Democracy Index, and publish an annual report of its findings. The report was covered in a Huffington Post article available here.
The event's keynote speaker, Mexico's Under-Secretary for Social and Human Development, Ernesto Nemer Alvarez, said that in Mexico, participatory democracy "seeks to have an impact in a determined way in governance, social peace and fundamentally, in the development of the nation."
The context for the project is that remarkable innovations have emerged in local democracy and recent legislation to move government closer to the people, while there is a big gap between the policy and the implementation. Too often, local government lacks the financial and human resources, decision-making autonomy, and mechanisms for social accountability to fulfil their responsibilities. There are thousands of individual experts and organizations devoted to these issues, yet most of them have lacked a global forum. There are no agreed-upon measures of local governance, nor is there a global database.
Following a series of consultations with experts in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, a five-dimensional index was developed, and surveys were conducted among practitioners worldwide to measure both the legal structure and perceptions of how well it is being implemented. The results are presented in the first State of Participatory Democracy Report.
Other speakers included UNDEF Executive Head Roland Rich and Hunger Project president Mary Ellen McNish. Photos and video of the event are at http://localdemocracy.net and you can download the full 2013 Report at http://localdemocracy.net/report.