From November 13th to the 14th, a diverse group of experts from Germany, Spain, Austria, and Colombia engaged in a thought-provoking debate. The focus was on two fundamental questions that pose a threat to our Western democracies: Why is the established principle of representation increasingly being questioned? And how does the political system fare in a rapidly changing environment where the outcomes of politics are under growing scrutiny?
This session, blending elements of a Barcamp and world café, encouraged participants to explore these issues through interactive formats. Rather than lengthy speeches, brief and pointed insights sparked a dynamic exchange of diverse perspectives. The richness of the discussion stemmed from the varied backgrounds of participants, ranging from political science and active politics to think tanks, media professionals, and the digital economy. Following the analysis, the group collectively sought solutions using the same interactive approach.
1. Shift in the Principle of Representation: From seeking a common ground (common good) to emphasizing divisive factors (identities, beliefs, etc.).
2. Technological Transformation: Accelerating the evolution of the public sphere towards a fragmented, tribalistic coexistence of separated publics.
3. Crisis of Representation: A crisis not only in the reputation of public offices but also in public institutions.
4. Contradictory Reality: Despite the call for increased participation, citizens often do not utilize numerous opportunities for participation.
Positive Aspects: Citizen engagement in elections and trust in the electoral process.
5. Transition from a Formal System to Fragmentation: Moving from a formal and established participation system to the fragmentation and erosion of societal consensus.
6. Pressure on Political System Performance: Due to the acceleration of economic and social conditions.
1. Oversight of Social Media: Public oversight is needed to enhance and ensure democratic discourse and the principle of representation.
2. Cultural Shift in Information and Media: Necessary for citizens to make informed political value judgments.
3. Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens: Should be emphasized in public discourse.
4. Avoidance of Technocratic Political Style: Political elites should steer clear of a technocratic approach; democracy remains the suitable all-around solution for the challenges of our time.
5. Embrace “Trial and Error”: Fearlessly adopting this method can strengthen democratic resilience.
6. Deregulation and Decision-Making Acceleration: Essential for adapting to the changing pace of society.
7. AI as a Knowledge Base: AI can improve decision-making for policymakers, with attention to the input as well as the output.
8. Respect for Multi-level Governance: Upholding the principle of subsidiarity and preventing the fragmentation of political decision-making processes.
9. Honest Public Debate on Security-Freedom Trade-Off: Addressing the delicate balance between security and freedom.
10. Digitalization of Access to Public Goods: Enhancing access to public goods and services through digital means.
11. Limitation of State Activity: Redirecting focus towards innovation in the realms of economy and civil society.
As we navigate these challenges, it becomes evident that a collective effort is required to safeguard the foundations of our democratic systems. The debates in Barcelona underscored the importance of adapting to change, embracing diversity, and finding innovative solutions to ensure the continued effectiveness of our political systems.