Claiming our Future


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The slides provide an outline of some of the issues Claiming our Future may incorporate into its agenda for change. Participants at the Reinventing our Democracy event on May 26 in Croke Park will have the opportunity to decide the proposals that Claiming our Future should prioritize

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Claiming our Future

  1. 1. EUROPEAN DEMOCRACYBuild an Active StakeholderDialogue in Key Policy Areas Claiming our Future should campaign for: Europe 2020 is the EU strategy for smart, Regular, meaningful and sustainable and inclusive growth. It has targets for employment, education, research and structured ways to development, climate change, and poverty. Member States prepare annual National involve stakeholders at Reform Programmes, that follow guidelines of national and European the European Commission. Member States set national targets in these areas. They identify levels in all stages of EU bottlenecks and set out ways to overcome these and achieve the targets. policy processes. The National Reform Programme is assessed by the European Commission. The social open method of coordination (OMC) was based on three pillars of social inclusion, pensions and health and long-term care. Member States set common objectives, agreed indicators to measure progress and prepared national strategies. The European Commission and Council assessed these strategies in a joint report. This social OMC contributed to learning on good practice but had a limited impact on policy and practice to combat poverty. The European Council (EPSCO) of June 2011 promised a stronger social OMC including greater stakeholder involvement at EU and national levels. Member States now, however, only prepare an annual national social report which is assessed by the Commission and should involve stakeholder participation. Europe 2020 includes a target of reducing the numbers living in poverty by 20m by 2020 .The European Commission requires stakeholders to be involved in the preparation of national plansand programmes in these policy areas. National, regional and local authorities as well as socialpartners and civil society are to be involved. This involvement has been found to be inadequateacross the EU. A more deliberative process is required for a shared assessment of evidence andissues and a shared identification of strategies and policies.The problems identified in stakeholder involvement at a European Union level includedlimitations in the short time allowed, the narrow focus and the range of stakeholders involved.
  2. 2. EUROPEAN DEMOCRACYDevelop a more active role forthe Dail in EU policy making Claiming our Future should campaign for: European Council meetings are in effect held Dail reform to secure in secret, they are off record. National parliaments and the public are not informed accountability from about the actual position taken by their Government. Ministers for their action at EU level and to National Parliaments can only influence the EU system through the ratification process of EU enable a contribution to Treaties. shaping EU decision There is a lack of transparency at EU level that threatens democracy at the national level. making There is an Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs since 2007 which can consider matters arising from Ireland’s membership of the EU. There continues to be a lack of accountability to the Dail from Government Ministers and Civil Servants in relation to the positions they take on issues at an EU level. Some Member States have developed significant national accountability from Governmental representatives. National parliaments have gained some control over Government Ministers as far as their actions at EU level are concerned.The Lisbon Treaty gave national parliaments some limited powers of policy intervention including aright to object in relation to a breach of the principle of subsidiarity, to a Treaty change proposedunder the simplified revision procedure, or to a measure of judicial cooperation in civil law.The provisions of the Lisbon Treaty do not allow for an adequate inclusion of national parliaments inEU policy making.The issue of transparency could be addressed by making Council meetings a matter of publicrecord.
  3. 3. EUROPEAN DEMOCRACYRebalance power at EU level Claiming our Futuretowards European Parliament should campaign for: Institutional reform at The European Parliament is the only directly elected institution at EU level. the EU level that It has supervisory, budgetary and legislative powers. empowers the European It exercises these powers through procedures of consultation, cooperation, co-decision and Parliament and in assent with the other institutions of the EU. particular increases the However, the procedures of co-decision and matters for co-decision assent only apply to a limited percentage of the Treaty articles (25%). This reflects a and assent. democratic deficit at the heart of the EU There are issues identified in the operation of and elections to the European Parliament including: There are many cases where the European Parliament is obliged to make its decisions with an absolute or qualified majority. This can diminish the contest of ideas within the Parliament in the need to search for a broad consensus. Elections to the European Parliament tend to be second order national competitions. Candidates compete on national issues and on the record of the national government of the day rather than on European issues and the direction of European policy and strategy.Since the Single European Act the European Parliament has been informed about future institutionalchanges through the Inter Governmental Conferences and enabled to express its opinion through itsrepresentation on the groups preparing Treaty changes.The European Parliament was sidelined in the development of the ‘Treaty on Stability, Coordinationand Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union’ as this was not subject to the normaldemocratic scrutiny. It even expressed doubts as to the need for this Treaty.European level strategy development and policy making has become dominated by the Council.This is where the Member State Governments meet through their leaders and Ministers. TheCouncil has in turn been dominated by the larger Member States.
  4. 4. NATIONAL DEMOCRACY - GREATER DIVERSITY IN POLITICS Claiming our Future shouldParty Political Funding Criteria campaign for: State funding of political parties to be tied to their contribution to the health ofGender quotas, reducing democracy. This contributionstate funding for political would cover gender balanceparties that fail to stand at and diversity in candidateleast 30% of either gender, is selection and in appointment ofprogressing. More can be officers and committees,done to encourage political democracy within the party, and securing a broadparties to facilitate a healthy membership.and active democracy We have one of the lowest percentage of the population as members of political parties. This stands at less than two percent of the population and in the bottom five of western European liberal democracies. The composition of our political representatives is very homogeneous in terms of gender, class, ethnicity and other forms of diversity. An Electoral Commission could review how state funding could incentivise political parties to make our democracy active and diverse. Parties could be encouraged to increase membership, diversify membership, and facilitate an active membership As well as funding by the level of vote secured, the terms of funding for political parties could be altered to include numbers of members. This could help newer less established parties and would encourage higher membership levels.
  5. 5. NATIONAL DEMOCRACY – ELECTORAL REFORMChange the electoral system Claiming our Future shouldThe Proportional Representation Single campaign for:Transferable Vote (PRSTV) Electoral Systemthat we currently use is popular. However it A change in the Irish electoralhas disadvantages.Multi seat constituencies promote intra party system to a system that cancompetition where competing politicians rely generate a more diverse rangeon local community service to differentiate of political representatives and athemselves from competing party colleagues.This is thought to cause clientalism and more effective and democraticbrokerage, to detract from a more policy representative institutionoriented political culture and to deter somepeople from standing for political office.Electoral reform cannot cure all democracy’s ills but some believe changing the Irish PRSTVelectoral system might help improve at least some aspects of Irish politics and political culture.There are various reform options:1 A list proportional representation system where voters vote for a party who are then allocatedparliamentary seats in proportion to their share of votes. They fill these seats from ‘party lists’.2 First Past the Post – voters vote for one candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins.3 Mixed Member Proportional System where some seats are allocated in the list system and theremainder in local constituencies using the first past the post systemThe various options have different strengths and weaknesses. The list system enablesparties to nominate who they want to the parliament. In theory this means they canreserve some seats for groups who would otherwise not get proportional or anyrepresentation (women, young people, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities).In some systems parties are obliged by legislation to achieve this outcome.Some recent Irish debates have promoted the Mixed Member ProportionalSystem which allows, for example, 50% of seats be allocated through nationallists and 50% through politicians elected to represent local constituencies
  6. 6. NATIONAL DEMOCRACY – SEANAD REFORMReform and empower theSeanad Claiming our FutureReform the Seanad so that its should campaign for:membership enables a A reformed andparticipation of the diversity of Irish empowered Seanadsociety.Empower the Seanad and giving representation toenhance its role in shaping policy the diversity of Irishand holding government and the society.administration to accountThe membership of the Seanad should be directly elected by thepopulation. Reserved places should be used to secure a specificrepresentation of emigrants and groups or interests insufficientlyrepresented in the political composition of Dail Eireann.Term limits would ensure ongoing diversity and significant input of freshperspectives and new voices. This is essential to avoiding group think andto building a more critical political culture.The role of the Seanad should be reformed to be more effective in enablingaccountable governance. A specific role should be to monitor poverty andequality proofing of all policy, report on compliance with environmentalsustainability and ensure consultation in the legislative processWe need more democracy not less of it. The Irish Seanad did not causethe crisis and abolishing it will not improve Irish governance
  7. 7. NATIONAL DEMOCRACY – MAKING PARLIAMENT EFFECTIVEReform and strengthen the Dail Claiming our Future should campaign for:Ireland has one of the least A stronger parliament through: effective and weakest parliaments in Europe. •Changes to the Irish party whip Politicians are controlled by the system political parties. Party whips •Parliament set own (rules) oblige politicians to vote agenda/time table along party lines. This needs to •More powerful Oireacthas be changed for a more effective committees parliament.The Dail is weakened by the inability of the parliament committee to doeffective investigative and policy work.Rules need to be changed to allow Oireachtas Committees to effectivelyinitiate legislation. Oireachtas committees should be empowered tocompel witnesses to appear before them and to hold state agencies toaccount.The Oireachtas Committees also need more research and policyresources.The Dail needs to be less controlled by the government.The government presently decide the timetable and agenda of the Dail.The Dail should now be empowered to define its own agenda andtimetable.These changes would make a more effective Dail and they wouldvaluably change the culture of Irish politics
  8. 8. NATIONAL DEMOCRACY - COLLECTIVE DECISION-MAKINGUse consensus voting forcontentious decisions Claiming our Future should campaign for:People sometimes try for a consensus:they talk and talk, there’s give-and-take,until all agree to a final document. This Consensus voting to becan happen in international conferences used on all contentiousfor example. issues in the Dail and inOr they do the opposite: they talk and other democratictalk, there’s no give or take, until a institutionsmajority vote. This can happen inparliaments, councils, andorganisations.In consensus voting, all relevant suggestions are debated, while a team of neutralmediators, the ‘consensors’, maintain a (short) list of four to six options. If there is noverbal consensus – if say four options remain under discussion – they use aconsensus vote. This is a preferential points system: a 1 is given for a 1stpreference, a 2 for a 2nd preference, etc. If someone casts all four preferences, the1st gets 4 points, the 2nd gets 3, etc. If another person casts only two preferences,the 1st gets 2 points and the 2nd gets 1 point. The result is the option with the mostpoints, the highest average preference.… and an average involves everybody (notjust a majority).If my option is to win I need a range of high, middle and low preferences. I mustpersuade people who might disagree with me to give my option a preference. That’sdialogue. People are incentivised to cast a full ballot and therefore to state theircompromise option(s). That’s mutual respect. If everyone casts their 2nd andsubsequent preferences, we can identify their collective compromiseConsensus voting, the Modified Borda Count (MBC), is the catalyst ofconsensus. Consensus voting is inclusive.
  9. 9. LOCAL DEMOCRACY – STRENGTHEN LOCAL GOVERNMENTDevolve powers and developlocal funding Claiming our Future should campaign for:Irish local government has 501functions but they are often only Greater powers to beadministering schemes on behalf devolved and localof national government funding streams bedepartments. created for a moreIn other countries policy areas likehealth education and policing developed and strongercome under the remit of local local government.government and local services.Ireland is one of the only countries that does not have local taxationsources to fund local government. More local revenue through localtaxation, like site value taxes, would mean local government would havemore capacity and control to make its own decisions and amend servicesto better meet local needs.Poorer local government areas who cannot raise sufficient revenue can beequalised by funding transfers.We need to devolve a broader range of powers and functions to localgovernment. This would means key services can be better adapted to localneeds and integrated into local delivery systems.Local taxation would make local citizens and residents moredemanding on local government about how local taxes are spent. Amore engaged and energetic local democracy would result.
  10. 10. Local Government – Participatory DemocracyCitizen Engagement Claiming our Future should campaign for: direct civilWhile Ireland has had over 20 society involvement in theyears of experimentation with local decision making processespartnership and local governance of local government and thethere is still a significant use of participatory methodsparticipation gap for many people, to maximise the input ofin particular those who experience people affected by decisionsinequality & poverty. Participative including those experiencingprocesses too often lack quality & inequality and poverty.impact and have no formal status.There are many examples world wide of participatory structures andprocesses we could learn from. The Brazilian Participatory BudgetingProcess is well known and offers a means of participation in an area thatis completely under-developed in Ireland.We could give civil society representatives a formal role in committeesresponsible for each public service sector (e.g. health, justice, education,transport, housing, planning, sport, culture, economic development).Local government could be required to develop participation strategies inconjunction with civil society aimed at enabling all who wish to participateto do so. Such strategies should address the often hidden barriers toparticipation such as gender inequality and care, literacy, physicalaccessibility and participation costs.Participatory processes must be developed at local level and are bestmeasured by impact if they are to engage people. They must be seento be a real source of influence for residents and citizens.
  11. 11. LOCAL GOVERNMENT – ELECTED MAYORSDirect elections for Mayors atlocal level   Claiming our Future should Ireland has yet to develop campaign for: legislation to enable people directly elect their own mayors. Directly elected lord mayors This would only be meaningful in with sufficient powers to the context of wider local coordinate public services at government reform so the elected a local level. mayor would have meaningful powerIrish local government has very little power of its own. Central governmentmakes policy decisions and local government implements the decisions.Areas like policing, education, health and transport could be the directdevolved function of local government. Currently national institutions havea regional or local presence to plan and deliver these services. This leadsto fragmentation and incoherence.Directly elected mayors with adequate powers could drive this integrationof local services. They could work to champion the investment needs ofthe local area. They could be guardians of the values of equality,environmental sustainability and participation in the local governmentsystem.A directly elected mayor could drive the local resilience that needs to bebuilt in the face of economic and environmental shocks.
  12. 12. DEMOCRACY AND ORGANISATIONSFoster and Fund Advocacy byCivil Society Organisations Claiming our Future should campaign for: Civil society organisations play important roles A Constitutional in the democratic life of society. They provide a space where individual amendment to recognise concerns can be shared and developed as collective interests. the contribution of civil society organisations to They offer a means of articulating, promoting, and negotiating for these collective interests. democracy and to This enhances democracy where the needs of groups experiencing inequality and protect their right to disadvantage are brought forward. advocacy work Many civil society organisations promoting the interests of group that experience inequality and disadvantage depend on statutory funding. These funding programmes have been disproportionately reduced with a consequent weakening and diminishment of the contribution of these organisations to the democratic life of society. There are few independent funding sources available to civil society in a context where philanthropy is under-developed and independent trust funds virtually non-existent. There is an administrative hostility to advocacy by civil society organisations. Service level agreements with the state include provisions that preclude advocacy. The funding of organisations that engage in advocacy can be threatened. A culture of fear around funding serves to discourage organisations from engaging in advocacy. There is a political unresponsiveness to advocacy by civil society organisations. This diminishes our democracy.Civil society organisations were engaged in a limited non-adversarial problem solvingpartnership with the state. These structures have now been dismantled. More effective channelsto bring advocacy to bear on the policy process are required.
  13. 13. DEMOCRACY AND ORGANISATIONSTrade Union Right ofRecognition Claiming our Future should campaign for: A clear and unequivocal Irish labour legislation allows people to join trade unions. right in legislation for all However, it does not give them the right to be workers to collective represented by their trade unions nor to have bargaining within their trade unions negotiate collectively on their behalf. workplaces through their trade unions Rulings of the Irish Supreme Court have concluded that the Constitutional right to association also implies the right to disassociation. This gives the employer the right to refuse to engage with the trade union representatives of a workforce. However, case law of the European Court of Human Rights has accepted that the right to join a trade union includes the right to bargain collectively and the right to strike. This case law also precludes victimisation of trade unionists. The Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 28) sets out that workers and employers or their respective organisations have the right to negotiate and conclude collective agreements. The Charter forms part of the European Treaties.The right to organise and to bargain collectively with employers is enshrined under membership(Parts I and II) of the International Labour Organisation. Ireland has ratified the Core Conventions No87 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948 ) and No 98concerning the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organise and Collective BargainingConvention 1949.Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rigths specifies trade union membership asan important political right essential to democracy.
  14. 14. DEMOCRACY AND ORGANISATIONSDevelop User Participation and Claiming our FutureAdvocacy Services should campaign for: Statutory requirements People in institutional settings do not have an adequate say in relation to decisions that to ensure that people in impact on them. This can range from older people and people institutional settings with disabilities in care settings, people in prison and children in educational have access to establishments. structures and supports Structures for participation by people in the decision making of such institutions need to be that enable their further developed. Where necessary independent advocacy services need to be participation in decision further extended. making User participation in institutional settings such as long term care institutions, prisons and schools is under-developed and inadequately empowered. Structures for user participation should enable people to become actively and genuinely involved in defining the issues of concern to them, in making decisions about factors that affect them, in devising and implementing policy, and in the planning, development and delivery of the services.Advocacy is not recognised as a right. It is not enshrined as such in Irish legislation. There has beena failure to provide adequate funding for advocacy.Advocacy seeks to safeguard the rights of vulnerable people and to empower those people. It takesa number of forms including self advocacy (by oneself), citizen advocacy (by another personvoluntary), peer advocacy (by another member of the group), collective advocacy (self advocatesunite), family advocacy (by a family member) and professional advocacy (by an expert).The Office of the Ombudsman should have a clearly defined role in establishing standards foruser participation and advocacy supports for people in institutional settings such as long term careproviders, prisons, and educational establishments.