The thoughts presented here as one of our "Futures of Yesteryear" by Bernard Cazes are taken from a book by Professor Norberto Bobbio (1909-2004), an important Italian political philosopher, which was published in French in 2007 by Le Seuil under the title Le Futur de la démocratie (The Future of Democracy). In it he analyses the progress and development of human rights in modern societies, a major trend involving the proliferation of new rights in every field. But while this undoubtedly means a real step forward for mankind, says Professor Bobbio, several obstacles could hinder further progress, such as the problem of relativity or the contradictory character of certain rights, not to mention the fact that "the international protection of human rights is perhaps not essential where it is possible, and much less possible where it is necessary".
Aurélien Boutaud is concerned that politicians are unable properly to take account of environmental issues and tries to explain why this is. Although nowadays everyone talks blithely about sustainable development, elected representatives (or the candidates for the French presidential election) probably have little real idea that such development challenges the very concept of the common interest which, in the course of time, has come to be defined as "the package of individual interests shared by the largest number of voters".
Yet in fact, sustainable development implies not only a return to the mediaeval concept of "the common good", but also that this should be understood with regard to both the long term, so as to take account of future generations, as well as to the whole of the planet and not just the narrow confines of the nation-state. Nobody today in the so-called representative democracies considers the interests of all humankind, let alone those of future generations. Politicians (including presidential candidates) look no further than the views of current voters, who basically remain indifferent to the important issues affecting the sustainability of the ecosystem.
Having made this gloomy but quite realistic assessment, the author goes on to explore in what ways, by means of which bodies and new methods of public consultation, the long-term collective interest of the whole planet could be taken into account more satisfactorily. While we await the coming of a hypothetical global democracy, Aurélien Boutaud examines what contribution might be made by conferences of citizens and what form the principle of interactive subsidiarity might take.
In short, this article puts an important question: what capacity to democratic systems - where they exist - have to take account of the views of all those who are not fortunate enough to be able to take part in elections.
Le succès de l’ouvrage a étonné l’auteur. En effet, il s’agit avant tout d’une courte tentative de synthèse de beaucoup de ses travaux antérieurs, une sorte de rapport d’étape. La plupart des idées et analyses qui le composent ont été plus ou moins développées dans de précédents ouvrages de Jacques Attali (Histoires du temps ; Dictionnaire du XXIè siècle. Paris : Fayard, respectivement 1982 et 1998, etc.). Trois principes le guident lorsqu’il s’interroge sur l ...
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L'IPTS a demandé à TNO (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research) et DNI (Danish Technological Institute) de fournir aux décideurs politiques des éclairages pour les politiques futures sur l'e-gouvernement, qui va au-delà de l'administration électronique ou de la modernisation de l'État. Les trois premières étapes de l'étude ont contribué à préciser 1) les technologies de l'information et de la communication (TIC), 2) les tâches et les rôles des gouvernements, et 3) leurs effets combinés ...
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Winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998, Amartya Sen is known above all for his work on indicators of poverty and development which now form the basis of the international comparisons produced every year by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) in its Human Development Report. One of his other main concerns is cultural freedom and the promotion of democracy - a universal value that he feels is too often monopolized by the West. André-Yves Portnoff knows Sen's work well and stresses here the contribution of his thinking in these two fields; he is delighted by the ethical rigour that the Indian scholar brings to his work.
What a strange country France is, where the state claims to be the sole and exclusive embodiment of the common good and yet, as a result, it is incapable of tolerating the existence of independent agencies where discussions could take place that might challenge the rightness of public decision-making. Jean-Jacques Salomon provides yet another example, writing from his own experience as the President of the Collège de la prévention des risques technologiques (CPRT), set up by Michel Rocard when he was French Prime Minister.
Jean-Jacques Salomon starts by stating what he understands by the precautionary principle, which is all too frequently accused of paralysing the spirit of invention and innovation necessary for progress. He goes on to stress how important it is to have independent agencies capable of assessing advances in science and technology, given that the applications are, as we all know, becoming ever more ambivalent, their potential outcomes ranging from the best to the worst. Yet, as the former President of the CPRT argues, these agencies are misfits in the French political and institutional system, and the authorities therefore suspect them of wanting to hinder the projects drawn up by the orthodox civil service.
After explaining how the CPRT operated, illustrating his account with several particularly striking examples, Jean-Jacques Salomon describes how the Collège finally came to be closed down. In addition to this specific instance, he obviously also demonstrates clearly the French public authorities' desire to run everything their way without countenancing the slightest opposition, nor even accepting that their choices should be a matter for democratic debate, highly necessary though that is.
"The Arab World finds itself at a historical crossroads. Caught between oppression at home and violation from abroad, Arabs are increasingly excluded from determining their own future." So begins the cover blurb for UNDP's recent Arab Human Development Report 2004. Towards Freedom in the Arab World (New York: United Nations, 2005, 248 pp.).
Contrary to what some commentators might think, in particular given recent events in Lebanon, the Arab world is still far from embracing democratic principles as many wish that it would. For the moment, as Jean-Jacques Salomon argues in discussing the UNDP report, respect for basic freedoms is compromised in many Arab countries by dictatorship, authoritarian rule and their cultural heritage. Many lag behind in their respect for freedoms of various kinds and for human rights, but also with regard to female emancipation and improvements in education. Yet unless the Arab countries deal with these problems and institute "indigenous" democratic reforms, it is unlikely that a "renaissance of the Arab world" will ensue.
Le système démocratique occidental, fondé sur la représentation, traverse incontestablement une crise profonde, alors que la chute du mur de Berlin aurait pu conduire à une " démocratie apaisée ". Ce " désenchantement " a de nombreuses causes et il suscite une préoccupation croissante au sein de la société pour recréer le lien entre le citoyen et le politique. Une démocratie plus participative figure au premier rang des réponses souhaitées. Mais derrière ce terme générique, une multitude d'approches (tirage au sort des citoyens ...
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Following the elections in EU countries for their members of the European Parliament and as some of them start the campaigns leading to referenda on whether or not to ratify the draft European Constitution, Elvire Fabry examines the expectations of EU citizens with regard to their institutions. She stresses that not only is there a lack of legitimacy, the EU must deal with a real civic shortfall, related mainly to adequate public consultation. The agreements made in recent years (from Maastricht to Nice, by way of the draft Constitution) are an improvement in this direction, but what about the citizens themselves - what are their expectations and how can these be met effectively?
As the author emphasizes, this progress (right to more consultation, strengthening of the powers of the Parliament, etc.) does in part satisfy the demand for greater public participation in the debates about European affairs. Nevertheless, paradoxically, there is good reason to fear that the vast majority of Europe's citizens cannot be bothered to make the most of their opportunities. Given this situation, the decision to resort to referenda on the Constitution, in France in particular, runs the risk that, unless there are real efforts to educate and communicate with the voters, the turn-outs will again be low, or even that the Eurosceptics will win.
L'auteur de cet ouvrage, Bruce Gilley, est un observateur averti de la res sinica. Journaliste, basé à Hong Kong et en république populaire de Chine, il fut correspondant de la Far Eastern Economic Review. On lui doit notamment China's New Rulers, ouvrage publié en 2003 (Granta Books) en collaboration avec Andrew Nathan, autre sinologue de renom, et dans lequel les deux auteurs avaient témoigné de leur connaissance approfondie des coulisses du pouvoir chinois en analysant le renouvellement à ...
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Michel Drancourt reviews the most recent book (New York: Norton & Co, 2003) by Fareed Zakaria, an editorial writer for Newsweek, in which he examines the future of freedom and democracy. Zakaria argues that democracy -as it is defined today by most Westerners (free elections, separation of powers and respect for individual liberties)- is in danger of making many wrong turnings. If we are not careful, he says, it could become "illiberal democracy", in other words it might no longer guarantee respect for the basic freedoms, even though this has always been one of its fundamental principles. He goes on to argue that this is why it is so important now to take stock of these problems and build defences against these illiberal tendencies, in particular by creating effective regulatory authorities.
"Unlike other committees, we are not a group of experts whose role is to take part in government policy. Instead, we are a kind of independent and attentive laboratory of ideas applied to sustainable development and democracy. Because they consider that this independence, freedom of thought and action are being undermined, most of the active members of the CFDD feel that they have no choice but to resign." With these words, in a letter to the French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, in May 2003 Jacques Testart explained why he was resigning as chairman of the CFDD, along with most of its active members.
In what way were this independence, freedom of thought and action being undermined? The answer is given in this damning document, which demonstrates how far the debates necessary for any meaningful policy of sustainable development are systematically made to vanish into thin air. Reading this account makes one realize that it is more difficult than ever in France to promote independent forums for democratic discussion of the key questions relating to the future, and yet "sustainable development makes no sense without the invention of new forms of democracy".