The Hunger Project, in partnership with the UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and Logolink, a global learning initiative for citizen participation and local governance, launched the 2014 State of Participatory Democracy Report on Tuesday, September 23 at Inside Park at St. Bart’s in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly.
“The issues that really matter in people’s daily lives – water, sanitation, primary health care, primary education, year-round access to affordable nutrition food, basic safety and social justices – must all be resolved locally,” said Hunger Project Executive Vice President John Coonrod. “Ensuring such services is never simply an administrative matter, rather an exercise in ensuring human rights. The transformation from ‘subject’ to ‘citizen’ is the great unfinished narrative of human history.”
Over the course of the year, The Hunger Project, in partnership with UNDEF, consulted with pioneering civil society organizations and other stakeholders that have invested decades in shifting their countries’ policies towards greater citizen engagement and local democracy. This included areas where democracy is most fragile in Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and Central Asia – and of the first time – Middle East and North Africa, Arab countries and Western Asia.
These discussions and a widely implemented survey culminated in the 2014 report, which ranks 52 countries on five key dimensions of participatory democracy: active citizenry, political decentralization, administrative decentralization, fiscal decentralization and multi-sectoral planning.
“The main lesson of this year’s report,” Coonrod shared, is “in many countries where national-level democracy and respect for human rights may be fragile, the roots of democratic values are being deepened, and we are seeing new legislation. This expansion of participatory local democracy has yielded improvement of public services and inclusion of an active civil society in the formation of new laws.”
At the launch, Hunger Project President and CEO Åsa Skogström Feldt shared, “Launching this report amidst the discussions of the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] is critical. One year from today – hopefully – the SDGs will be final. And we will work with many others to ensure that the final SDGs will empower women and men around the world to have local governments that work.”