New Democracy #25: Resilient Democracy in the 21st Century

Do we need to rethink and redesign the institutions that make our democracy stable and reliable?

Democracy is an on-going project, especially in face of challenges such as populism, growing inequality, or the changing nature of representation. How democracies worldwide cope with these shared challenges has been researched by The Global State of Democracy publication by International IDEA. Tonight we will look at the state of Dutch democracy. Are our institutions, rights, and checks and balances still up to date or do we need to innovate? Where can we find possibilities for these innovations? Has Urgenda’s climate case the potential of introducing new constitutional rights that make our democracy futureproof? Do we need to secure the position and influence of participation by law?

International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy (GSoD) studies local and regional factors that protect democracy’s stability such as an independent rule of law, and the engagement of people in democratic decision-making.  According to the report the Netherlands is doing quite well. The research, however, also shows that the Netherlands scores a low grade on supporting direct participation of citizens and could improve its checks on government.

Are our institutions, rights, and checks and balances still up to date or do we need to innovate?

In an in-depth dialogue we will explore possibilities to innovate democracy in the Netherlands, looking at two different aspects. First we will look Urgenda’s Climate Case and discuss whether the outcome might result in renewing and enriching the constitutional rights of Dutch Citizens. Does this obligate the government to evaluate each new law on its consequences for CO2 emission, thereby securing ecological rights? In the second part we will focus on the position of participation in the context of checks and balances. Should participation have its own democratic mandate? Can we transform and innovate local democracy outside of the representative scheme?

About our guests

As Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University (Denmark), Svend-Erik Skaaning focuses on the conceptualization, measurement, and explanation of democracy and human rights. He is one of the main GSoD Indices experts.
Koos van den Berg is lawyer at Höcker Advocaten. He was representing Urgenda in the Climate Case, in which regular citizens have managed to hold their government accountable for taking insufficient action to keep them safe from dangerous climate change. The District Court of The Hague ruled that the Dutch government is required to reduce its emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020. The Dutch government decided to appeal this historic verdict and Urgenda is currently preparing its response.
Journalist Yvonne Zonderop writes for, among others, the Groene Amsterdammer on topics of populism in the Netherlands and growing inequality. She is author of the book Polderen 3.0, exploring new forms to engage and govern the common good. Previously Zonderop was board member of Prodemos and is member of the supervisory board of the FD Mediagroup.
Sywert van Lienden is activist, columnist, former chairman of the Landelijk Aktie Komitee Scholieren (LAKS) and initiator of the political youth movement G500. The goal of the G500 was to transform Dutch politics from the inside. By individually becoming member of several political parties the members of the G500 tried to influence their political agenda simultaneously in the samen direction, thereby making participation of the youth in politics empowered and meaningful.
Dr. Reijer Passchier is assistant professor in comparative constitutional law at Tilburg University. He has published articles on the importance of informal constitutional change.
As a constitutional expert Elliot Bulmer is one of the key authors of the CBP primers that help decision-makers and citizens to understand and use some key constitutional principles. Previously he was author of ‘A model constitution of Scotland’.

In the afternoon, 20 Dutch experts are invited to formulate solutions and new initiatives to deal with two big challenges focused on countering unequal participation and improving the relation between representatives and citizens. In the evening program these experts will present the solutions from the innovation labs and the audience will vote on the winning proposal.

More information

Pakhuis de Zwijger, Grote zaal
Piet Heinkade 179
1019 HC Amsterdam

20:00 – 22:00

Entry free, sign up via Pakhuis de Zwijger.

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