This somehow coincided with my own candidacy for one of the lists that political parties drew together for parlementary elections in the Netherlands this autumn (For more details: "De Politieke Wereld").
Reading the concept paper of CSP I realized that indeed there are a number of tough questions in need of an answer:
"Around the world politics is in disrepute. It has become detached from society, and unresponsive to its needs. It has been captured by elites. It seems incapable of solving the big economic, social and environmental challenges of our time. Public leadership remains important, but politics everywhere is discredited.
- In western societies, politics no longer inspires, cynicism rules, and citizens feel powerless.
- In post-communist societies, initial enthusiasm for democracy has given way to detachment and cynicism. Citizens feel powerless.
- In emerging democracies, citizenship is fragile, institutions are weak, and corruption abounds. Citizens feel powerless.
Focussing in my work on the development of public-private partnerships I realized how important it is to include people in the equation. Public-Private-People partnerships would be a much better term.
In light of the above you may expect my clients to be a bit suspicious of me being a member of a council that seeks to revitalize civil society (or associational life if you wish). Nevertheless I do see public-private partnerships as an entry point for discussing societal norms and values in currently closed societies. However, we should be careful not to create a monster that we cannot control anymore once it has come to life.
Elin Allern of Oslo University and Tim Bale of Sussex drew a bleak picture of civil society politics for Europe (Allern & Bale, 2009) during the ECPR Joint Sessions, Lisbon, 14-19 April 2009. The current attempt of the Civil Society Centre in Australia to start a movement for achieving alternative frameworks for political party formation may be applauded in the light of the current democratic vacuum that many countries face.
Though I concurr with the notion that power needs to be transfered both from Public and Private sector to civil society in order to restore the power balance, central governance needs to remain with the state for the time being, though better coordination between governments is required. This will allow for a slow and proper transition from the old style left wing/right wing politics (or collectivist and individualist approach) to a system that is more democratic and less indidvidualistic, i.e. more relational.
I especially admire the fact that the invitation to join this movement is open to everyone that subscribes the code of conduct:
1. We welcome diversity of opinion with civility - open discussion and exchange of views in a respectful and courteous manner is required of members.
2. We welcome diversity in culture and religious allegiance with tolerance - people of all cultural backgrounds and religious identities are welcome, on the understanding that proselytising or recruiting for external organisations is not permitted.
3. We welcome members of political parties - we ask that you declare any political party membership you have.
4. We welcome leadership qualities without ego - participants are invited to bring commitment and character, but are requested to leave their egos at home.
I would like to encourage everyone to join in!
(for an overview of the council members see: http://www.civilsociety.org.au/CivilSocietyPolitics2.htm)