CIVICUS WORLD ASSEMBLY. INTERNATIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY ISSUES MONTREAL PRINCIPLES, LAYING GROUNDWORK FOR A MORE JUST WORLD
World leaders of citizen action, gathered in Montreal for the 11th CIVICUS World Assembly, have laid the groundwork for a new social contract, aimed at improving on the conventional political approaches that have failed in the face of today’s challenges and crises.
ALDA President, Mr.Oriano Otocan, and ALDA Director, Mrs. Antobnella Valmorbida, attended the event, organised by CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM) from 3 to 7 September in Montreal, and had as its theme “Defining a new social contract–making the future together”.
In the picture (Tristan Brand): Group of participants
Representatives of international civil society, who came from around 100 countries all over the world, had converged on Montreal to discuss critical time for civil society, not least for Quebecois and Canadian citizens, as we have seen great waves of people’s protests recently, but also recent cuts by the federal government for organisations in the areas of international cooperation, advocacy and the environment. The 2012 CIVICUS World Assembly was held in the same week that the people of Quebec elected their first woman prime minster, in the wake of a turbulent year marked by an unprecedented social crisis in which civil society played a major role.
“It’s important to remember today that democracy has changed. It’s now very clear that citizen participation is an essential complement to representative democracy. Citizens want to be consulted - and must be consulted - between elections”, INM Executive Director Mr. Michel Venne said.
“There is a pressing need to overhaul our models of decision-making,” added CIVICUS’ Outreach Director Henri Valot. “Recent events like the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring and the Maple Spring clearly demonstrate that a growing number of people want to be heard and understood so that we can make the world more just and address issues like inequality, poverty and corruption. This 11th CIVICUS World Assembly represents a decisive moment for achieving progress towards making the world a fairer place”.
The event brought together a number of important public figures, among which Léo Bureau-Blouin, former student protest leader and now youngest ever member of the Quebec national assembly, renowned environmental activist and former Brazilian Minister of Environment Marina Silva, and Forum des Alternatives President Kamal Lahbib, who was sentenced to five years in prison for belonging to a secret revolutionary organisation during the former regime in Morocco.
The international summit was an opportunity for young protestors, activists and the instigators of movements such as Occupy, the Arab Spring and the Maple Spring, to meet prominent individuals who have the power to influence international policies. Leading speakers included Caroline Anstey of the World Bank, Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International, Ana-Maria Garzón of the Sustainable Agriculture Network - Rainforest Alliance, and Olav Kjørven of the United Nations Development Programme. Many prestigious organisations were represented at the summit, including Amnesty International, the Rockefeller Foundation, ActionAid and ALDA, as well as a number of Canadian organisations such as the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the Coalition pour la souveraineté alimentaire and Équiterre.
Montreal principles to guide civil society’s role in defining a new social contract
In order to help forge a new social settlement that is inclusive, democratic and just, we in civil society should:
Link, network, connect: form horizontal and consensual alliances, and unusual and smart partnerships.
Make connections between formal civil society organisations and new social movements and groups.
Mainstream social and communications technologies: prioritise making connections between online activism and offline action and excluded communities.
Encourage local participation and voluntary action as a first step for people’s real engagement in civil society.
Maintain community connections as a primary reality check and touchstone: regain and refresh the roots of civil society.
Be constantly aware of and address marginalisation of all those socially and politically excluded, particularly focusing on women, young people and minorities. Ensure safe spaces and accessible processes, promotion and advancement.
Promote the value of international solidarity for encouraging domestic and local action, and the protection of spaces for civil society.
Work within a human rights based framework and focus on the rights that enable people’s demands for dignity, freedom, justice and equality.
Be knowledge-based: develop communities of thought, as well as practice.
Integrate issues of sustainability: redefine what prosperity means and prioritise bio-diversity and the protection of nature.
Be demand driven, rather than supply driven, and accountable to citizens, not donor structures.
Limit our dependency on governments and be transparent about our funding compromises: seek alternative models, like social and crowd sourced funding.
Be innovative, strategic and have an assets-based approach: focus on entry points, tipping points, points of leverage.
Better understand and take account of the roles – positive and negative – of the private sector.
Develop our capacities for negotiation and analysis of power.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global alliance of over 1,000 members and partners in over 100 countries. CIVICUS works to promote the emergence, growth and protection of citizen action.
The Institut du Nouveau Monde is a non-partisan organisation with the mission of promoting citizen participation and the renewal of ideas in Quebec. The INM’s aim is to encourage citizen participation, to contribute to the development of civic competence and to strengthen social cohesion and democratic institutions.