Open Societies are key to a better future for all of humanity
At Citizens’ Climate International, we believe everyone’s chances of success, including governments and industry, are enhanced when the design of our world is shaped by the needs and aspirations of all people. This requires active, flexible, safe, and inclusive spaces for open civic engagement.
The degree to which a society is practiced at organizing locally, working together to solve problems large and small, and collaborating across different perspectives, determines how well that society can respond to adversity. Adaptive capacity isn’t an authoritarian strength; it is a strength of open and cooperative societies.
Public authorities need to honor the right of all people to think openly, share knowledge, form peaceful cultural and solutions-oriented associations, and to actively cooperate for the defense of human rights, dignity, ingenuity, and progress. At this moment, we are seeing such rights and freedoms degraded and curtailed around the world.
During today’s meeting of the C7 Open Societies Working Group, civil society organizations and government representatives discussed the fact that only 2 out of 10 people in the world right now live in open societies. Illicit financial flows, money laundering, and other modes of corruption degrade and threaten people’s access to the benefits of legitimate fact-based and inclusive decision-making.
The 2022 Democracy Report from V-Dem finds liberal democracy is under threat around the world. The report tracked over 30 million data points for 202 countries, from 1789 through 2021, and involved 3,700 scholars and other country experts. The report found:
The level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2021 is down to 1989 levels. The last 30 years of democratic advances are now eradicated.
Dictatorships are on the rise and harbor 70% of the world population – 5.4 billion people.
There are signals that the nature of autocratization is changing.
What was supposed to be the great era of globalized human freedom is in fact a time of spreading authoritarianism, in which most of the world’s population lives under some form of autocratic system. This trend includes democracies that are being corrupted by authoritarian leaders who use the powers of public office to counter and to reduce the space for dissent.
Toxic polarization is also creating threats inside strong democracies:
Toxic polarization undermines unified support across political constituencies for a shared democratic project, and can become a systematized ongoing threat to democratic process.
Partisans and power-brokers that use the levers of power to advantage themselves and their allies at the expense of civil liberties, freedom of information, or free and fair elections, degrade the personal freedom, civil rights, and adaptive capacity of their whole societies.
Toxic polarization is also being weaponized, through social media algorithms that prioritize emotional responses and condition future information flows by digitally projected personal preferences.
Cyber-based psychological operations are being carried out by hostile regimes, to disrupt and destabilize democratic societies and to wage information war on their own people.
To tackle the biggest challenges we face, we must recognize and defend the right of all people to know whether any given decision is likely to lead to greater health, freedom, and dignity in everyday life, or to degraded human outcomes—personally, locally, or globally. The right to know is essential, and every person is an actual stakeholder and a legitimate actor in the landscape of knowledge sharing and problem solving.
Last month, we launched an updated edition of the Engage4Climate Toolkit for local stakeholder meetings to support improved climate policy decision-making. The Toolkit includes:
A flexible, dynamic standard meeting agenda;
Sample agendas for distinct meeting types, including experiential educational events;
A 20-year visioning process overview, with details to drive discussion;
Guidance for meeting management and structured outcome reporting;
A new thematic resource library.
In our recent submission to the UNFCCC on Arrangements for Intergovernmental Meetings, we outlined a series of process innovations and called for negotiations that:
Guarantee people-centered climate action by taking into consideration the protection of human rights;
Strengthen political integrity of the negotiations by preventing private interests from interfering with consideration of evidence and joint work toward high ambition;
Ensure civic participation in all of the processes and supports representation from disadvantaged groups.
We support the call from the C7 Open Societies Working Group for:
Formation of a Civic Space Task Force to strengthen and expand protection mechanisms for civil society organizations and activists under threat;
Adoption of a revised Open Societies Statement covering a participatory multilateral order, use of technology and human rights, freedom of assembly, transparency and anti-corruption, security and civic space, human rights in emergency responses, human rights defenders and media, as well as gender rights, children’s rights, and related protections;
Implementation of National Action Plans for Open Societies at home and inclusion of Open Societies Statement priorities in foreign policy, including in development, trade, and security.
During the month of June, CCI will support citizen volunteer policy advocates in 76 countries engaging with policy-makers, with media, and with their communities, to build political will for inclusive high-ambition climate policy. These activities will also include enhanced training and coordination of local volunteer chapters, to strengthen the foundation for ongoing work.
We must learn to welcome, activate, and sustain participatory processes for better decision-making, because the overlapping global challenges of our time affect us all, and all of us have a role to play.