Brazil rejuvenates democratic governance in digital age


Brazil is in a state of political turmoil, notes Daniel O’Maley, Associate Editor at the National Endowment for Democracy’s Center for International Media Assistance:

An investigation into a decades-old kickback scheme at the state-owned oil company, Petrobras, has entangled prominent politicians and leading business figures alike. President Dilma Rousseff [left] is facing impeachment — and a leading proponent of her removal, Eduardo Cunha, the head of the lower house of Congress, is under a corruption investigation himself. So it was not surprising when a 2014 Pew Global Attitudes survey revealed that 72 percent of Brazilian respondents were unsatisfied with the current state of affairs in their country, up more than 20 percent from just four years earlier. Since June 2013, millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets to protest rising public transportation costs, poor quality public healthcare and education, and excessive government spending on stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. In short, there is a growing sense among Brazilians that their political system is broken.

With this in mind, Brazil might seem like an odd place to look for promising examples of innovations in democratic governance. But the country’s political dysfunction has prompted civil society activists to explore new mechanisms to enable citizens to participate in policymaking more actively, he writes for Foreign Policy’s Democracy Lab:

The passage of the Marco Civil da Internet, an “Internet bill of rights” commonly referred to in English as the Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet, demonstrates how the Internet, and social media in particular, can be marshaled to rejuvenate democratic governance in the digital age. The law is important not only for its content, but for the innovative and participatory way it was written, bypassing traditional modes of legislation-making to go directly to the country’s citizens. As a result, it is responsive to citizens’ concerns and freer of the undue influence of corporate lobbyists. At a moment when governments of all kinds are viewed as increasingly distant from ordinary people, Brazil’s example makes a persuasive argument that democracy offers a way forward.


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