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  • The first Global Forum in Aarau in the autumn of 2008 established the first global network around the issue of direct democracy – by taking stock of the world’s most established polity when it comes to modern direct democracy–Switzerland. The 2008 Forum gathered more than 100 activists and professionals from 20 countries across the globe and was co-organized with the Aarau-based Center for Democracy at Zurich University. At the Forum, participants focused on emerging opportunities to establish and develop direct democratic tools like the European citizens’ initiative in the EU, the only existing tool of citizen participation at the transnational level. Ever since then, the Global Forum has examined various political contexts and the options and limits they present when it comes to making citizens’ participation in government more accessible and efficient. To remain relevant and flexible, the Global Forum process does not have a central, formal organization with a headquarters; it remains a vibrant, changing network of active citizens and organizations that together take responsibility for this open and free event.

  • The 2009 GFMDD was the 2nd forum, which was co-organized with the Korea Democracy Foundation in September 2009 in South Korea. As the consequence of the 2008 global financial crisis, the Forum chose as its focal point the challenge of sustainability and the key question of how direct democracy can make economies stronger. Thus, one of the topics on the forum was how to sustainably manage the conflict between the modern market mechanisms and major societal needs, such as environment, peace and security, solidarity, and migration, in political frameworks on all levels. In addition, the Forum showed Seoul’s ability in linking the modern opportunities of the internet age with the need for reformed and transparent government structures.

  • On its journey around the world, the Forum reached the American West Coast and California in the summer of 2010. The San Francisco Forum, held in a hotspot for initiative and referendum activities over the past century, gathered a record-number of almost 500 participants from across the state, the US and the world. The Forum, hosted by the University of California Hastings College of the Law, not only triggered a great deal debate on reform within California but also offered many other recommendations on transparency, open access and deliberation. It became clear however, that more direct democracy is not always beneficial to the culture of dialogue and cohesion in a society as diverse as California.

  • The 2012 GFMDD reached the southern hemisphere in 2012, meeting in another hotspot of modern direct democracy: Uruguay. With its strong political parties, the country has fashioned a potent mix of indirect and direct democracy and a rich culture of citizen participation that even survived the military dictatorship of 1973-1984. The Forum, which gathered more than 250 democracy supporters from the whole world worked hard on questions of how to develop a participatory infrastructure that can support the comprehensive involvement of all people, especially minorities and the underprivileged. In a Montevideo statement issued at the Forum’s conclusion, the participants, referring to Art. 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, concluded: “We firmly believe that the power of citizens to make their own laws (and not merely pick representatives) is both a basic human right we all have– and a responsibility we all must bear. We are committed to advancing this right and responsibility– and we believe that, in doing so, we can change the world.”

  • In the wake of the Arab Spring, Tunisia showed great potential and willingness for democratic reform. This is why the Forum in 2015 was held in Tunis. The 2015 Forum gathered more than 500 participants from Tunisia and across the world in its capital. It focused on the challenge that Tunisia would face in the upcoming reform: “Decentralisation by Participation.” This was a key issue not only in the host country Tunisia, but also in many other societies around the globe.

  • After travelling across Asia, North- and South-America, and Africa, the Forum landed back in Europe in November 2016. The Forum was hosted by Donostia-San Sebastian, which is located in the Basque Autonomous Community and also the fabulous spot on the Atlantic Ocean. At the Forum, the hosts shared their own experiences on Donostia-San Sebastian’s road to direct democracy and participants were immersed into the discussion on how to introduce participatory politics and direct democracy. At the end of the 3-Day conversation, the participants drafted a declaration, the Donostia Declaration on Modern Direct Democracy, presenting their conclusion: “We want to make clear: our representative democracies need to become much more direct now, by allowing citizens to become authors of direct legislation, agenda-setters and decision-makers. Initiative and referendum rights must be incorporated in all political jurisdictions via rules that are decided by the people themselves and that do not impede their use by the citizens. Such rules must be well-designed and balanced to make our representative democracies truly representative.”

  • The 2018 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy was held in September in Italy. The Forum focused on local democracy and the role of cities in addressing today’s challenges. At the Forum in Rome, a global charter of democratic cities was presented. We invited cities all over the world to sign on to this charter and join a network of cities who commit to practicing and promoting democracy and citizen participation at the local level.

  • Taichung, Taiwan will be the next host of the Global Forum.
    We sincerely invite you to join us in 2019.