It has been more than 3 years ago, when the project on “Good Governance in the Information Society” (2005-2008) has been started between the walls of the Council of Europe.
The project focuses on how new information and communication technologies (ICT) affect the practice of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Council of Europe member states.
In 2007, the Project had as its main task to compile and analyse examples of good practice on e-voting and e-participation via its experts network and to examine developments on e-democracy/e-participation at European and international level in order to advise the Committee of Ministers on e-democracy’s potential to facilitate democratic reform and practice.
The work is now over, the Parliamentary Assembly has adopted on the 18th of February.
It can be found here: https://xrl.us/behzbh
It is obvious, that the work, which has been going on over 2 years now has involved many experts from the e-democracy field, and has been operated as an intergovernmental body. Further more, it has been also involving other bodies of the Council of Europe’s, such as the Congress for Regional and Local Authorities and the Conference of INGO’s.
In Europe, there is a reference point now, with many strengths, that the different stakeholders could benefit from, when we try to make something understandable.
Although, it is “just”a recommendation, it has large annex and an extremely useful explanatory memorandum.
What does it mean to us? We can make benefit from this document - that is for sure. Since it is a recommendation, it is a bit soft, it is a bit long, but the core points are valuable for many stakeholders, who wishes to introduce e-democracy at most of the levels.
An insider look…
To say a few words on the working methodology and the process - it was not such bright. Participation was mostly low - although, among those, who were present at the meetings was much higher. However, it is never easy to work with the representatives of 49 governments, to negotiate with them, to speak a common language (The secretary was really doing their best.) It is not a surprise, that some of the countries has nearly never shown up, and others were extremely active.
Regarding the working process, the CAHDE was a historical workgroup. Not only because of e-democracy, but because of the participation of the different pillars of the Council of Europe’s bodies, (Although, the civil society and the CRLA was invited to the meetings, voting rights has been not dedicated to the representatives) has not ever given these kind of rights (as far as I know).
This is certainly a good point in an institution, where the inner working processes are not really prepared for e-democratic values, and not following all way around the core pillar of good governance - transparency (I am wondering, if anybody would ask some public information related to this work, what he or she will get). Particularly, the website’s and the services of the different, nowdays mentioned as equal pillars of the COE has not the same possibilities, when it comes to web services. Not event the reimbursment (country representatives could get their daily reimbursment on the meeting day, while the civil society representaitves sometimes had to wait more than a month - maybe it is normal, but not too democratic, and not following the equality - more giving a mirror on the bureocratic dimensions.)
There is obviously an e-democratic deficit in this organization. (See my voluntary findings related to the COE NGO section website revision)
The deficit or imbalance lives it’s embedded life in this monstre institution, since the recommendation does serve the countries, but do not put much pressure to the inner e-democratic development necessities of the organization, which is a bit shame (or 265 kilobyte).
To go a bit further in the developing critiques, the language is really tailored to the governmental spheres and it is not really citizen-ngo friendly-centered.(although, many e-democratic projects are emerging from these pillars). The text misses one of it’s core aims - to relate to every stakeholder in a balanced way.
The toolkit, which is co-made by one of our members in PEP-NET (E-voting.CC) is unfortunately can not speak the language of the NGO’s, which could be not the fault of the writers- it could be more the part of the culture, which does not take into consideration the extreme power, which lies in the third sector, and the empowerment, what this recommendation could provide - if it is pulled out from the authoritarian culture.
But to be honest, this is a progress and a part of our democratic cultural change.
I do think, that a wise application of education of the institutions staff on this topic could give a fresh breeze and more efficient service delivery to the COE. People need the values and tools of e-democracy in many programs, launched by the COE, or it’s institutions, just like the people in Europe.