2012: Living Democracy: Citizen Power in a Global Age

The rise of street politics in Northern Africa and the Middle East shocked the mainstream media and most of the world in 2011. The access to active participation of citizens in governance systems was a driving force of a movement that is currently manifesting all over the world in different forms, spreading to North America with the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

Active citizenship in decision-making processes - and more importantly, the current understanding of democracy - is being questioned.

The title was inspired by a challenge given by previous I-Week speaker Francis Moore Lappé to find, "democracy as a way of life, no longer something done to us or for us but what we ourselves create." 2012 called on I-Week participants to critically analyze "democracy," and our perceptions of freedom and responsibility. As citizens all over the world struggle for their rights, from claiming Indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights here in Canada to toppling oligarchs in Northern Africa, a new global ethic is springing up. I-Week 2012 offered an opportunity to contribute to discussions and actions that will foment change and bring us all closer to living democracy.

Since 2008 the world has been engulfed in a growing economic crisis. One percent of the world's relationship has benefited from an exploitative relationship with the remaining "99 percent." Now, even in Greece, where "democracy" was born, unelected bankers and technocrats rule. Keynote speaker Tariq Ali addressed the symbiosis between politics and big money, and encouraged participants to envision new economic systems outside of capitalism's contradictions.

What responsibilities do we have to the land, the water and to future generations? How do we create an economy that is divorced from empire, that respects the environment, and that is based on local needs? Activist and author Winona LaDuke told stories about how Native communities in the US like hers have become more self -sufficient by building wind and alternative energy systems, and begun to heal old social and environmental wounds.

Featured guests:

  • Tariq Ali, British-Pakistani film-maker, historian, editor of New Left Review, and regular contributor to The Guardian, CounterPunch, and London Review of Books
  • Winona LaDuke, US-based Anishinaabe author, orator, activist, founder of Native environmental advocacy group Honor the Earth, and founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project
  • Bill Ryerson, founder and President of Population Media Center, President of the Population Institute, and 2006 recipient of Nafis Sadik Prize for Courage from the Rotarian Action Group on Population and Development
  • Judi Wakhungu, Kenyan agricultural expert and Executive Director of environmental think-tank African Centre for Technology Studies
  • John Gastil, Head of Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Pennsylvania State University and expert in political deliberation and group decision-making.
View the International Week 2012 Program