Hiking towards Democracy

How does an expedition of fifteen individuals from various parts of the world, translate itself to modern realities, say those occurring in the Middle East and Turkey, or perhaps even smaller ‘revolutions’ that are more closer to home?

What is certain is that the challenges we encountered exposed many of our own weaknesses and discrepancies that if applied in a position of ultimate responsibility e.g. in government, would lead us to encounter a tremendous set of problems.

The planning stage of a project is akin to forming an interim government. Inevitably, leaders will emerge to guide for a variety of reasons that may come from empathy, initiative, ambition or the basic desire to fulfil a need. In that particular moment, interim leaders may lose focus as they focus on what’s to follow rather than the task at hand. Alternatively, they may fail to communicate their desire and need and therefore incur the wrath of those who (for various reasons) are unable to speak up. What is important at this stage, is that interim leaders set-up the mechanisms required to ensure that a democratic decision-making forum is established. Once this forum is established it is important to determine that consent has been given for decisions to be made.

Nowhere is this more important than with the current situation in Egypt, where a temporary government has been installed by the military in suspension of Egypt’s constitution and first democratically elected president. It is important to ensure that the people know that the purpose of the interim government is to swiftly promote new free and fair elections.

They must also be prepared to create back-up plans lest the reality they encounter does not enable them to implement the decision they (initially) made. In such situations it is easy for followers to become lost as to their leaders’ decisions. If for example in a simple hike, the followers fall behind and are suddenly expected to retreat, the frustrations are likely to return back to the leaders who failed to communicate the change. Similarly, in government, a ‘u-turn’ is likely to be met with hostility from the public usually driven by the media, unless the occurrence of the change is tactfully and strategically communicated.

Every project must have criteria to determine its level of success just as every government must ensure that it tries its utmost to deliver that which it promised to those whom elected it. Those in leadership must be prepared to answer questions and to be held to account over their decisions. They themselves must ensure that they place adequate mechanisms and reminders to ensure that their first duty is to the people. It is also for people to ensure that they take steps to hold their leaders to account, through questioning, lobbying and through responsible citizenship.

Ruta Masalska –  Mustafa Kemal Tosuner – Khalid Miah

2 Responses to Hiking towards Democracy

  1. Xavier says:

    Is it enough to have a good communication strategy to convince population, or half of it, that a U-turn is needed and good for whole society?
    Informed alone is a low level of participation. May be informed and consulted will convince more parts of society…

  2. Citizenship says:

    The link from the experience to the political in Egypt, especially in the aspect of leadership, especially when it comes to the importance of communication of plans and actions. What I’m missing is the perspective and the level of participation of the ‘followers’, the people. Is ‘holding their leaders to account, through questioning, lobbying and responsible citizenship (what do you mean by this exactly?)’ enough participation? And what are the difficulties about setting up democratic instruments in a society that has no experiences in taking part in democratic decision making? How can a participation be assured by the ‘leaders’? (Tina)

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