Our activists views on civil society | Power to the People | DW | 31.05.2013
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Power to the People

Our activists views on civil society

What are the responsibilities of the civil society in a democratic system? Is co-determination just a rhetorical term or a realistic chance for the democratic process? Our activists share their opinions.

US environment activist, Quentin James

Civil society plays a critical role in maintaining a democracy, as well as making it better. In the American story, outside groups like the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) ensured that all of the rights guaranteed under the US Constitution were extended to all Americans. While many wouldn’t agree with the concept, it has worked very well throughout the past. Jean-Jacques Rousseau would say, “In order to accomplish more and remove himself from the state of nature, man must enter into a social contract with others. In this social contract, everyone will be free because they all forfeit the same amount of rights and impose the same duties on all. ” Co-determiniation, in my opinion, is an extension of the social contract and requires us all to take stake in our democracies.

Egyptian opposition politician Amr Badr

Civil society is responsible for limiting and controlling the power of the state. In transitional states, such as Egypt, civil society’s responsibility is also to help in the building process of reaching democracy.

Ukrainian journalist Tetiana Chornovol

Calling oneself a democracy and actually being one are two different things. A democracy is only possible when the rulers use the power that comes from the civil society. I think the nature of the state is naturally repressive and only compatible with democratic values when there is also an alert civil society in place. Ukraine is an extreme example of the role of a civil society under a weak democracy. In 2010 Yanukovych won the presidential elections and plunged the country into disaster. In the past years he has totally monopolized state power, and the country’s civil society faces a huge challenge if it is to undo this monopolization.

Greek lawyer Lila Bellou

Civil society without full democratic rights for all and accountability of the officials of the state apparatus cannot be accepted and does not exist. The pre-requisite of 'civil society' are citizens that are well informed about both their obligations and rights. Civil society is formed by the citizens, not consumers.

Graphics designer from Spain, Marc Masmiquel

It is civil society which makes decisions, engages itself in democratic proceedings and establishes a social welfare system. In the case of political participation, it is the civil society that nominates representatives for a particular neighborhood who in turn help decide whether a city council should approve or reject a law. Civil society is not a passive subject elected every four years. The civil society demands bread for all, it is tolerant and integrated; it is fair and just and recognizes that only legitimate representatives protect the common good.

Japanese teacher from Russia, Isabelle Magkoeva

For me, civil society means being in the midst of it all, not apathetic. The civil society is comprised of people who have an opinion and stand by it. These are people who commit themselves to helping to improve the lives of others.

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