Saskia McCulloch: An issue with Democracy


After reflecting on the Training Weekend and the Stakeholders meeting in Auckland that the delegation attended before leaving NZ, I have come to the conclusion that I have an issue with Democracy, or perhaps its better to say that I have an issue with the lack of democracy especially in democratic countries. 

Direct democracy is the aim - the government and its policies should reflect the idea's of the people. To emphasize this - the position NZ takes on any international stage should also reflect the ideas of the people. In short, the people should have control over what the NZ government mandates and does both domestically and internationally. It is our country after all!

During the Stakeholders briefing there were many questions regarding consultation or, lack of consultation. Interest groups such as Maori and Youth felt distant and alienated from MFAT and governments decisions regarding Climate Change. 

To me, the consultation process, shouldn't be just a stage that needs to be completed when creating policy. It should be continuous and on going. Representative democracy should represent the constituents... all of the time.  Consultation should be occuring regularly. This would mean that the government and those that are representing it on the global stage know that the constituents they represent are actually being represented!

We elect MP's both for their ability to consult and represent the ideas of their constituents. We also elect them for their character and ability to infer what their constituents would want in their absence. The people of NZ did not elect the negotiators based on their ability to infer their opinion on this issue! The people did not vote at all on who was going to represent them at COP. They were appointed by someone else, who was appointed by somebody else, who wasn't appointed by the people of NZ. This element makes the role of consultation even more important!

From my knowledge, the National Party nor any other party did not campaign on the issue and policies of Climate Change for the COP21 agreement in the 2011 elections. This is to say, the fact that each party received X amount of the Party vote and seats, then does not mean that X amount of NZ support this perspective on climate change and climate change policy. Due to the fact that party representation in government do not represent the ideas of NZ citizens on the subject of Climate Change means that other forms of consultation are extremely important. 

The negotiations are still at conceptual stage, according to MFAT at the stakeholders briefing.  Are the ideas of the people not an important especially at this stage? The issue is that MFAT could very well be representing the ideas of the people of NZ incredibly well on the international stage. However, they could be not. Without consultation and a thorough grasp of what the people are thinking how legitimate is the Mandate the NZ government has given the MFAT negotiators - who are just doing their jobs, as dictated by the NZ government.   


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Posted on November 10, 2013 and filed under UN Climate Talks 2013.