Healthy Democracy Co-Hosts International Delegation
Last month, an international delegation of leaders in the field of direct democracy toured Western states to learn more about the ballot intiative process in the United States. Their final stop was Oregon, where they showed particular interest in learning about our innovative Citizens' Initiative Review.
Healthy Democracy was a co-sponsor of this event that brought together leaders from around the globe, including California, Switzerland, Germany, and the Phillipines. The Consulate General of Switzerland, the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe, Democracy International, the New America Foundation, Zocalo Public Square, the City Club of Portland, and Lewis & Clark University also co-sponsored the round-table discussion.
During the day, our guests had the chance to hear from a variety of perspectives. Attorneys Leslie Johnson and Arden Shenker presented on an in-depth 2008 Portland City Club report on reforming the initiative, referendum, and referral systems in Oregon. That was followed by a great discussion by experienced ballot measure advocates Phil Keisling (former Oregon Secretary of State), Ross Day and Dan Meek (both attorneys), and Ted Blaszak (the president of a petition drive management company called Democracy Resources).
The delegation also engaged in a discussion of the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) during the afternoon. Tyrone Reitman and Elliot Shuford of Healthy Democracy explained the nuts and bolts of the process. The moderators of the 2010 CIR discussed in greater detail how the process was facilitated to ensure citizens had a neutral, meaningful process in which they could fully participate and produce a useful resource. Two panelists from the 2010 CIR also joined the group to share about their experience. Finally, Katie Knobloch, a researcher from the team who studied the process, presented the overwhelmingly positive findings of a National Science Foundation funded evaluation.
Kate Brown, Oregon Secretary of State, also addressed the group, sharing some of Oregon’s proud and rich history with the initiative process.
Healthy Democracy and other Oregon participants had the pleasure of learning from the delegation about their own projects and experience. In the evening, we heard from Salvör Norda, the chair of the National Constitutional Council, where she is helping to draft a new constitution, including strong direct democractic instruments for Iceland; Ramon Casiple, Director of the Institute for Political and Electoral reform in Manila/Philippines, one of the key experts and advisors to the democracy movement in South East Asia and co-founder of the Initiative and Referendum Institute Asia; and Bruno Kaufmann, the Chairman of the Election Commission of Falun/Sweden, advisor to the European Union institutions on the European Citizens Initiative, President of the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe, and Co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy.
We also enjoyed rich and informative discussions with other members of the delegation, including Roman Huber and Daniel Schily, co-founders of “More Democracy,” a German NGO which promotes modern direct democracy on all political levels and is a global network of activist organizations around the world; and Dane M. Waters, Chairman of the Initiative and Referendum Institute in the US who has been advising presidents and presidential candidates on the options and limits of modern direct democracy.
Healthy Democracy was honored to help facilitate this exciting dialogue. We were very appreciative for the opportunity to discuss democracy with people with such a wide array of experiences.
Additional information on the conference:
Ballot News covers the event.