Building the Latin America We Want: Supplementing Representative Democracies with Consensus Building
Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2008
87 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2008 Last revised: 15 Apr 2014
Date Written: November 14, 2008
This article is about using consensus building to create channels for meaningful participation in public decision-making, in order to supplement representative democracies in Latin America. I argue that the addition of a consensus building mechanism into the legislative process will create the necessary forums for stakeholders to contribute to the framing and resolution of issues of public concern. Furthermore, as Susskind has argued, allowing citizens to participate at the beginning of decision-making processes will make legislative outcomes more legitimate and decrease the level of political dissatisfaction.
Currently, citizens have few opportunities or channels to participate meaningfully in the political process. Not only are there few structural institutions that facilitate on-going citizen participation, but also the methods and skills for participation are lacking. For example, even though there are a number of laws that encourage citizen participation, there are no mechanisms that facilitate broad-based representation or processes that guarantee inclusion. I argue that minipublics - public deliberation organizations made up of representatives of the various social sectors - and consensus-building demonstrate, on a small-scale, how channels for meaningful participation can be created at the national level. Finally, this Article examines how these mechanisms could be implemented at a national level, drawing on empirical research carried out through the University of St. Thomas International ADR Research Network.
Keywords: consensus building, multi-door courthouse, citizen participation, Latin America, public dispute resolution, legislative process
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