Democracy International: In your opinion, why do we need to democratise the world?
It is not that democracy is the best form of governance; but for obvious reasons, it is the best available form of governance in any part of the world. Another thing is that democracy is not about deprivation of several but plenty for a few! In other words, democracy is about real freedom from all forms of slavery and bondages at social, cultural, geographical, economic, political, ecological and other levels. It is not about mere intellectual orgasm. It is a very serious business and it has the capacity to maintain human dignity with a sense of sustainability and capacity to neutralise all authoritarian forms of governance.
The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing. Do you see a connection between the socio-economic crisis and citizens’ participation? What should be done to fight this development?
Yes, there is a connection between the socio-economic crisis and citizens’ participation in the political process. If citizens’ participation is not strengthened, the socio-economic gap tends to widen further. We already witness this process in weak democracies or in those countries, where there is no democracy. In India for example MK Gandhi rightly said that there are enough resources for the people but not enough for the greed. The Earth is still capable to produce enough for the people, but the greed has overtaken tragically and thus aggravated the situation.
In your life, what triggered your activism for more democracy and citizen-participation? Was there a key moment in your life?
Suresh Nautiyal: There was not a single key moment in my life that brought me into activism. Yet, there was a certain period: In the mid-seventies I entered college-life, and my consciousness had a higher and expanded level of understanding. Within the next ten years I was into the thick of the peoples’ struggles. One thing I knew from the very beginning on was that injustices only could be abolished if our struggles stuck to the tenets of democracy and philosophy of non-violence. Also, I believed that citizens’ active participation was essential to fight against the uneven situations like inequality, social injustice and the caste system, racial discrimination, gender bias, violation of human rights and marginalisation of certain sections of society. Later on, I made my profession, journalism, the weapon of my activism.
We have to fight against these indiscrepancies globally with direct democratic actions. What is the next political goal you want to achieve?
It is not about my next political goal, but about the long cherished political dream! This political dream is to found a green party at national level in my country, India and to make this party the vehicle for more democracy and change in the long run. Doing so, for me personally it is not important to get elected to the state assembly or the national parliament but it is important to create space for democratic struggles and movements.
What should Democracy International do to realise more democracy and citizen-participation in the world?
Right now, the Democracy International is concentrating its energies on Europe only. This has to change if we really want to change the whole world and democratise it in the manner we want to. The whole world is like a human body. If any part of it is afflicted, the whole body will suffer. The point is that we cannot change the world by changing Europe only! We need to consider the whole world as a single organic unit that needs complete and absolute healthcare! Also, there has to be local actions with regard to the global issues. Bringing in or reinforcing democracy is a big global issue taking into view the real political scenarios the world over! The Democracy International has no choice but to democratise those parts of the world where the rays of democracy have yet to enlighten and strengthen democracy where it exists already.
What is your view of the European Citizens' Initiative?
There is no doubt that the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is an important idea and initiative; but so far it has not achieved what was desired or expected. The competent authorities have also commented not very positively on the initiative. This essentially necessitates people’s larger active participation in the initiative. Without any doubt, the setback of the European Citizens’ Initiative is disturbing, no doubt. Yet it also provides an opportunity to revitalise the effort more vigorously and to convert the European Citizens’ Initiative into a great success in the end. In fact, such initiatives need to be replicated elsewhere in the world.
Interviewed by Cora Pfafferott