Why have you signed up for the Danube Democracy Rally?
After I had finished my studies of Business and Sustainability at the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland I wanted to become an activist for political and socio-economic sustainability. Overall, I want to make a difference and improve people's lives in my country and the world. I have always been an enthusiast of direct democracy. While browsing the internet looking for democracy organisations in the world I came across Democracy International’s website. After a thorough read I joined as a member immediately. Then six months ago I learned about the rally, and I decided to sign up for it as well. It represents a great opportunity for learning and networking. At first, I was planning to come on my own, but then I decided to bring along a few people from my country. In general, young Algerians tend not to participate in international events such as these. Being part of the Danube Democracy Rally will certainly have a great effect on my teammates and myself.
What do you expect from the Danube Democracy Rally?
I am keen to see how the rally is going to unfold and the way it has been planned, so that we can organise similar events ourselves in the future. Also, it is very special that the event journey includes three different stages: Vienna in Austria, Bratislava in Slovakia and Budapest in Hungary. Even though all these countries are European, the countries are very different at the same time regarding the state of direct democracy. Therefore, there is a lot to learn. Moreover, different people from different nationalities are going to participate in the event. All in all, I think that the Danube Democracy Rally is a unique opportunity to get to know people from other countries, to share views with them and to create friendships that will last a lifetime. In addition, I am eager to meet the people you are planning to hold events with. I cannot wait to visit the UN in Vienna and to meet Austria, Slovakia’s and Hungary’s politicians.
What do you want to learn about direct democracy?
To be honest, in Algeria direct democracy is still a far-fetched idea. Although we do have the constitutional right to rule by referendum, we still have a long way to go. However, Europe is at the forefront of direct democracy development. Learning about how democracy activists in Europe are pushing for and realising reforms is knowledge that would come in handy in the future as well as getting to know the people behind this kind of work.
You are the founder of the Algerian organisation S.E.S.R.O. What does this acronym stand for?
These letters stand for Socio-Economic and environmental Sustainability Research Organisation. We are mainly an academic group, we were based at the University of Batna but now we are looking into becoming an independent NGO. As the name of the organisation suggests, we do not consider sustainability an environmental or economic issue alone, but that of government, politics and society as well. That is where direct democracy comes into play. It is a more popular and equitable form of governance that will in many ways improve the overall sustainability of a nation.
What is your approach to direct democracy?
For us, direct democracy means that everybody is accountable for his or her decision, not only the elected representatives but the persons who elected them as well. This responsibility leads to more politically educated members of society, which will result in a better understanding between the government and its people. Consequently, it is through direct democracy that we will be able to create a more equitable, democratic, sustainable and peaceful society.
My final question: What is your view on (direct) democracy in Algeria?
Algeria is a democratic country, we vote all the time on a number of issues. We have some of the highest electoral turnouts in the region with 74 per cent in the presidency elections and just over 50 per cent in the local elections. Yet just as it is the case in Europe, representative democracy does not always voice the opinion of all the people. That is why it would be a lot better if we the people had more opportunities to contribute and be part of the government and the decision-making process. For me, direct democracy is the next evolution of government. Bringing it to life in Algeria would certainly make life better for all.
At the present time all of us at S.E.S.R.O. are working on making direct democracy a viable choice in our country. Once the majority of Algerian people is better acquainted and familiar with the concept of direct democracy as a way to improve the transparency of government processes, we can start making direct democracy a reality. Again, everyone knows that implementing such changes is not an easy job. As you need all the support you can get, the Danube Democracy Rally will certainly provide an opportunity to meet like-minded people. They all share the great goal of bringing pure and real democracy to Europe and the world. Personally I believe this is a worthwhile endeavour and a great adventure.
Tarek, thank you for the interview. We very much look forward to meeting you in Vienna on 1st April 2014 where our tour is going to start. Everybody is welcome. Joins us on our journey of discovery along the Danube in April 2014!
On the organisation S.E.S.R.O at www.sesro.org/the-organisation
To sign up for the Danube Democracy Rally click here
Interview by Cora Pfafferott