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Speakers: Inclusion, accountability, governance are cornerstones of democracy

  • Published at 12:00 am July 4th, 2019
Speakers: Inclusion, accountability, governance are cornerstones of democracy-Bigstock

They made the comments at a Swiss Embassy roundtable discussion in Dhaka

Regardless of the different types of democratic practices in different countries, social accountability towards citizens, inclusion of minorities, good governance, decentralization, and people's participation, are the centrepieces of democracy, speakers said at a roundtable discussion.

The Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh arranged the discussion on features of democracy in both countries, where these topics, among others, were discussed.

Ambassador of Switzerland to Bangladesh, Dr Rene Holenstein, and Editor of The Daily Star, Mahfuz Anam, welcomed guests at the event.

The Daily Star was the media partner of the roundtable discussion moderated by Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan (retd), associate editor of the national English daily.

Ambassador Holenstein pointed out that a cornerstone of democracy in Switzerland is the constant search for consensus and, in the absence of it, a search for the best compromise possible. 

Power sharing is another central feature of Swiss democracy, he said.

Swiss author, journalist, and development policy expert Peter Niggli, made the keynote presentation, explaining the Swiss system of Direct Democracy to the audience.

Niggli said that in the Direct Democracy system, people in Switzerland do not delegate political decision-making exclusively to the elected government and parliament, as is customary in representative democracies.

Instead, certain decisions of the elected bodies must be submitted to a vote, which the citizens can either approve or reject. 

Three eminent speakers talked about people's participation, democracy, and local governance from a Bangladeshi perspective.

Dean of Social Science Faculty of Dhaka University, Dr Sadeka Halim, talked about decentralization, local governance and democratization in Bangladesh.

She said people's participation is a central element of any democracy.

Placing emphasis on social inclusion and citizen's participation in democratic processes, Barrister Raja Devasish Roy said it is important for indigenous peoples and other minority groups in Bangladesh, to have a stronger voice in government. 

Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), Dr Iftekar Zaman, said social accountability towards citizens is a crucial process for constructive engagement between citizens and the government, to ensure government accountability at both national and local levels.

He also said accountable governance is  key to any form of democracy.

The remarks made by the speakers were followed by a lively exchange with other participants on various topics of democracy.

The event was attended by members of civil society, development practitioners, rights advocates, academia, and representatives of the diplomatic community.

Summarizing the discussion, Shahedul Anam emphasized the role of the media, people's participation, minority rights, and the involvement of youth in a democracy.

In his closing remarks, Ambassador Holenstein said the main idea of this roundtable discussion was to learn from sharing experiences with each other and not to replicate ideas or different models of democracy.