Iceland's Crowd-sourced constitution: hope for disillusioned voters everywhere
2016-11-11T10:55:17Z (GMT) by
Western democracies are in turmoil. From Brexit to Donald Trump, to a general lack of trust in politics, disillusioned voters are expressing their frustration in strange ways. In Iceland, they are taking a more proactive, hopeful approach – and it’s a lesson to the rest of the world. It looks as though a crowd-sourced constitution, developed in 2012, could finally be about to make its way through parliament. The document – the result of four months of consultation – was approved by a two-thirds majority in a national referendum but was ultimately rejected by the government of the time. It includes clauses on environmental protection, puts international human rights law and the rights of refugees and migrants front and centre, and proposes redistributing the fruits of Iceland’s natural resources – notably fishing. The Pirate Party has made getting the constitution through parliament a priority. And a pre-election agreement between five parties to make that happen within two years suggests a strong commitment on almost every side. As important as the content is how the constitution was produced. The participatory nature of its writing sets it apart from other similar documents. The soul-searching prompted by the economic crash offered a chance to reassess what Icelandic society stands for and provides the perfect moment to change the way the country operates. This existential reimagining is the heart of the constitution and cannot be underestimated. The process has been reminiscent of the Occupy movement that sprang up across the world in 2011. For radical politics, legitimacy comes not simply through single-shot participation, such as through elections, but through a continued involvement in “constitutionalising” – in the processes of rule-making and defining the identity or ethos of a particular community.