Mongolia’s transition to democracy was striking both for its speed and its durability, positioning Mongolia as a beacon of democracy in the region. Despite the success of the democratic transition, there remains a significant need for improvement in the quality of governance. A continued emphasis on sustaining the vitality of its democracy and developing the maturity of its political processes is critical, and efforts to find new methods of engaging the citizens and making sound policy decisions for the country will be important to success going forward. At the same time, we are witnessing a crisis of Representative Democracy in many countries, where political scientists, liberals, conservatives and the broader public are in consensus that there are major challenges facing democracy. Many of the main measures of the health of Democracy such as voter turnout, party membership, trust in politicians, and interest in politics are all declining. The very word ‘politician’ has become synonymous with self-serving and incompetence and long “gone are the days when ‘politician’ meant ‘public servant’ and when public service meant putting to one side one’s own needs and interests in favor of those of the collective”. This current atmosphere gives opportunity to the emergence of populist anti-politics. This situation is observed in Mongolia too, where politicians put their own interests first and have not only lost public trust but often is subject to criminal investigation for corrupt practices.
Deliberative democracy has been one of the most promising efforts to enhance citizen engagement in decision making, especially by introducing the ‘Deliberative Polling’ methodology to Mongolia. The country has now held two Deliberative Polls to consider major policy and governance questions. The first Deliberative Poll was held in 2015 by the city of Ulaanbaatar. Building on these efforts, the Mongolian government successfully organized the country’s first ever national Deliberative Poll in 2017 to consider an even more important issue, constitutional reform.
Exercising deliberative democracy, especially in view of the adoption of the law on Deliberative Polling in Feb. 2017, has significant potential to help revitalize and restore the confidence of citizens in the government, and yield better policy outcomes. Deliberative Democracy as a political tool and mechanism has the potential to remedy and revive democracy in its current crisis and needs to be discussed and explored in a range of governance contexts to fully understand this potential.
Thus, the various mechanisms to introduce Deliberative Democracy, particularly as it has been embodied in Deliberative Polling methodology, has generated interest among academia and government, and has been used in more than 100 cases around the world. Of particular interest is its recent application in Asia. Deliberative Polls have been conducted to provide representative public input for important public decisions in Japan, China, Macau, South Korea, and Mongolia. The dialogue among representatives from these projects, conducted at different levels and in different policy contexts, will provide the basis for the conference.
The International Conference on Deliberative Democracy—Asian Experience will provide a platform to share experiences on current challenges of governance in Asia and the emerging trends in civic engagement and democracy. The efforts to use Deliberative Polling in Asia have been applied within different political systems, at different levels of government and on different kinds of issues. What can be learned from this variety of applications and contexts? Do any conclusions emerge about when and why these methods are effective? When do the considered judgments of the public have a policy impact? Are there some political or policy contexts where these projects clearly will not work? What are the central challenges? Drawing on the experience of both practitioners and academics from these countries, and others, the conference will grapple with these issues.
The indicative list of thematic areas to explore at the event and subject to further negotiation and fine-tuning include:
- New governance challenges: is a Deliberative democracy a solution? What does it accomplish? For policy making? For responding to the challenges faced in the “crisis of representative democracy”?
- What mechanisms have been used to apply the principles and theories of deliberative democracy? Are there examples beyond the now widespread methodology of Deliberative Polling?
- By what criteria should Deliberative Polling projects and related efforts be evaluated? What constitutes success? The Deliberative Poll posits the representativeness of the sample, the reasoning of the participants, knowledge gain, policy impact and the impact on the quality of citizenship among the participants, among other factors to be measured. Are there others?
- Where Deliberative Polling should be situated within the broader decision process? Should it be advisory to the administration as in Ulaanbaatar at the city level? Should it be advisory to the Parliament? Should it be legally required as in the new Law on Deliberative Polling? Should it make the final decision as in the recent case of the Shin Gori reactors in South Korea? Is it advisable for it to be institutionalized in some way or should the cases just be case by case?
- How the decision makers will engage the citizens in the local budget developing process?
- If thought valuable how can a deliberative democracy community be further nurtured in Asia to apply best practices and capacity building?
Methodology and Format
A 1.5-day conference format with sessions, discussion and workshop will be organized. In closing an informal networking event will be organized at the end of the second day to allow for the better exchange of contacts between participants.
The working language is English. The participants can use the Chicago style for the research paper.
The Conference is expecting the following results:
- Share experience and practice from around Asia applying the principles of Deliberative Democracy;
- Develop a basis for advocating for more widespread application of Deliberative Democracy concepts;
- Reflect on the specific tool of Deliberative Polling and the lessons learned from projects in multiple Asian countries;
- Hands-on practice to use deliberative polling method in the local budget drafting;
- Publish presentations and articles by participants;
Organization and Participants
The international conference will take place in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia from 11-12 October 2018. The conference is organized by the National University of Mongolia in collaboration with the Government of Mongolia (the Cabinet Secretariat), the National University of Mongolia with the generous support of the sponsor organizations. The conference will invite 120 participants, involving the following:
- Members of Parliament of Mongolia;
- Chairmen of the Citizen’s representatives Council of all 21 aymags, Ulaanbaatar city and it’s districts;
- Representatives from government ministries and agencies;
- Representatives from political parties, the media, civil society, and the private sector;
- Researchers, scholars, and academics from research and Higher Education institutions;
- Experts and guest speakers from Estonia, Japan, South Korea, P.R.C., U.S.A, Australia;
1 The Contemporary Crisis of Representative Democracy by Simon Tormey