Monday, August 29, 2005

Speaking of Taiwan and rhetoric...

Rhetoric doesn't actually get a mention, but the Taiwan News has an article about a discussion group on deliberative democracy that was held during the Youth National Affairs Conference in Taipei:
In a discussion group on the Youth National Affairs Conference, a panel of National Youth Commission officials and youth representatives shared with international experts how the "deliberative democracy" decision-making process is being implemented locally.

"Deliberative democracy" refers to a fairly direct form of democracy similar to a political debate and decision-making process found in Swiss cantons, and was the theme of the meetings over the weekend, which focused on the "Impact of Deliberative Democracy on Youth of Taiwan."

The meetings included "Citizen Dialogue Circles", which "are group sessions that use study group methodologies to clarify and discuss issues by means of role-playing, active listening and vision building", and "Citizen Consensus Conferences", which

targeted issues related to educational resource allocation, career development for youth and even prenatal medical tests. Another major discussion stream centered on Taiwan's global role - as a globalized economy, as a global nation and as a global civil society.
According to the article, last year's conference included discussion of the presidential election.

The process results in reports that might summarize discussion and/or make recommendations to leaders. According to Zeng Jhao-ming of the National Youth Commission,
"In the Taiwanese case, National Youth Commission is responsible for a view of policy rather than having a direct impact on or being responsible for implementation of policy...we are in a position to send out the recommendation or advice made..."
The Youth National Affairs Conference website is here (Chinese only). Sunday's session was also attended by international scholars including James Fishkin of Stanford University's Center for Deliberative Democracy.

I haven't thought much about this youth conference or how (or if) deliberative democracy is being implemented in Taiwan. I'll have to come back to this at some point, though.

Update 8/31/05:
The Taiwan News has an editorial in today's edition: "Deliberation tools can boost quality of Taiwan democracy." The editorial comments on the potential usefulness of deliberative forums to increase citizen understanding of and participation in national and local issues.
As several analysts noted, deliberative forums or polls can provide an important supplement to both indirect representative institutions and to process of direct democracy, such as national citizen referendum, by providing channels for reasonable and informed discussion of urgent or important issues on a community or even national scale.
The editorial goes on to point out that two of the basic prerequisites for successful citizen forums or other forms of public deliberation are the people's (and organizers') willingness to keep their minds open and their willingness to see discussion and deliberation as an end rather than a means:
Methods of deliberative democracy, such as citizen forums, "storytelling" among people of various ethnic and social groups and political views, and deliberative polling should be used to explore such critical questions in an open-ended manner instead of being seen as a means to "solve" a predefined problem.
As the editorial points out, however, there is a great deal of "political polarization" in Taiwan--particularly in the Legislature--that would make "a bill that would require citizen discussion of proposed laws and programs" hard to pass. They suggest "an independent institution under the Cabinet or under the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission or its proposed replacement National Development Commission" as an alternative.

4 comments:

Michael Turton said...

Is deliberative democracy being implemented in Taiwan? That would be a new one, I think.

Jonathan Benda said...

I guess it depends on what levels you look at and what you expect the results to be... (I know, wimpy answer--maybe I'll look into this more after I finish my diss.!)

Camicao said...

It would be worthwhile to tell our students about this kind of deliberative democracy and its mechanisms, seems essentially the same as the kind of constructivist classroom ethos of dialogue and communal learning.

Jonathan Benda said...

Yes, it might be good to make some explicit connections between those classroom activities and the "outside world" (hate that phrase).

In some of my classes, students have deliberated on various local and national issues, sharing stories, ideas, and other types of information about issues that affect them. We're in kind of an odd situation here, though (in my view, anyway), where students talk about these issues in English. I always wonder what kind of transfer there might be between what is discussed and practiced in an English-language context and in the non-English speaking society in which we live. I guess my question is, what good does it do to teach deliberative democracy in the English classroom? (I realize this isn't exactly an issue you need to face, Camicao, at least not to the same extent or in the same way...)