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Chile asks just how democratic its democracy really is

Country: 
Chile
Posted date: 
Tue, 06/01/2010
Since our initial story on the Chilean democracy assessment supported by UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre and International IDEA (see “Chile: Taking Stock of Democratic Progress”, GAP Newsletter, August 2009), the country’s governance assessment team composed of UNDP-Chile and a consortium of four national think tanks from different ideological backgrounds has moved forward with the establishment of a baseline of data on democracy in Chile.
Since our initial story last year on the Chilean democracy assessment supported by UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre and International IDEA, the country’s governance assessment team composed of UNDP-Chile and a consortium of four think tanks from different ideological backgrounds has moved forward with the establishment of a baseline of data on democracy in Chile.
Since our initial story on the Chilean democracy assessment supported by UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre and International IDEA (see “Chile: Taking Stock of Democratic Progress”, GAP Newsletter, August 2009), the country’s governance assessment team composed of UNDP-Chile and a consortium of four national think tanks from different ideological backgrounds has moved forward with the establishment of a baseline of data on democracy in Chile.
 
During mid-2009 to mid-2010, it went through the process of selecting a set of indicators based on IDEA's framework that were consensually accepted by both sides of the political spectrum. This resulted in the elaboration of 12 systems of indicators from various sources, with a mix of quantitative and qualitative indicators. Towards this purpose the assessment team worked to gather qualitative information on areas where no indicators were readily available, such as certain aspects of the balance of powers for example – details are available in the project report (in Spanish) here.
 
In a recent presentation to its partners, the project makes a point of defining explicitly what it is and what it is not: it does not intend to identify how democratic democracy is in Chile in comparisonwith other countries, orwith an externally defined normative ideal. What it doesaim at is developing a democracy assessment framework through a national collective and inclusive reflection process, using the knowledge, tools and experience accumulated by IDEA and UNDP. It has thus been following a careful step-by-step participatory process, with constant consultation of a wide range of stakeholders beyond the four think tanks of the consortium, including national political parties, government representatives, national and local NGOs representing different groups of population – notably historically marginalized groups –, national and international experts, and more.
 
The Chile Democracy project is committed to continue its progress in the same participatory way during the rest of the process. Upcoming activities include: further validation of the indicators selected with academic, political and social actors; the conduction of a national survey on issues relevant to the assessment, with particular attention given to the opinions of certain groups such as youth, women and indigenous people through focus group discussions, and a zoom-in on certain geographical areas through local workshops; and the drafting and publication of the final report on “Democracy in Chile at the Bicentenary”. But the assessment process does not stop at the report: the aim is to use it to stimulate debate and agreements on issues identified as priorities in the report and the discussions that lead to it.
 
Now, half-way through the assessment process implementation, Chile is faced with a new challenge: after a change of the political party in power, some members of the consortium have become members of the government, and members of the former government are now members of the consortium. It will be interesting to see if those who passed from opposition to government (or vice-versa) keep the same commitment to the democracy evaluation process and its recommendations. If they do, this would mean that the Chilean assessment process is actually sustainable beyond political changes – which would be very good news indeed! Story to be followed.
 
Francisco Diaz (left), from one of the four think tanks conducting the project,
and Marcela Rios, UNDP-Chile, share the Chilean experience at a regional