Food for thought.
Iceland parliament drafts new constitution with citizens online.
The 25-member council drafting the new constitution is reaching out to Icelanders online, especially through social media sites Facebook and Twitter, video-sharing site YouTube and photo site Flickr.
Iceland’s population of 320,000 is among the world’s most computer-literate. Two-thirds of Icelanders are on Facebook, so the constitutional council’s weekly meetings are broadcast live on the social networking site as well as on the council’s website.
When the North Atlantic island nation gained independence from Denmark in 1944, it simply took the Danish constitution and made a few minor adjustments, such as substituting the word “president” for “king.”
A thorough review of the constitution has been on the agenda ever since, but action came only after the crisis in 2008, when Iceland’s main commercial banks collapsed within a week, the krona currency plummeted and protests toppled the government.
She says it is a “distinct possibility” that the draft constitution will be put to the people in a referendum before Iceland’s parliament debates final approval.
The 25 members of the constitutional council were elected by popular vote from a field of 522 candidates aged 18 and over. The council is basing its work on a 700-page report prepared by a committee that took into account the findings of 950 randomly selected Icelanders – the National Forum – who met for a day to discuss the division of powers, conservation and protection, foreign relations and more.
But, the Internet component is still the most direct route for most Icelanders to weigh in. Members of the public must provide their names and addresses, and can then submit online recommendations, which are approved by local staff to avoid Internet heckling. The ideas are then passed on to the council, and are open for discussion online.
Recommendations have spanned a wide range of topics, from improving the treatment of livestock to making it easier for authorities to seize stolen property, said Thorvaldur Gylfason, a professor of economics at the University of Iceland and a member of the council.
Suggestions approved by the council – including livestock protection – are added to the draft constitution, which is accessible online and open for comment.
It remains to be seen whether Icelanders can unite behind the most emotionally charged sections of the proposed constitution, such as nature conservation and ownership of Iceland’s natural resources. Major power projects, the threat of a global water shortage and fierce controversy over the rights to natural resources such as fishing grounds and geothermal energy have made Icelanders keenly aware of the value of their environment.
Another new clause tackles the contentious issue of who owns natural resources. When Iceland’s fisheries management system was introduced in the 1980s, certain companies were awarded fishing quotas for a nominal fee, giving them exclusive and lucrative rights to fishing grounds.
The draft constitution is due to be completed by the end of June, though the council may ask for an extension of one month. After that, it will be sent to Iceland’s parliament for debate and approval.
No surprise there, Iceland’s citizens rank number one in satisfaction/happiest people in the world. This new constitution will probably reflect the true desires/wants of the people.
Facebook can now be credited with aiding in revolutions and drafting resolutions.