Building a Sound Democracy in Egypt

What we see in Egypt is a tragedy so far, especially for the people, since they continue to suffer, and also for the world, which urgently requires more stability and to see countries succeed on their way to democratization, peace, and enhanced well-being for society. How can Egypt achieve building a sound democracy “in a second round” since the beginning of the Arab spring? Here a proposal for a sequence of required steps:

1. Defining Joint Goals, Creating a Joint Vision
The first step in building a strong and healthy society and democracy must be forming a joint vision of what the people of a society want to achieve.

The overarching goal for the Egyptian people should be building a balanced society in which everyone gets a chance to live a decent life and has the freedom to do what they like to do – as long as it does not harm any other person.

Present power holders should work with randomly selected activists and thinkers from society on defining goals and a joint vision and communicate with society on these goals in order to build a joined agreed platform.

2. Clarifying the Principles of a Functioning Democracy
The present government must communicate with the people on the rational and philosophical principles which are necessary as a foundation for a functioning democracy. The general guideline must be the Categorical Imperative by Kant, which states that everybody must act in a fashion with which everybody else in society must be able to agree. The common guideline that the freedom of one person ends where the freedom of the other person begins applies as well. Restrictions on and oppression of other peoples’ opinions and lifestyles, in as far as they don’t violate necessary rules and regulations, cannot lead to a functioning and strong democracy.

The government should discuss and communicate these issues clearly with all people in the Egyptian society. It must ensure that everybody in society understands why following certain fundamental principles is necessary in building a healthy democratic society.

3. Religion
Government must especially clarify with the entire population of Egypt which role religion can have in a democratic society.

Religion has much to offer to humanity. Many people look for deeper answers which they do not find in societies which are mainly focused on worldly pleasures and rewards.

But religion must also understand that ultimately there is no proof for religious beliefs and that God, if we believe He exists, in fact has created human beings to be different, at least on the outset. He placed people in different cultures and religious environments; He gave people different minds and the freedom to think and to choose the way they would like to live.

Religions must understand that they cannot force other people in a society or the world to live under their chosen principles. People who believe in a God must accept and even love other human beings as God has created them. If religious people want to have influence on the way a society lives, they can only do this by example and by gentle and caring persuasion.

As the German philosopher Lessing wrote in his play “Nathan the Wise”, the religion is the best religion which accumulates the greatest number of friends over time. Killing or oppressing other people created by God does not make sense. Making friends must be the goal of a religion, appreciating the diversity of creation, not coercion or aggression.

For Egypt the fact that people have been created to be different in thinking and culture means religious values cannot be used in any manner which restrains the values and freedom of other people. Democracy must allow religious freedom for everybody including atheism. Generally only those standards can be enshrined in a constitution which are necessary for the functioning of a society (unless all people were to agree voluntarily on stricter standards, something, which is unlikely to happen).

4. Employment and Income
A political system must aim to help people to fulfill their needs as specified for example in the pyramid of needs by the American psychologist Maslow. To fulfill their prime needs such as the need for food, shelter, and safety people need jobs and income.

To create jobs and income is one of the first tasks of a government. But government cannot do it alone. Creating jobs and income depends on the combined intelligence, endeavors, and on the co-operation of all people and institutions in a society. Jobs and income also depend of course on the natural resources a country offers.

The government must formulate reasonable goals with respects to jobs and income. It must explain to its people on which factors the creation of jobs and income depend, so expectations are realistic and people know what to do generally in order to earn an income.

In tough times all public resources, must be pooled and directed to the common aim of creating jobs and a stable society. Efforts must be rewarded, but any siphoning off of resources cannot be allowed. Building a sound and healthy democracy must be considered a joint, but voluntary effort by all.

Creating jobs and income in a difficult global economic environment requires excellent policy making strategies and capacities. One sector which Egypt should be focusing on is tourism. But tourism requires stability, making people feel safe and comfortable. As pointed out above, religious activists who try to disturb peace in the country sin against the diversity of God’s creation. In turn, a society which expects peaceful and constructive behavior by all its citizens must be just. It must allow everybody to live freely and support people where it can in making a decent living.

5. The Conditions for Effectiveness and Efficiency in Democratic Policy Making
All in all building a strong and healthy democracy first of all requires all people committing to work together to achieve this aim.

They must then put the parameters in place which are necessary to make democracy effective. More specifically they must ensure that:

1. Their democratic policy making system uses the best systems and processes for policy making, systems and processes which serve the well-being of all people.
2. All politicians have a certain minimum set of qualifications
3. Politicians apply the best practices defined under point 1 (so there is no scope for corruption, nepotism).
4. The institutions (including government) which lead the country have the required resources to do their jobs as effectively as possible (if resources are limited government must focus on a reduced number of key tasks)

For the parameters necessary for maximum effectiveness and efficiency in democratic policy making see also the graph Factors Determining the Effectiveness of Democracy

6. The Need for Effective Citizen Control
Finally people must realize that their democratic policy system is unlikely to ever be really effective without citizens themselves controlling the policy making system effectively. Citizens must establish an effective control system over policy making, an effective citizens’ association controlling the operations of the democratic system on their behalf (like a referee controlling a football match).

Effective control requires know-how, power, resources, and communication. To establish the best democratic policy making system people need the best know-how. They must establish a know-how system which informs the citizens what the best systems and processes in democratic policy making are. Citizens must join to accumulate the necessary power to ensure the best practices identified are in fact applied. All citizens should contribute a small amount to establish a citizens’ control system in order to ensure everybody has a voice and that the control organization truly represents all members of society. The control organization needs these funds to be able to work effectively.

7. The Implementation
People must recognize that this process is necessary to get to a satisfactory solution. Building effective citizen control, however, and building effective governing processes and systems takes a while.

The focus must, therefore, to start with be on:

• Establishing the joint will in society to work for a sound and strong society and democracy.

• Committing to and securing peace in the country.

• Getting back to work to create the necessary income, products and service for fulfilling the fundamental needs of people.

A first concrete goal must be to establish peace and to make visitors feel welcome so tourism is revived as a source of income for the people in Egypt (not easy due to economic difficulties in many countries).

The government must also as soon as possible set out a step by step schedule for the process of building a sound society and an effective democracy. It must schedule

• the steps for building a healthy, independent constructive citizen control organization over the policy making system (even if this initiative must in principle come from the people the government should recognize the need for such an organization and support its establishment. The organization offers a way to citizens for their constructive participation in policy making).

• the steps for building a healthy government and administration.

• Government also must specify goals and the necessary steps for creating jobs and employment.

8. Communication
The government must constantly communicate with people on this process. It must ensure that all people in society understand and support the necessary principles and steps for building a functioning democracy. It must communicate on achievements, on things to do next, on difficulties.

Through the way it acts and communicates the government must be perceived as honest, trustworthy, competent and reliable.

9. The Responsibility of the People
Ultimately the people must understand that they themselves are responsible for building an effective and sound democratic system. Establishing effective control and know-how organizations is crucial.

Protests will not generate a sustainable and effective solution for Egypt and its people. Establishing a functioning democracy requires constructive and effective work. Protest, therefore, must change to constructive action of the highest caliber. (If governments do not respond to such constructive work, protests might be necessary again.)

People of all reaches of society must cooperate in establishing an effective control organization over the democratic policy making system.

10. Advantages
The proposed process allows the people of Egypt to work together in a constructive way on the task of establishing a fair and effective democratic policy making system. It gives the people control over the system.

Since the proposed process combines establishing the best know-how with effective citizen control, it must lead to the best democratic policy making system conceivable for Egypt and its people, a system which will be able to handle public resources in the most effective way possible, which will be able to design the best policies to generate employment and income in the country, and ensure that the well-being of the people can be enhanced in as much as possible.

Finally establishing a sound democracy on the basis of the proposed process will allow the people of Egypt to cooperate with the people of all nations in solving the urgent problems our globe is facing and in maintaining the globe in a good state for future generations, something which the international community will certainly welcome very highly.

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