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Assembly > Medias > December 2001, 05

The Assembly, a laboratory for a future world democracy

The World Assembly is also an unprecedented laboratory for world democracy.
How can we get 400 people to exchange views on such sensitive issues as development, globalization, trade, and the media?
How can people fighting the free-market economy talk with those who are against controlled finance?
How can people who overconsume exchange views on the environment with those for whom fighting against poverty is a prerequisite to any public action?
How do people calling for unlimited rights for the press establish a dialogue with those who suffer the negative image that their countries are systematically given?
The questions are endless. Wednesday, the workshops of the third day proved to be difficult in terms of cross-cultural and multilingual dialogue. Reaching an agreement, even elementary, seemed easy when participants got together in socioprofessional groups. Despite the differences, academics together, political authorities together, trade unionists on their own, and journalists on their own found a common language, or at least converging interests.
There was a scene change on Wednesday. The FPH computer produced a series of 17 topics to be discussed from the mapping. The method is complex. The details are laid out in another document of this online journal. The idea is to use the computer to link up the innumerable proposals, to intermingle them, and to highlight the topics that raise concerns. The wager is daring. The Assembly is there to verify that this method makes sense.

The mapping allowed us to set up 17 workshops on: ethics, diversity, education, media, production and consumption, solidarity, rights, governance, transparency, the state, globalization, etc…
This is the wager. Everyone has the right to express themselves on the media: journalists, but also local authorities, or teachers. The farmer's opinion is as important as the manager's when speaking about production. When dealing with cultural diversity, women have their say together with teachers, and so on.
This is the wealth inherent to the process. It is also the complexity involved. Wednesday's debate started out with a long and slow getting to know each other. People introduced themselves, talked about themselves and their ideas, they accounted for their presence at the workshop and the goals that they defended.
Differences appeared. They were obvious. When discussing culture and cultural identity, it was not easy to make those who talked about development and those who talked about art to find a common ground. There were examples by the thousands. Though innovative, the methodology based on mapping was not enough. We had to resort to classic debating strategies: work in small groups, limited speaking time, agendas including essential issues only. People got together in groups depending on whether they had similar or different views on a topic. The corridors of the Palais des Congrès of Lille as well as those of Nouveau Siècle, empty as they were before, were then packed with groups of people sitting on the floor. The coffee break was more hectic than the debate itself.
We are slowly making progress in our work. The summary of this second stage is still a long way off. The participants look tired. No doubt the time spent by the participants roaming through the streets of Lille, a lively city, before and after the debates, with their badges still on, and exposed to the wind and the rain has a lot to do with it. This is Thursday: day off. What a relief! Minds and bodies at rest, going out for a walk and relaxing. The Assembly challenges will perhaps seem less obscure.
We promise we will go back to work on Friday. For a better, fairer, more united, plural world, respectful of different cultures and the environment, a method certainly has to be found so citizens can all work together. And believe it, these four days at the Assembly have proved it: holding hands is not enough…!

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