In this Op-ed, European Civic Tech actors reaffirm the importance of their role in protecting fundamental rights and providing citizens with the tools to remain in contact with each other, and for collaboration between citizens and decision-makers.
During this time of global health crisis, governments all over the world have taken emergency measures to protect their citizens. While the need to take strong action to contain the epidemic is clear, we, as civic tech experts and citizens must, nevertheless, be aware of the impact that these measures can have on our fundamental rights and freedoms.
In liberal western democracies, freedom of movement has been significantly curtailed, public gatherings and protests have been prohibited, elections have sometimes been suspended, and in some countries, democratically elected governments have reduced parliamentary oversight. Some emergency measures are warranted to fight this virus, yet most of them are unprecedented in peacetime for most of us.
Given the context, it is crucial for us as Civic Tech actors to reaffirm the importance of personal liberties and citizen empowerment. Protecting fundamental rights is ever so crucial even during a health crisis of this proportion, including in democratic countries.
As citizens, we must look for new solutions to effectively protect our rights and display solidarity with our neighbor. We must devote time and attention to helping each other, with a particular focus on vulnerable people, health staff and other essential workers. Turning initiatives borne out of a crisis into new, sustainable ways of delivering public service, engaging in deliberative democracy, or supporting community resilience is going to take work. How to move on from this crisis in a positive direction is a crucial issue for our societies and democratic institutions.
Civic Tech gives citizens the tools to remain in contact and dialogue with each other and respond to pressing societal issues. It allows for ongoing collaboration between citizens and decision-makers to develop solutions for a better future, helping to strengthen citizen involvement in their communities.
By co-signing this editorial for Citizen Empowerment in Times of Crisis, we emphasize the continued importance of civic engagement, participatory decision-making, and protecting personal freedoms in these difficult times; and for the future.
Axel Dauchez, President & Founder, Make.org
Florent Barre, President & co-founder, Quorum
Cyril Lage, Co-founder & CEO, Cap Collectif
Chloé Pahud, Founder & CEO, Civocracy
Julie de Pimodan, Co-founder & CEO, Fluicity