Cyberdemocracy? Information and communication technologies in civil society consultations for sustainable development

Carole Anne Sénit, Agni Kalfagianni, Frank Biermann

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are increasingly used to engage civil society in intergovernmental negotiations on sustainable development. They have emerged as a potential remedy to the democratic legitimacy deficit that pervades traditional mechanisms for civil society representation and, ultimately, intergovernmental policymaking. However, many observers have contested the benefits of ICT for democratization on both theoretical and empirical grounds. This article contributes to this debate by evaluating the democratic legitimacy of ICT in civil society consultations in intergovernmental policy, taking the numerous online dialogues of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 conference) as a case study. The article argues that, despite its promise, ICT reinforce rather than reverse embedded participatory inequalities in a global context, and fail to substantially increase transparency and accountability. This prevents, in turn, a meaningful participation of civil society in intergovernmental negotiations, thus indicating the limits of “cyberdemocracy.”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-554
Number of pages22
JournalGlobal Governance
Volume22
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Civil society
  • ICT
  • Sustainable development

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