The newest government in the world was designed with help from comments on the internet. God help us all. After Iceland’s economic collapse in 2008, the island nation decided it was time to write a new constitution, this one not based on its parent country of Denmark but rather made from the original ideas of its citizens. Iceland’s small population of 320,000 elected 25 assembly members from 522 ordinary candidates (including lawyers, political science professors, journalists, and many other professions), who in turn opened their process up to the public in an unprecedented fashion. The Constitutional Council was highly active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr, where they solicited comments and suggestions for the new government. On Friday July 29th, 2011, the Iceland parliament officially received the new constitution, comprised of 114 articles divided into 9 chapters. Set to be reviewed, and then put before vote for ratification by October 1st, the internet-assisted document marks a possible paradigm shift in governing. In the 21st Century, we’re writing our constitutions with social media. The future is a crazy place.
From the elections to the website, Iceland has gone to great length to make their citizens feel involved and enabled by the process of writing the new constitution. Candidates for the constitutional assembly gathered thousands of signatures to appear on the ballot, and discussed their views publicly on 50 radio show presentations. The candidates also wrote about themselves on public websites including Wikipedia and Facebook. After The Constitutional Council was formed, there was a constant upstream of their proceedings to Twitter, and Facebook, along with regular photo updates on Flickr. You can find videos of The Constitutional Council on YouTube, but they’re in Icelandic. Just to give you a taste, here’s the inaugural meeting…opening with a song!
Constitutional Council Sings at Inaugural Meeting
The first formal meeting of the Constitutional Council, which will review the Constitution of Iceland, took place on April 6, 2011. As the council's most senior member, Ómar Ragnarsson spoke on its behalf. He announced the council's decision to conclude each meeting on a positive note—with a song—and after yesterday's meeting the choir of 25 councilpersons performed "Öxar vid ána", a classic independence anthem. Video by Páll Stefánsson. Copyright: icelandreview.com
Iceland elects ordinary folk to draft constitution
God bless Iceland (Guð blessi Ísland) - Trailer with English subtitles
The film "God bless Iceland" (IS. "Guð blessi Ísland") is a documentary about the financial crisis in Iceland. Its premiere will be on the 6th of October 2009, exactly a year after the Prime Minister of Iceland gave a dramatic speech on Icelandic television, informing the nation about the situation.
Documentary about Icelandic collapse
Norwegian documentary from 2008 by the Norwegian national broadcasting program Brennpunkt.
One of the men behind the collapse is Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson and he is 1000 billion Icelandic krona in the debt to the Icelandic banks.
Iceland's Financial Crisis How it all began (1/2) (NWO ECONOMICS SERIES/ Destruction Of Nations)
Insight into what went wrong in Iceland in the Great Financial Meltdown of 2008 - 2009...and what potentially lies ahead for this small nation with just over 300,000 in total population. There are interesting parallels to Portugal, Greece, Ireland, U.S., Italy, Spain... financial situation as well.
Crowdsourced Icelandic constitution submitted to parliament
In April 2011, Iceland decided to rewrite their constitution by crowdsourcing ideas and suggestions from the Internet. We've taken a look at the draft constitution and there are several articles that create a more open government for Iceland. You've got the standard open meeting laws, but then it goes into detail about open data, transparency for campaign funding, and open land. Below are a few highlights from the draft constitution..
•Article 15, information rights, opens by saying, "Anyone is free to gather and disseminate information." The article outlines open data and public access to documents that public bodies collect or cover.
Right of referral to the nation
Ten per cent of voters may demand a national referendum on laws passed by Althingi. The demand shall be presented within three months from the passage of the law. The law is void if voters reject it, otherwise it retains its validity. Althingi may void the law before the referendum takes place.
The referendum shall take place within a year from the time the demand of voters was presented.
Issues before the Althingi at the initiative of voters
Two per cent of voters may present an issue to Althingi. Ten per cent of voters may present a bill to Althingi. Althingi may present a counter-proposal in the form of another bill. If the bill of the voters has not been withdrawn it shall be presented to a referendum as well as the bill of the Althingi if that appears. Althingi may decide that the referendum shall be binding.
A vote on the bill proposed by voters shall take place within two years from the time the issue was presented to Althingi.
Implementation of the collection of signatures and a referendum
Issues presented before a referendum at the demand or initiative of voters according to Articles 65 and 66 shall concern the public interest. On their basis, a vote may not be demanded on fiscal budgets, supplementary fiscal budgets, laws enacted to enforce international obligations as well as laws concerning tax issues or the right to citizenship. Care shall be taken that a bill at the initiative of the voters shall be in accordance with the Constitution. Should a disagreement arise whether issues fulfil the above conditions the courts shall decide.
The implementation of referrals or the initiative of voters shall be laid down by law, such as the form and representation of the demand, the length of time for the collection of signatures and their arrangement, how much may be spent on publicising, how the issue may be withdrawn after learning of the response of Althingi and how such a vote may be arranged.
A blog post at DataMarket shows how excited supporters were to participate in the process and influence decisions concerning the use of open data:
"Therefore we feel proud–and partially responsible–that some of the core values of open data are now a part [of] a draft of a new constitution for Iceland." Source: Open Data coming to the Icelandic Constitution
•Article 51 talks about campaign funding. Ultimately, it makes the government responsible for financing candidates to keep costs reasonable, ensure transparency, and limit campaign advertising.
•Article 55, open meetings, requires that all parliamentary sessions are open to the public. However, it doesn't require committee meetings to be open. Each committee can decide on the level of transparency individual meetings require.
•Articles 33 and 34 give guidance for environmental and natural resources. This is a new part in the Chapter on Human Rights, renamed Human Rights and Nature. I think this highlights how important environmental resources are in Iceland. It reflects their culture and in their own words, "is the foundation of life in the country." The draft says public resources are owned collectively and eternally by the people of Iceland.
Overall, the draft constitution seems well-structured, easy-to-read, and appears to include all of the things a government would need to function. Creating a city-lead council and crowdsourcing ideas and suggestions from not only citizens but the entire world is amazing. But will it work? The ultimate test will be if Iceland's parliament accepts the new constitution and then lets the citizenship vote on it.
No matter what happens next, I think this process can work for other nations. Iceland decided to hit the reset button on their government. Could yours do the same?
Crowdsourced Icelandic constitution submitted to parliament download pdf
Stjornlagarad Iceland Governmnt Website/
Stjornlagarad Iceland Governmnt Facebook