GovFaces is very excited to finally be able to present itself to everyone! Now, what is GovFaces? It is the first global political platform for direct, meaningful interaction between citizens and their elected representatives. Our vision is that the platform will close the gap between citizens and their representatives, giving people a new way of influencing politics that affect their lives and create a community of citizens sharing their political opinions.
But do we need GovFaces? We believe that the answer is an unequivocal yes. The media regularly feature articles about voter apathy, disenchantment with politics and low voter participation. There is often talk of a physical and political distance between the citizens and their representatives especially when it comes to the European Union. This is in particular an issue in the UK, where few people feel a connection or interest in what goes on in Brussels.
A recent report published by the European Youth Forum and International Institution for Democracy and Electoral Assistance revealed that as many as 72% of students between the ages of 18-30 who live in the EU did not vote in the last election, and in the UK only 18% of young people voted in the last EU elections. The report also showed that the lack of voter turnout among young people was due not only to a lack of interest, but also that they felt ignored and not able to influence the agenda with issues they felt were important. This is not an issue exclusive to young people, but a growing problem among all groups of people. This was shown by the low UK turnout in the last elections to the European Parliament, which was 34.7%. In comparison, more than 65% voted in the general election in 2010
The lack of connection between citizens and politics is a growing trend. The latest eurobarometer polls showed that only 50% of the respondents understand how the EU works and, only 44% among the UK respondents said they understood. Although many might have an impression that the EU only acts as a regulator of the shape of cucumbers and harmonization of phone chargers, it does more than that. European politics affect UK citizens every day, from the possibility for all to work and reside in any EU country to the food that is consumed every single day. In essence, the EU affects most aspect of its citizens’ lives. Then why is it that so many people say that they do not understand? Is the EU unable to properly communicate its functions, or is the media not reporting on what people are interested in? Many academics have attributed this problem to the lack of a European demos or a common public space where different opinions are shared and discussed. What we think is that becoming a part of a wide spanning network where hearing the words directly from those at the heart of the EU is better than anything else. As the UK soon will start a new election cycle, and where the current Prime Minister has signaled a potential referendum on continued membership, now is a perfect time for people to get the answers to the questions they need to know. GovFaces is not only an arena for people to communicate with elected representatives, but also to get more involved and potentially learn more about the politics that influence their lives.
Before the UK general election in 2015, this year there are the elections to the European Parliament, where the UK is represented by 78 MEPs. Participation in the elections is one of the most straightforward ways of influencing the EU and we think that the need for people to experience that their votes counts is important. The eurobarometer also discovered that among the UK respondents 74% said that they don’t feel their voice counts in the EU.
We believe that it is exactly this problem that GovFaces can help ameliorate, by creating a space for conversations that is controlled and regulated by the citizens, where they can ask the questions that are important to them. Using this opportunity to get to know the representatives in the EU, what they stand for and trying to influence them, is a new way of empowering the voices of the people. GovFaces is now finally available and we encourage everyone to get started and ask questions. Please visit: eu.govfaces.com to create a profile and start the conversation!
For everyone who wants to be a part of politics for the 21st century and learn more about our platform you can follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GovFaces and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GovFaces.
Written by Marie Gjerde Rolandsen