In contrast to the optimism of the 1990s, today’s democracy is suffering from anxieties at the local, national and supranational levels. Globalisation, geo-political power shifts, the changing role and structure of governments and institutions, the rise of populism and new technologies that mediate the political process have all contributed to these anxieties. These processes have also been accompanied by complex dynamics of conflict and development, citizenship and sovereignty, and increasing inequalities and marginalisation of groups of people within and between societies.
Many have emphasised the importance of community voice and decentralisation in the name of stronger democracy. Governments can reflect the priorities and interests of citizens through innovations such as participatory governance and budgeting. Since 2015 Governments have signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda2030), global targets on climate change, disaster risk reduction, financing development and urbanisation. At a national and local level they are working to develop the necessary structures and decision making processes to protect and enhance democratic accountability, and to make multilevel governance a reality.
What are the main challenges facing democracies today? How can citizen-centric governance tools address some of these challenges? What impacts do governance innovations have on the way our cities and nations are governed? What multi-level governance systems should be deployed? How can we ensure the key democratic value systems are going to be protected in the future? Building on insights drawn from International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy and CLGF’s Commonwealth Local Government Handbook, a panel of experts and practitioners reflect on these and other challenges to democracy in the 21st century.
Photography courtesy: Rick Barry of Broken Shade Photo