Responding to Signals of Decline
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Is democracy losing ground? Is the crisis in democracy perception or reality? Does it manifest itself differently in different regions of the world or is it becoming global and systemic? How can democracy keep up with the needs and expectations of today’s citizens and with those of the next generations? Is democracy failing to guarantee access to justice and the protection of human rights? Can democracy effectively address persistent poverty, inequality, increasing social exclusion and identity conflicts?
Ninety seven former Presidents and Prime Ministers, democratically elected, from more than 60 countries are leading a collaborative and participatory process to assess the quality of democracy with a view to preventing its decline and advance democracy worldwide.
The Club de Madrid (CdM) was launched following the Conference on Democratic Transition and Consolidation organized in Madrid in 2001, where 33 former and sitting Heads of State and Government, renowned scholars and practitioners engaged in an in-depth discussion on how to foster and strengthen democracy. Today the CdM is comprised of 97 members, all of them democratically elected, former Presidents and Prime Ministers from more than 60 countries that continue to actively support and pursue “Democracy that delivers”.
In the midst of a generalized perception that democratic governments are not always delivering, the CdM and its Members is re-examining the state of democracy. First, by identifying democratic trends in all regions between 2000 and 2015; and secondly, by assessing the impact that global and regional trends towards 2030 may have on the immediate future of democracy. Projecting 2000-2015 trends into 2015-2030 will help understand whether the perceived crisis of democracy is deepening or not, whether it is linear or cyclical, whether it manifests itself differently in each region or is the result of a global process, and whether it mainly affects certain dimensions or levels of democracy or may in fact be turning into a systemic crisis.
Members of the CdM will act as drivers and catalysts of a participatory discussion this process engaging scholars, policy makers, civil society representatives, business and public opinion leaders, with citizens from all regions of the world. On the basis of indicators and trends analyses, the quality and sustainability of democracy at the local, national and international level will be jointly assessed with a view to making specific proposals on how apparent decline in democracy may be reversed in practical terms.
Taking into account transformative practices and proposals generated in each region, NGD will formulate regional agendas, the commonalities of which will inform a NGD global agenda aimed at curbing disquieting trends and advancing democratic values and leadership.
NGD outputs will be available in printed form and on-line and disseminated broadly, with NGD agendas directly forwarded to sitting Heads of State and Government by Members of CdM.
While the number of democratic countries in the world has been on the rise since the beginning of the last century, signals of democratic decline and backlashes in representative democracy have appeared persistently and globally. While an apparent, systemic crisis of democracy seems to be in sight, political disaffection, discontent and social unrest are escalating in consolidated and less consolidated democracies alike.
Even if citizens, and indeed protesters, are demanding real democracy rather than turning against it, the present situation points to the limits of political representation, which may undermine democratic legitimacy in the long run.
The crisis of democracy is certainly not new. During the last forty years, analysts have pointed out that democracy is trapped by the nature of its own success, since no democratic government can possibly satisfy ever-increasing expectations of ever more empowered citizens, which naturally leads to the gradual delegitimization of democracy1. The economic crisis of 2008 has further exacerbated this process in consolidated democracies, where we find disaffection and populism unfolding, often triggering a regression towards authoritarian behaviors in less consolidated ones. This continuing erosion of democracy represents a major additional threat to stability and peace, while efforts to deepen and promote democracy seem to have, at best, slowed down.
The difficulties in measuring the crisis of democracy have led to the use of opinion polls as a primary reference.2 These show that citizens tend to blame the entire political system for a particular situation and often do not perceive changes in democratic practices and institutions that do not directly affect them. Assigning absolute values to a given moment in a democratic process, even by experts, constitutes an oversimplification of reality. Next Generation Democracy (NGD) aims to undertake a qualitative trends analysis, grounded in existing quantitative indicators, opinion polls, expert knowledge and our Members hands-on experience, to better capture the dynamics of democracy in each region or sub-region of the world.
With the 2001 Madrid Conference on Democratic Transitions and Consolidation as background and, in many ways, building upon CdM flagship projects and experience3, NGD will identify trends on local and national democratic processes between 2000 and 2015 and assess their expected evolution for the period 2015 to 2030 across the political, economic and social/cultural domains, taking into account developments towards more democratic global governance.
NGD will analyze trends and organize transformative practices on the basis of a template specifically formulated by the CdM, with the collaboration of the Bertelsmann Stiftung for this purpose. The use of this template will also serve to guide open discussions and debates organized in different regions and sub-regions of the world and facilitate a comparison between different regions of the world. A series of conferences, regional meetings as well as on-line contributions and exchanges will serve to complete and fine-tune NGD templates thus creating the NGD matrix, which will be constantly updated.
The design of the NGD template reflects the complexity of contemporary advanced democracy, which cannot be regarded as monolithic but rather as a ‘system of overlapping regimes’, be they national, sub or supra-national, semi-public or private but complementing each other. The project will, therefore, also take stock of internal democratic practices and to the contribution to democratic governance of relevant non-state actors, such as political parties, civil society organizations and corporations.
With the lens of democratic governance, the NGD template will consider
1. People and communities
2. Business and the Economy
3. Resources and Ecosystems
Within each track, the template will cover
1. Values and Institutions
2. Access and Inclusiveness
3. Management and Policies
The NGD project aims to be a participatory and collaborative process and, as such will work within an operational scheme consisting of a Steering Committee, Executive Coordinators, Task Force and Regional Teams. These various groups will help ensure smooth communication and a clear but flexible distribution of responsibilities, while facilitating the engagement and input of a variety of NGD stakeholders worldwide.
The Steering Committee will be formed by CdM Board Members and NGD Strategic Partners such as international organizations and agencies, institutions and corporations and will provide the vision and guidance needed for the implementation of the project. Members of the Task Force, the project’s principal content engine will include:
These institutions and think-tanks, together with relevant Members of the CdM, will form the nucleus of the various NGD Regional Teams that will feed that specific perspective into the process and the formulation of both the Regional and Global NGD Agendas.
During the implementation of the project targeted organizations, institutions and representatives of various sectors will be invited to participate in benchmark conferences and regional discussions to be organized in Asia-Pacific, Central Asia, Wider Europe, Latin America, Broader MENA, North America and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The intentional design of NGD as a process creates a space for continuous and open discussion. This will help shape consensus around shared, forward-looking, action-oriented agendas. As a result of a series of on-line exchanges, workshops, discussions and conferences, NGD will help generate collective responses, rather than fragmented and independent actions, to disquieting scenarios in democracy.
The main outcomes envisaged for the NGD process are:
These main outcomes and other outputs of the NGD process will be broadly disseminated as they are produced, primarily on-line but also in printed formats, thus incrementally enriching the debate.
The more specific, envisaged impact of NGD is:
1 See Crozier, Huntington and Watanuki, Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracy to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975; Habermas, Legitimation Crisis, Beacon Press, Boston, 1975; Crouch, Post-democracy, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2004; and, more recently, Runciman, The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to Present, Princeton University Press, 2013.
2 See Democracy Barometer as a recent comprehensive attempt to develop quantitative indicators at http://www.democracybarometer.org/ ; and also http://www.globalbarometer.net/background.htm, as well as a specific example with regard to measuring the Rule of Law at: http://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/files/wjp_rule_of_law_index_2014_report.pdf.
3 Among the relevant CdM projects and programs are: Democracy, Security and Terrorism; INSPIRED (Integrated Support Program for Inclusive Reform and Democratic Dialogue); LEND Network (for Leaders Engaged inNew Democracies); Womens’ Political Participation and Leadership; or The Shared Societies Project.