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Should Global Democracy Become More Direct?


September 29, 2020 • 4:30 pm PDT

Across the world, elite politicians, militaries, and powerful business and political groups appear to have a monopoly on representative democracy. By exploiting the resulting discontent, populists and authoritarians have created an international narrative of democracy in decline. But in many regions and countries, including some ruled by autocrats, citizens are collaborating with local and provincial officials to expand participatory and direct democracy so that residents can make decisions themselves. What is the relationship between the seemingly opposing trends of authoritarian nationalism and stronger local democracy? How are people using participatory tools to change their communities, and the world? And what are the future possibilities and perils of direct citizen decision-making?

Participatory Budget Project executive director Shari Davis, political scientist and Citizenship and Contemporary Direct Democracy author David Altman, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy senior fellow and former Taiwan foreign vice minister Michael Kau, and Mexico City-based youth participation expert and Ollin president Greta Rios visit Zócalo as part of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy to consider how direct and participatory democracy might counter autocracy.