Exploring Ways Forward for Our Democracies

October 29, 2020
2 min read
Photo Credit: Krakenimages.com / Shutterstock

This article is part of our Future of Democracy Blog Series which offers reflections from discussions on issues around democracy that alumni of the German Marshall Fund’s leadership programs have had as members of our Future of Democracy Working Group. If you are our alumna/us and are interested in joining this group or supporting its work, please sign up for our Alumni Leadership Council at any level.

Our democracies have long been under stress, with populist and national movements stoking divides across and within nations, and authoritarian actors challenging our systems through cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns. While this state of affairs can be linked to a variety of country specific issues, a few factors can be observed on both sides of the Atlantic: a disenchantment with traditional political actors; the perceived inability of current political systems to address core societal and economic problems such as unemployment and precarity of employment, or increased digitalization and its impact on labor market structures; a clash between expectations of what democracy should provide and what it actually delivers; last but not least, increasing practice and rhetoric that propagate disregard for the institutional accountability, political pluralism, and the stability of the democratic system.

But one must not forget that democracy is a fluid process, a constant work-in-progress that requires continuous labor and a commitment to the task of maintaining and improving our institutions, citizens’ trust in them, and in each other. Thus, the present should serve as a renewed call to action rather than a reason to call democracy’s time of death.

Against this backdrop, the German Marshall Fund (GMF) created a Future of Democracy Working Group. The members of this group are alumni from its leadership programs. From across Europe and the United States, leaders from across all sectors gather monthly to exchanged ideas and inspire each other for actions which help preserve and advance democracy across the Atlantic. These discussions will also inform GMF’s 2021-2024 Action Plan for Alumni Engagement and help strengthen GMF’s Alumni ability to advance democracy, equity, inclusivity, and transatlantic cooperation.

Healthy democracies demand an informed citizenry. That requires transparency and openness for dialogue. In this spirit, GMF decided to publish reflections of several members of the Future of Democracy GMF Alumni Working Group. GMF will continue to publish them as the group convenes in the following months.

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Democracy’s Decline and Erosion of the Social Contract