2016 was a challenging year for Democracy International and for all the people who are striving for more democracy and more co-determination in the world in general and at the European level in particular.
Challenging because (direct) democracy was attacked and criticised and the attempt was made to dump it onto the political scrapheap!
What a blow it was, for example, when early on the morning of 24 June it became clear that a majority of the British voters wanted to leave the EU. That decision led a lot of people to say that it was a mistake to allow citizens to have a direct vote on such an important issue.
And what were we supposed to think about the political system in the USA that had allowed a man to become president who had stirred up animosity towards minorities during his election campaign?
That isn’t the kind of democracy that Democracy International stands for. Democracy activists everywhere are committed to the belief:
that societies function better when citizens are able to be involved in the decision-making process and can initiate draft laws in a ‘bottom-up’ process - instead of merely voting in elections every few years and only being allowed to vote on an issue when it suits the interests of the government or head of state. In other words: We demand a direct democracy based on human rights and co-determination!
Nonetheless, Democracy International carried on unflinchingly this year:
We improved the European Citizens’ Initiative to make it easier for European voters to launch an EU law proposal. Right after “Brexit”, we started the campaign “For a democratic relaunch of the EU”, which demanded the institution of a democratic constitutional convention that would create a new foundation for the EU.
At the Global Forum on Direct Democracy we brought people from all six continents to San Sebastián in northern Spain to discuss direct democracy and citizen participation at the regional level. We agreed necessary standards for a democracy that is in accordance with the rule of law and which respects human rights. And we helped democracy initiatives to develop their digital infrastructure.
Read about our work in detail in our annual report here.