Global Challenge 4

Global Challenge 4: How can genuine democracy emerge from authoritarian regimes?

Brief Overview

New Internet capabilities provide more access for greater participation in governance and are increasingly exposing corruption. Synergistically self-organized human rights movements for sustainable global democratic systems are taking place all over the world. At the same time, anti-democratic forces are increasingly using new cyber tools to manipulate democratic processes. The long-term growth of democratization has stalled over the past decade. Freedom House reported that 105 countries are experiencing a net decline in freedom while 61 are improving in net freedom and that 67 countries declined in political rights and civil liberties while 36 registered gains. Of the 195 countries assessed, 87 were rated free, 59 partly free, and 49 (36% of the world’s population) not free.

Although the perceptions and implementations of democracy differ globally, it is generally accepted that democracy is a relationship between a responsible citizenry and a responsive government that encourages participation in the political process and guarantees basic rights. Reinforcing this globally are NGOs like Transparency International and the intergovernmental organizations like the Open Government Partnership created in 2011. OGP has grown to 75 national and 15 subnational governments that have agreed to 2,500 commitments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Global trends are also reinforcing this, such as the increasing interdependencies, changing nature of power, increasingly educated publics, growing mobility and solidarity of people worldwide, and the need to collectively address major planetary existential challenges. However, democratization is threatened by increasingly sophisticated organized crime, terrorism, corruption, fake news, and other cyber manipulation of elections and the electorate.

Actions to Address Global Challenge 4:
  • Secure tamper-proof electoral systems.
  • Invest in R&D that could counter fake news.
  • Establish international standards and agreements for the digital world.
  • Implement global strategies to counter organized crime.
  • Establish and enforce measures to reduce corruption.
  • Promote transparency, participation, inclusion, and accountability in decisionmaking.
  • Support research to get unfair influence of large sums of money out of politics.
  • Promote new forms of e-governance.
  • Require civics in all forms of education.
  • Explore new forms like Liquid Democracy and Democracy 4.0.
  • Develop standards that support democratic values.
  • Produce cash flow projections for guaranteed basic income.
  • Implement UN treaties on minorities, migrants, and refugees.
  • Include 10 lessons from Devex research: move forward incrementally when beginning a democratic transition; retain a positive and inclusive vision at all times; build coalitions; create and protect spaces for dialogue; focus on constitution building; manage eventual tensions; understand the importance of political parties; deal carefully with military, security, and intelligence services; recognize the need for real reconciliation and transitional justice; and bring the gender lens to democratic transitions.
Figure 1.5 Freedom rights (number of countries rated “free”)
Source: Freedom House, with Millennium Project compilation and forecast

Short Overview and Regional Considerations

A global consciousness and more-democratic social and political structures are developing in response to increasing interdependencies, the changing nature of power, and the need to collectively address major planetary existential challenges. The apparent efforts of some governments, elite powers, or religious extremists to stop the long-range trend toward democracy are countered by the rapid democratization of information and intelligence in the cyber-era. Synergistically self-organized human rights movements for sustainable global democratic systems are taking place all over the world. Regardless of the trigger—autocracy, political or religious repression, economic inequalities, or restrictions on civil liberties—increasing numbers of more globally conscious, media-savvy advocates of self-determination are taking to the streets and the Internet, exhibiting unprecedented power in resisting external coercion. This renewed democratic commitment and courage is contagious, inspiring others worldwide to take action and organize for fundamental structural changes.

Yet if these movements do not mature into more effective systems to implement new strategies to address the global challenges of our times, democratic gains could be lost. They can turn to anarchy or oligarchy and challenge the foundations of modern democratic ideals and practices. Unless present outdated institutional, legal, and governance systems evolve, new forms of authoritarian regimes, organized crime, political/religious extremism, corporatocracy, and restricted freedom of speech and individual access to new resources could counter long-term trends of democratization.

Although the perceptions and implementations of democracy differ globally, it is generally accepted that democracy is a relationship between a responsible citizenry and a responsive government that encourages participation in the political process and guarantees basic rights.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has 169 States Party and 6 signatories. Nevertheless, according to Freedom House:
  • In 2016, the number of countries showing a decline was the largest over the past decade (72 countries declined; 43 countries improved)
  • According to 2017 report, of the 195 countries assessed, only 49% of the world population living in 87 countries was rated as “free” and enjoying democratic values
  • 30% of world population lives in 59 “partly free” countries
  • 25% of the global population in 49 countries was rated “not free” although over 50% of these people live in only one country: China.
  • The number of electoral democracies increased to 125 countries (the highest on record), representing 63% of the 195 countries assessed.
Mobilized through social media, young people are getting more politically active and inclined to vote. However, the relevance of representative democracy and the voting systems are increasingly questioned and should be adjusted to the speed of the Internet era. The EIU Democracy Index 2016 notes an increasing popular disappointment with democratic achievements, and a declining confidence in political and government institutions. Of the 165 countries and 2 territories assessed (comprising almost all of world population):
  • only 19 countries (4.5% of world population) are considered “full democracies”
  • 57 countries (44.8% of world population) are rated “flawed democracies”
  • 40 countries (18.0% of world population) are considered “hybrid regimes”
  • 51 countries (encompassing some 32.7% of the world population) are “authoritarian” regimes.
Freedom House found that press freedom continued to decline, reaching the lowest level of the past decade. Based on the 2017 assessment:
  • 13% of world population enjoys a relatively “free” media
  • 42% of the population lives with “partly free” media
  • 45% lives with a “not free” media environment.
Freedom House found that press freedom continued to decline, reaching the lowest level of the past decade. Based on the 2017 assessment of 199 countries:
  • In 2016, press freedom declined to its lowest point in 13 years.
  • Average Global Score of press freedom has deteriorated; it declines from 45.95 to 49.4.
New national security regulations, intimidation by militant and criminal groups, and manipulation of news for economic or political interests by news-media owners or governments became the main impediments to objective journalism. The 2017 media freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders also notes a worldwide retreat of the freedom of information, as democracies began falling in preceding years and now. Regional assessments in 2017 (on a score from 0 to 100; 0 representing total freedom and 100 no freedom at all) show a score of:
  • 20.55 for EU and Balkans
  • 31.57 for the Americas
  • 37.85 for Africa
  • 42.57 for Asia-Pacific
  • 49.24 for Eastern Europe and Central Asia
  • 50.53 for the Middle East and North Africa
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 1,249 journalists have been killed since 1992. Out of all cases, 695 journalists have been killed with complete impunity. Most victims covered politics (46.3%), war (41.5%), human rights (21%), corruption (20.2%), and crime (15.7%). The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists adopted in 2012, outlines more than 100 areas of work in which different UN agencies and civil society groups intend to contribute to securing the safety of journalists, operating at the national and global levels.
Since an educated and truthfully informed public is critical to democracy, we have to learn how to anticipate and counter ideological disinformation, infoglut, censorship in its many forms, interest group spins of information, and future forms of information warfare. While cyberspace has become the backbone for free-flow of information, the very heart of a free-society, it has also increased exponentially the quantity and quality of information that is stored about its users. Although most people voluntarily put their life and data online, many are increasingly questioning the legitimacy of growing surveillance at the behest of governments or private companies. What degree of monitoringis fair? How much is too much? Some argue that monitoring has to be regulated with clear indication of who has the right to monitor, how the information is used, where it is stored, and who has access to it. Public debate is necessary for citizens to understand the framework of the new threats in the cyber-era and the changing influences in global politics and the position of global actors, to create a climate of trust in the spirit of democracy.

Confidence in elected governments is damaged due to abuse of executive power, impunity, and growing power of lobbying. The interests of many economic elites’ monopolizing natural and other resources can undermine of political institutions. 80 people own more wealth than the bottom 50% of the world population. The World Bank estimates that worldwide bribery is between $1 to 1.6 trillion annually, not including other forms of corruption. How many government decisions could this buy? Conservative estimates of organized crime’s annual income are over $3 trillion.

Are an informed public, independent judiciary, and a free press enough to prevent the slide of a democracy toward a plutocracy? Can traditional forms of democracy withstand these threats or will the growing global consciousness and new communications tools give birth to more advanced forms of democratic governance?
Demographic shifts and population dynamics compounded with economic volatility, natural disasters, political turmoil, and increasing extremism and organized crime require a new global legal framework for migration. Many refugees are not covered by the Refugee Convention or are landing in countries that do not offer protection. The Institute for Economics and Peace estimates that almost 1% of the global population (about 73 million people) are refugees or IDPs. According to UNHCR, 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced, 22.5 million were refugees, and the number of resettled refugees was only 189,300 in mid 2017. The Global Slavery Index 2016 (ranking 167 countries) estimates that there are 45.8 million people living in some form of modern slavery worldwide, while the ILO found that about 21 million people are victims of forced labor.
Old ideological, ethnic, and nationalistic legacies have to be addressed , and religiously discriminatory laws, including those against atheists and nonreligious should be abolished. If addressed too strongly, old conflicts can re-emerge; address too weakly and the legitimately of new regimes threatened. New strategies have to be developed to prevent radicalization, particularly of young people. However, when fighting a philosophy or ideology, there has to be another one to replace it, respecting complex systems of values (beyond the rhetoric about a freedom that does not resonate with them), backed by better socio-economic opportunities. Sustainable democracy in a globalized world implies shared perceptions of justice and security, as well as accountability. and international statutes adjusted to protect the rights achieved and the trend towards democracy, while established democracies should not forget that democracy can be corroded or lost.

Good citizenship should be a duty, not an option, but in order to facilitate good citizenship, governments must actively attempt to open a more distributed dialogue and a more transparent policy implementation platform. Laws and institutions benefiting the majority, while ensuring individual rights, and a strong civil society to enforce accountability are critical to counter the concentration of power, media monopolies, and impunity. USAID observes that developing countries that have ineffective government institutions, rampant corruption and weak rule of law have a 30%-45% higher risk for civil war and extreme criminal violence than other developing countries.
Amnesty International estimates that 1,032 executions occurred in 2016. It has shown 34% decrease compared to 2015 (1,634), when the highest number of executions was recorded in the last-quarter century. Although the real number is difficult to know, since China carries out thousands of executions a year in secret, more than the rest of the world combined. However, the number of countries performing executions decreased from 42 in 1995 to 22 in 2014. In 2017, 104 countries have totally abolished death penalty in law or practice, signaling a moving away from this most barbarian infringement of human rights.

Some factors helping the evolution of more global democratic systems include legitimate tamper-proof election systems with internationally accepted standards for election observers; a better educated world public with open access to information; economic freedom with guaranteed basic income to all people; more democratic institutions; knowledge diplomacy; data sharing; more efficient international regulations that are globally binding and enforced; as well as the growing number and influence of international NGOs. This is the topic that needs our constant and increased attention. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court has 124 states parties, increasing the international potential for accountability and reduce impunity. New political parties, such as the Pirate Parties in about 70 countries (including post-Arab-Spring Tunisia) promote direct democracy and participation in government, civil rights, transparency, and free sharing of knowledge and information.

More participatory democracy may grow from e-government to we-government. The e-generation is more borderless and wants to design new worlds. Petitions circulating around the world are beginning to influence decisions and hold governments and large organizations accountable through public participation rather than just relying on national judiciary systems. News is independently reported or validated. Some argue that access to the Internet should become a human right (as are libraries) as a tool for an informed public, freedom of expression, and association. The resolution “Right to privacy in the digital age” adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2013 is calling on all countries to take measures to end activities such as electronic surveillance, interception of digital communications and collection of personal data, which violate the fundamental “tenet of a democratic society.” Yet enforcement of such international directives might remains problematic, as they could interfere with nation-states perspectives.
Since democracies tend not to fight each other and since humanitarian crises are far more likely under authoritarian than democratic regimes, expanding democracy is sine qua non for building a peaceful and just future for all. Meanwhile, international procedures are needed to assist failed states or regions within states, and intervention strategies need to be designed for when a state constitutes a significant threat to its citizens or others.

Challenge 4 will be addressed seriously when strategies to eliminate threats to democracy are in place, when at least less than 10% of the world lives in nondemocratic systems, when Internet and media freedom protection is internationally enforced, when enforcement institutions function without political, economic, or other interference, and when all citizens exercise their rights to elect and be elected.

Regional Considerations

Sub-Saharan Africa: Steady economic progress and growing stability in most sub-Saharan African countries, as well as a growing active civil society are increasingly developing democratic structures with pluralistic political engagement and better government accountability across the region.More and more countries are holding competitive and peaceful elections, and the freedom of expression and communication increases with the spread of the Internet and growing consciousness about civil rights and liberties. Freedom House found that 12% population lives in sub-Saharan Africa rated “free,” 49% lives “partly free,” while 39% with “not free” status in 2016. Furthermore, regarding freedom of media, 6% population lives in the area with “free” media, 54% with “partly free”, and 40% with “not free” press. Only 1% of the total population (1.02 billion) is enjoying free media.

Ethiopiahas experienced political upheavals in several years. Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the authoritarian ruling party of Ethiopia, implemented ethnicity-based political marginalization. The government tried to enforce plan to incorporate parts of the Oromia region surrounding Addis Ababa to the capital municipality in 2014. In response, the Oromo people-the largest ethnic group of Ethiopia-started protest to settle lacking political participation and persecution on ethnicity group. Security forces used excessive deadly forces against protesters, killing hundreds of Oromo people. The Ogaden Somali ethnic group and other minorities also experienced continued government suppression. According to Transparency International, some African countries including Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe improved their democracy by democratic presidential elections in 2016. Yet, other nations with stronger democracies in Southern and East Africa have failed to improve.

More than 6 million people of the region are estimated as living in slavery conditions, with high prevalence in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Mauritania. The conflict in South Sudan continues with impunity, aggravating abuses against the population; UNHCR estimates some 1.95 million IDPs and 293,000 refugees for 2015. Islamist militants of Boko Haram has yet to be brought to justice for the horrific crimes and terrorization of civilians in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, and the use of sexual violence as a weapon.

While democratic norms have opened up civil society, Africa is yet to experience “strong and vibrant civil society,” especially in organizing to demand better government, issues, policies, and programs. However, this might be changed by increasing numbers of educated, unemployed youth with mobile phones and Internet access.

Middle East and North Africa: According to Freedom House, 12 of 18 countries in the region are more repressive today than they were before the Arab Spring, and these 12 countries don’t include Egypt and Libya, which Freedom House thinks have improved since 2010.The Arab Spring has been followed by chaotic geopolitics, restless and sometimes violent movements. Nevertheless, among 12 nations, 5 countries in the region are rated “partly free”, and the other 12 countries are rated “not free” in the 2016 report. This indicates that 21% population of the total (286.7 million) lives in partly free society, and 79% still lives without freedom. In addition, regarding the media freedom, the vast majority of the population, 93% lives in the region without free media, and only 7% lives in the 3 countries with “partly free” media. Reporters without Borders notes that there are entire regions controlled by non-state actors where independent reporting or access to information doesn’t even exist. Iraq and Syria are the top deadliest countries for journalists.

Since the war began 2011, around 400,000 people have been killed. According to the 2016 fact sheet from UNHCR, 13.2 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection. UNHCR also found that the Syria crisis has displaced 4.81 million Syrian refugees into countries such as the Republic of Turkey, the Lebanese Republic, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. There are an estimated 6.1 million internally displaced people within Syria.

Executions in Iran reached intolerable proportions; reportedly, at least 852 persons were executed in the period July 2013-June 2014, and more than 340 persons in the first months of 2015, including women and political prisoners. Saudi Arabia also increased its executions, reaching 87 by mid-2015, compared to a total of about 90 people in 2014.

In 2017, more than 2.9 million people live in modern slavery in the region. Victims were identified as “forced recruits” in state or non-state armed groups, and victims of “forced marriage” and “commercial sexual exploitation”.Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and Qatar are not party nor signatories of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Arab Spring/Awakening could open new perspectives, despite the violent response of some countries’ authoritarian regimes. Tunisia, which adopted a new constitution in 2014, might set the example for an emergent democracy in the Arab world. However, MENA has yet to resolve the security disaster across the region and bring about economic and social reforms for any burgeoning democracy to have a future. Meantime, empowering youth movements and civil society in the region, and creating job opportunities might be a better strategy for the West to help build peace and stability than violence.

Asia and Oceania: Progress of democracy in the region has been scattered over the past few years. In 2017, Freedom House reported that 38% of the region’s population is living in “free” status, 22% in “partially free,” and 40% of the population is living in “not free” status. India — the world’s largest democracy — shows further improvement with the growth of anti-corruption movement. However, it has yet to address concentrated power and increased centralization, and the cast system. Thailand had its status changed from “partly free” to “not free” due to the military coup of May 2014 followed by severe civil liberties restrictions. Only 5% of the Asia-Pacific’s population lives in the 14 countries with “free” media; 47% lives in 13 countries with partially-free media, while 48% (1.9 billion people) live in 13 countries with “not free” media. In China, one of the most restrictive media environment, the authorities imposed some of the region’s harshest penalties for online criticism, as censors focused more on the reputation of the Communist Party leadership.

Since China is home to about half of the world population presently living in countries rated “not free,” a modification of its status would change the worldmap of democracy. The former Google Chairman believes that will happen after the “Great Firewall of China” is opened. Yet, China has increased the crackdowns on freedom of speech and the Internet, and intensified ideological controls and censorship. It is estimated that over 7,000 death sentences are passed and over 3,000 executions are carried out per year. The Third Plenum of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress held in November 2013 reinforced promoting “socialism with Chinese characteristics” but did not include any significant political or civil liberty reforms for the next decade.

The Global Slavery Index 2016 estimates that two of thirds (around 30.5 million) of the estimated 45.8 million people in modern slavery are living in Asia-Pacific region; countries with the highest number of people living in conditions of slavery are India with 18 million, China with 3.3 million, and Pakistan with 2.1 million, while North Korea has the highest prevalence, with more than 4% of the population estimated enslaved.

In South Asia, repression of political and civil liberties is aggravated by increasing ethnic and sectarian conflicts, mainly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In an effort to curtail access to information, and freedom of expression and the press, Nauru enacted restriction to the Internet and social media, and a $6,500 visa fee for foreign journalists. ASEAN’s strict policy of non-interference — allowing members’ abuses without consequences — is considered one of the causes of the deepening humanitarian crises of refugees in Southeast Asia, in spring 2015. In addition to over 2,000 people that have landed, there are thousands estimated stranded at sea as a result of a crackdown on human traffickers by the three main destination countries: Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Most migrants are Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar, a country with critical human rights abuses. In 2016, there were some 1.5 million Myanmar people of concern to UNHCR, and more than 925,000 people were stateless and 375,000 were IDPs.

EuropeAll 28 EU countries are rated “free” and the region has the best freedom of the press score. The EU Parliament is the largest transnational democratic electorate in the world and political and fiscal integration helped the spread and development of democracy across Europe. In 2012, The European Citizens’ Initiative enacted allows citizens to initiate legislative proposals if backed by one million citizens. Governments across the continent are increasingly involving citizens in local and legislative development and most EU countries have a relatively good E-Government Development Index score. A code of conduct adopted in December 2011 requires members of the European Parliament to disclose their financial statements and meetings with lobbyists. The 2016 Eurobarometer survey shows that the Europeans have a higher trust in the EU (33%) than in national governments (28%). However, the proportion of EU citizens who do not trust the European Union has remained stable (55%.)
The Eurozone crises and the rise of nationalist and anti-EU parties might challenge further integration. The Scottish 55% pro-EU vote in the September 2014 referendum created a precedent, but is also signaling that stronger and more equitable institutions and policies are needed to keep the EU together. The EU needs a coherent migration policy to integrate the growing number of immigrants and asylum seekers and avoid increasing nationalism and extremism in some regions. As of 2017, around 4.7 million people have immigrated to one of 28 EU countries. In such EU countries, international migration could be a way to solve specific labour market shortage. Turkey, which hopes to join the EU, is yet rated “partly free”, and its “not free” press environment continues to deteriorate.

Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Russia 131 out of 176 countries assessed (though improving from 154th place in 2010, 136th in 2014). Despite the 2008 anti-corruption measures adopted by the Russian government and the country’s adherence to several EU and international anti-corruption legal frameworks, reportedly, corruption is rampant in Russia, affecting all aspects of the society and undermining its democratic development. Its law to prevent aggressive behavior of demonstrators is seen as another effort to restrict civil liberties. There are speculations that the Eurasian Economic Union (modeled on the EC) might lead to further integration towards a political, military and cultural union.

Controversy over Serbian political crimes continues and the ethnic tension between Slavic and Albanian populations began intensifying in several countries in 2015. Corruption, autocracy, and lack of progressive institutions also hinder the democratization process in most Central and East European (non-EU) countries.

Latin AmericaRampant corruption and violence are the gravest impediments to development of democracy in the region. Freedom House rated 22 countries in the region “free,” 10 “partly free,” and only Cuba (1% of the region’s population) as “not free.” But Venezuela became the second “not free” country in the region in 2016. In 2015, only 2% of the region’s population is living in the three countries rated as having “free” press (Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Suriname); some 813 million people live in 15 countries with “partly free” media, while over 185 million people live in the 5 countries with no free media (Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela). Media freedom in the region was still threaten in 2016; the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, targeted journalists who covered a corruption of his administration with threats of prosecution. Additionally, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico remain as the world’s most dangerous places for journalists.Significant declines were noted in Honduras, Peru, and Venezuela, while Mexico’s score is the lowest over the past 10 years, due to a new telecommunications law.

The big challenges for the region are the institutional weakness for addressing social and political demands of people, as well as the interlinkages of organized crime, businesses, and government corruption. The “war” against the drug cartels and their internal wars, mainly in Mexico, caused thousands of victims and internally displaced persons and reduced civil liberty. Although in many parts of Mexico, the political power vacuums are being filled by ambitious criminal organizations,the civil society is getting increasingly engaged and demands transparency and accountability, setting the stage for a more democratic system. But the efforts to combat organized crime lead to serious human right violation; Human Rights Watch 2017 reports remarks that extrajudicial killing, torture, and enforced disappearance have threaten citizens. In Peru and Ecuador, the governments have used excessive power and violence to stop protests against mining projects.

As of 2016, some 1.8 million people in the Latin America and Caribbean are estimated enslaved. Human trafficking is widespread in Mexico, Brazil, and other countries in Central America. However, a sense of solidarity of the people and increased influence of civil society organizations, constitutional reforms supported by the majority of the population in Bolivia and Ecuador for strengthening the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as examples of democratic governance set by Chile and Brazil are helping to strengthen democratic processes. Many left-leaning or populist governments such as in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela have been re-elected due to their focus on the poor majority. Cuba began easing state surveillance, access to the Internet, and political discussions, as well as opening access to foreign travel and self-employment.
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) continues to foster Latin American integration as a strategy for the region’s future stability. At its 3rd summit, held in January 2015, the 33 participant countries adopted a package of 26 declarations that serve as a framework for further social, economic, and political development of the region.

North America: A little half of the US electorate voted in 2016 and 31% of Americans polled couldn’t get time off of work to go vote.The US intelligence community identified Russian initiated fake news, computer hacking, and voter-targeting is responsible for increasing political polarization. Although state and municipal governments in the U.S. are seen as increasingly effective in implementing programs on a more by-partisan basis, there is growing uneasiness about local ordinances being pre-empted by state governments motivated by economic or political interests that are not necessarily reflecting the best interest of the local population. The U.S. presidential race in 2016 cost $2.65 billion; a little less than $2.76 spend in the 2012 election.

The 2012 election was the most expensive election in history. This is because of the impact of the Supreme Court decision “Citizens United,” which allowed corporations and labor unions to spend their money on advocacy for or against candidates.Limits on political contributions is a crucial issue to curb corruption and protect democracy. Non-party outside groups, called PAC(Political Action Committee)s, and non-profit groups such as social welfare organizations can receive unlimited amount of contributions and also be able to spend their money if they declare to use it independently from candidate’s campaigns.

U.S. is ranked 23 as of press freedom and the controversies around WikiLeaks and the revelation about NSA procedures continue. In 2015, the legislation has been passed to reform the Patriotic Act and NSA’s surveillance powers over bulk collection of U.S. phone data. USAID, the White House and other U.S. agencies and organizations have several programs dedicated to support democracy and the rule of law around the world, but after the Afghanistan and Iraq disasters, the legitimacy of U.S. military intervention to counter autocracy is questioned. Meantime, the OPEN Act bill — for a censorship-free Internet while protecting the rights of artists and innovators — is using online crowd sourcing for improvements.

Canada is considered the most successful democratic multiethnic model; however, recent changes to regulations for charity organizations and fraud investigations concerning the last federal election and some high-ranked officials question the healthy future of Canadian democracy. Although opposed by 56% of Canadians (by 75% of the 18-35 years old), Bill C-51 Anti-Terrorism Act has been passed by the House of Commons and might become law, raising concerns over civil liberties and the respect for Canadians’ opinions and values.
Concerns also persist in Canada and the U.S. about electoral processes, the concentration of media ownership, powerful lobbying, and political corruption. Nevertheless, in Alberta’s 2015 elections, the NDP won an overwhelming majority, ending a 44-year dynasty of the conservative party.

Although the Occupy movement might have run out of steam, it expanded way beyond North America, entering the global consciousness, questioning the abuses of financial power and encouraging the exploration of new concepts of political economy and democracy.

Graphs expressing the global situation:
Graph: Evolution of Countries’ Democracy (1972-2014)
Source: Freedom in the World reports by Freedom House, with Millennium Project compilation

Freedom rights (number of countries rated “free”)
Source: Freedom House, with Millennium Project compilation and forecast; graph from the 2015-16 State of the Future