2005 Executive Summary

strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/symisymp/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 24.

Opening Session
How the Next Generation Perceives the
Future of the European Union

In the wake of the rejection of the EU’s constitutional treaty, this year’s Symi Symposium began with a series of views from young Greek political activists about the future of the Union.

The central question all the speakers addressed was why an overwhelming majority of 18-24-year-olds in France and the Netherlands voted against the constitutional treaty. (Similarly, in an unofficial referendum held in northern Greece, almost 70% of young participants voted “no.”) The consensus was that the ejection of the constitution was primarily an act of resistance to the EU’s failure to address citizens” concerns. Although national governments tend to blame the EU for domestic problems, voters generally objected less to specific issues. Their concerns boil down to the overriding question: “What has the EU done for me?”

On the other hand, most young people do not question their country’s membership in the EU. So there was consensus that the “no” votes were less a rejection of a common European future than a protest about the current state of affairs, both in Europe at large and in individual member states. The referenda became a channel for citizens to express fears about diverse issues such as migration, further enlargement, neo-liberalism, unemployment, and social exclusion. Many young people abstained from the referenda because they felt ill-equipped to make an informed decision on such a complex document, which would affect the rest of their lives.

Ironically, the constitutional treaty is actually the most democratic EU treaty to date, both in terms of how it was drafted and the values it enshrines. But leaders failed to convince their electorates of the constitution’s many positive elements towards reducing the democratic deficit, such as the election of the European Commission President, more power for the European Parliament, the public right of petition, and greater freedom of information.

Participants concluded that the real problem was not so much with substance but process—a problem of how the constitution was communicated to Europe’s peoples by Europe’s leaders. Leaders assumed that because they had reached unanimous agreement after lengthy negotiations, the public would follow suit. There was no “Plan B” if the Constitution were rejected. Consequently, the EU is now left with the Nice Treaty, which is less transparent, less accountable, and ultimately unworkable in a still enlarging Union. The fact that the EU did not prepare thoroughly enough for the recent wave of enlargement was sharply highlighted by recent rows over the EU budget.

This was attributed to the lack of strong leadership, particularly among the European Left. A “floating Europe” does not inspire confidence in its peoples. There is an urgent need to make citizens feel part of Europe, not just subject to it. This could be achieved by building consensus through innovative tools of political engagement, such as a Peoples’ Convention on the future of Europe or simultaneous referenda on a revised Constitution in all EU countries.

Polls show that over 60% of young Europeans hope the constitutional treaty will be renegotiated, with a more social bias. Progressive youth movements aspire to a truly united Europe where citizenship is built on pluralistic identity—a common space of freedom, security and justice. While many countries that have fought to protect their national sovereignty feel threatened by political integration, from the youth perspective deepening integration is not something to be afraid of. On the contrary, speakers argued that too often national concerns take precedence over European considerations for the common good.

Young people also want the EU to play a more active role in addressing global challenges—“a Europe not only for Europeans, but for the world.” Europeans take their own security for granted and forget that the world needs Europe, not as an imperialist or military power, but as a model of good governance at the supra-national level. Enlargement should be viewed from that perspective. The recent terrorist attacks in London drove home the reality that the security of every European citizen hinges on global developments. A European federation would be the starting point for global solidarity and lasting peace.

Europe needs to develop a global peace policy that could be exported as an alternative to war. Regions on the periphery of the Union such as the Western Balkans, so recently ruptured by war, still regard the EU’s main purpose as a peace project. European youth should reach out to their counterparts in the Balkans to push for democratic reforms. People in the South also require greater solidarity from the EU. Europe subsidises every cow on the continent at €2 a day, while half the people on the planet live on less than that. The rich nations that dominate global institutions make it virtually impossible to reach global solutions. Yet pop stars are making more noise than politicians about making poverty history.

Some took the optimistic view that the crisis in Europe has sparked a serious debate, which creates an opportunity for positive reforms of political parties, institutions, and policies. On many counts, the European Union has been a success story; but the essence of the EU has always been its dynamism. While it should not move too fast, it cannot afford to be static. As Monet put it: “The EU is not an end in itself, but a step towards a better world.”

 

First Workshop
What Does Democracy Mean, Anyway?

New forms and concentrations of power have created new insecurities and a growing lack of faith in political institutions. This has led to a re-evaluation of the notion of democracy.

Democracy was a “dirty word” until political parties enabled active citizens to enter the public debate in the 20th century. Participants acknowledged the declining role of the traditional party in the 21st century. Several reasons were cited for this decline. Political parties are intensely undemocratic in their internal workings; they are too hierarchical; they usually only empower small groups with special interests; they are ill equipped to tackle global issues. Another problem is the incumbency of party politicians: platforms are starting to matter less than personalities.

In terms of the values they represent, political parties are a “crude aggregation for common values” because members have to buy into a “cluster of positions” they might not agree with wholesale. The digitally enhanced generation is increasingly picking and choosing—or “remixing’—their ideologies, just as they choose what products to consume. Political parties do not offer that degree of choice or flexibility.

As a result, more people are turning to NGOs and social movements as the most reliable “filtering mechanism” between state and society. NGOs on both Left and Right have been hugely influential in political campaigns. But growing disenchantment with representative democracy is not counter-balanced by issue-driven campaigns. Representative democracy needs to be opened up in new ways so citizens can re-engage in public affairs.

Many representative democracies have the form but lack the substance of democracy. Governments use the architecture of democracy to pursue undemocratic policies such as the persecution of minorities. Several participants argued that principles should take precedence over procedures. In transitional democracies, there has been too much emphasis on institution-building. In the Balkans, those who could finance political parties in the 1990s accumulated enormous wealth and power. Party leaders—who often also own media, banks, insurance companies, and industrial empires—can influence weak states to serve their own interests. Elections in such countries are akin to “casino voting” since all parties are controlled by corrupt individuals.

At the same time, transitional countries are immersed in a “pressure-cooker of democratic development”—trying to achieve in 10 years what others did over several decades. Emerging democracies are also strapped into the straitjacket of the IMF and World Bank, so building democratic societies and balancing economic objectives is effectively a “mission impossible.”

While some participants argued that achieving free and fair “elections without a body count” is a more pressing challenge than fine-tuning Western democracies, there was agreement that the West needs to take a more critical approach to the defects in its own democracies, which are often closer to “polyarchies.” Citizens” access to power structures is not equal; nor does political equality necessarily translate into mass participation. Issues like gender equality, the exclusion of minorities, and the “sinister nexus of money and mass media in political campaigns” were cited in this context. The democratic system must not be reduced to an “inadvertent plutocracy” as in the United States, where the two predominant parties are virtually indistinguishable on many key issues, while more radical voices are locked out of the mainstream.

There is a similar lack of diversity of views in the mainstream media, which tend to distort or over-simplify issues in support of private interests. For example, at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, much less was achieved than the media would like people to believe. Conversely, illiteracy was instrumental in toppling the Indian government in the last elections because people voted on the basis of real issues and problems, rather than being influenced by spin.

The real goal of democracy should be to make everyone’s daily lives better. But if democracy is the ability to affect peaceful change, how can people achieve this in the many states at risk of failure? As the distinction between Left and Right is increasingly blurred, it is harder to achieve cross-border affiliations. In the European Parliament, for example, progressive parties often take very different positions on global issues such as climate change, which demand new global rules.

While the values of democracy and human rights may be universal, the means and mechanisms by which they are implemented differ, particularly at the trans-national level. Sovereignty is being shared as powers of government are exercised at the international level, but that power is not always democratically legitimate. There is a limited (or non-existent) degree to which those affected by decisions taken by multilateral institutions can influence those outcomes. Disempowerment calls for democratic mechanisms that go beyond the nation state. Issues of accountability, transparency, and participation apply equally to global agents, from corporations, NGOs, and the media, to the UN and EU.

In the 20th century, there was widespread acceptance of democracy as the form of government to which any nation is entitled. But scepticism about prospects for democracy in the non-western world has been fuelled by recent events in Iraq. Inevitably, US attempts to export democracy with little attention to human rights beget a violent backlash. The West should not try to impose the universal principles of democracy as a universal model of governance. Democracy is essentially a national construction. The basic principles are non-negotiable, but models must be adapted to the local level.

Redefining the role of the political party as a deliberative forum also demands greater subsidiarity. Decision-making in all democracies is not localised enough. Major political decisions are not made through participatory processes. The greater the consensus, the more effective policies will be. That means leaders must help people to understand the issues and participate in decision-making processes so that they “own” the outcome. Ultimately, the application of policies will not require a police force or bureaucracy because society will have the dynamism to carry them through. It is easier to empower local communities than to build walls in defence of global threats (look at the Green/Red zones in Iraq or the heavily guarded elites at the G8 besieged by protestors).

Democracy is no longer exclusively the domain of governments. More political activity is now taking place in electronic networks without borders. Self-governing online communities can generate influential discussions on global issues that are not confined to political elites. Indeed, citizens tend to be more innovative in their use of technology than politicians. But there is a danger of the internet being hijacked by “super-empowered users”; online consultations are easily captured by intense groups and organised interests. The information society does have rules, but engineers did not design these rules as instruments of global governance. While access of scale is positive, there is a risk that we are creating a society of passive users consuming products and information rather than online activists.

Freedom of choice and access to information do not necessarily create substantive democracy. Part of the problem is that modern politics has been colonised by marketing: politicians try to persuade the public to buy into an ideology without thinking through the issues. An inherent paradox of democracy is that it introduces the freedom to disassociate oneself from the institutions of governance. In former Communist countries, many people have turned away from politics because they want to rid themselves of an overbearing collective identity. But global problems such as climate change or fair trade require a change in people’s lifestyle. We need a “democracy of shared responsibility,” where people willingly make collective choices for the collective good. Exercising one’s right to vote is not enough.

If the quality of democracy is defined by the interaction between institutions and citizens, leaders must galvanise people to take greater responsibility for their communities and societies. Without deliberation, governing is a precarious balancing act, as the referenda on the EU constitution demonstrated. Parties must be more creative in the sense of the Greek word dimiourgikos—“the work of the demos.” Instilling a sense of confidence in citizens is essential to creating a culture of democracy in any country. However, creating a “democratic temperament” poses a serious challenge as we try to scale up democracy to global institutions.

Second Workshop
Reinventing Representative Democracy

One of the central problems with representative democracies is that people no longer feel they are being properly represented. The disconnect between politics and the public hinges on people’s distance from power, politicians’ failure to acknowledge the public voice in all its diversity, and a lack of authenticity among elected representatives. If democracy is essentially “a community of strangers,” a key function of elected representatives is to “humanize governance.” The public wants representatives who admit their failings and are honest about the tensions between values and interests.

To achieve democracy that is representative but not remote, we need alternative and/or supplementary processes of two-way accountability that ensure the public retains a degree of authority over representatives between elections. Traditional representative techniques do not provide the requisite depth and richness of interactive communication in the age of the internet. Digital technologies have transformative democratic potential, opening up opportunities for more inclusive public engagement in the deliberation of policy issues. But too often such strategies are reduced to a formality, with governments consulting but not listening. Frustrated with the futility of being consulted to no effect, “the public wants a conversation, not just a consultation.”

Equally, decision-makers need to consult the public about modern policy dilemmas so they can make sustainable decisions with a broad democratic mandate. Since much government business is carried out by bureaucrats, bureaucracy is central to the problem of representation and accountability. The US has set a positive example with the Administrative Procedures Act, which forces bureaucrats to both consult with and respond to the public in passing new legislation. While one participant argued that politics is communication, another defined politics as a service to outcomes. From this perspective, the civil service and judiciary can be at the vanguard of progressive democratic reform.

Beyond representing and listening to people’s views, politicians must persuade the public of particular policy solutions and create consensus around often-contentious issues. But what proportion of the population wants to engage in politics? How can democratic structures and processes help people integrate democracy into their everyday lives? Long-term leadership on global issues like climate change, pension reforms, trade, security, drug laws, and foreign aid means persuading the public to buy into decisions that will force them to change their lifestyle.

The challenge may be “not to change people so that they connect with politics, but to change politics so it connects with the people.” One way to achieve this is by “micro-politics”—empowering citizens with information to map and address local problems in a tangible and direct way. One example is the “environmental scorecard” website in the US that spotlighted local polluters and provided ways for citizens to take action. As people learn that by creating community-based networks around specific interests and issues they can affect local outcomes, eventually they can influence national and international developments as well.

Given that much of the burden for getting citizens involved in discussions on global governance currently falls on the “second global superpower,” civil society, rather than government agencies. Ethical politics means dealing not only with corruption, but also poverty. Leaders must address the fact that money controls politics.

Efforts to improve democracy often assume people come from the same starting point, ignoring the deep digital divide. Long-term investments in democracy like MIT’s non-profit programme to manufacture and distribute millions of $100 laptops to schools in China, Brazil, and elsewhere are arguably more valuable than creating online deliberative mechanisms. 

Third Workshop
Making Democracy Deliberative

Leaders should not underestimate citizens” capacity to make the right choices if they have access to balanced and accurate information. On juries, citizens are entrusted to deliver life or death verdicts after considering competing arguments. In Brazil, when the government introduced penalties to pre-empt an energy crisis, after an awareness campaign on TV people reduced their energy consumption to such a degree that power companies verged on collapse.

The problem is that most citizens are locked in a cycle of “rational ignorance.” When citizens do discuss politics, they tend to talk to people from similar backgrounds with similar opinions. “Deliberative polling” is an attempt to create safe public spaces so that political conversations are consequential and live up to democratic ideals. Deliberative polls survey a random, representative sample of respondents, before and after they have deliberated on a specific issue. Polls show significant shifts in opinion and an increased sense of efficacy after deliberation. The process of deliberation also creates a thirst for information and engagement that is sustained over time. When people know their voice matters, it makes them more interested in public affairs.

Deliberative polling could be applied to political parties to increase their internal legitimacy. (Although it is unlikely that many political candidates would be prepared to undergo such a test.) However, a distinction was made between “polling politics and pedagogical politics.” While polls will always influence policymakers and public opinion, over-reliance on polling does not bode well for good democratic governance. Instead, education could become the centrepiece for direct representation. If leaders educate the public and instil a sense of shared responsibility, people are more likely to support good decisions and even devise their own solutions.

One participant argued that this kind of social science experiment should not be confused with a political project. Although such exercises can have real political impact, most people will never be part of them. Other participants raised concerns about the process of expert selection and who controls the information respondents receive. On the other hand, participants agreed that pluralistic methods of participation are an essential component of pluralistic democracies. Cumulatively, such innovations can disrupt existing power structures and lead to a reinvention of democracy.

However, there is an inherent risk that states might use this kind of information to win elections, rather than to improve people’s lives. The real point of civic engagement should be to put pressure on states. Since these processes are going to happen anyway, democratic states should be more responsive to them. But as George W. Bush highlighted in his notorious comment “I do not negotiate with myself,” the current US administration is blatantly anti-deliberative. The first priority of progressives in America and elsewhere should be to win elections in the systems that actually exist.

Fourth Workshop
Faith & Democracy: How Religion Is Reshaping Politics


Contemporary politics cannot ignore the fact that religion is having an increasing impact on all levels of political activity. The recent suicide bombings in London served as a warning to leaders of all persuasions that they must take action to defuse faith-based tensions at the local, national, and international levels. Politicians and religious leaders must come together to create a “culture of tolerance” to counteract the prevailing “ideology of fear.” Otherwise religious differences will have damaging consequences for multiculturalism, civil liberties, and human rights.

In theory, progressives abhor the notion of a “clash of civilisations’; but in reality people of different faiths still speak about “them” and “us’—the West that dominates us, versus Islam that threatens us. To see the world as a federation of religions rather than of human beings is a grave mistake. Leaders on the Left need to design a progressive strategy that promotes the “humanism of the other.”

Tolerance and non-discrimination should also frame the debate in Europe. In the coming decades, Europe will experience mass migration, including millions of Muslims. Migration policies must focus on integration and tackling social exclusion. The argument that Turkey’s accession would undermine the homogeneity of European culture misses the point: EU enlargement is about promoting human rights, development, and the rule of law. In that sense, Turkey clearly deserves to be a European country.

Those who question whether a Muslim country like Turkey can be “European” imply that Islam is not compatible with democracy. This overlooks the fact that there are over 20 million European Muslim citizens. Is it not possible to be fully European and fully Muslim? Must one be less of a Muslim to be more of a democrat? In our globalised world, we all have multiple identities. In principle, religious identity is distinct from political identity: one can be very devout but also very liberal. Islamic parties are not necessarily fundamentalist. But religious identity can guide all areas of social activity, with serious political implications. Anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality religious campaigners in the US are one example.

Discriminating against a minority undermines the human rights and civil liberties of the majority. On the other hand, too much freedom to exercise faith in the name of multiculturalism and democratic ideals can allow fundamentalism to flourish. Muslims in Western democracies suffer petty discrimination, especially at borders, but they enjoy greater civil liberties compared to Arab countries. A “Muslim ghetto mentality” is not conducive to integration or mutual understanding. The “professionalisation of religious identity” will be a self-fulfilling prophecy unless Muslims become more active in all areas of civic life. Both the minority and the majority have to make an effort to shape policies that emphasise local partnerships and address common social problems.

The “war on terror” has created a dangerous association between terrorism and Islam. Terrorism did not originate in Islam. Al Qaeda may have clear political goals, but terrorism is a technique, not an ideology. In Iraq, Muslim citizens are routinely killed by suicide bombers in the name of Islam. These acts are unacceptable to most Muslims. Muslims have a responsibility to tackle extremist elements in their own communities, just as leaders of Western democracies should think hard about why their societies are producing suicide bombers. Westerners are guilty of double standards—turning a blind eye when Muslim citizens are killed in Iraq and Palestine, but outspoken in their outrage about suicide bombings in New York, Madrid or London. More attention should be devoted to analysing why people become radicalised. Inequality, poverty, and despair are the real issues that drive people to fundamentalism.

Extremism feeds extremism. In this respect, terrorism has taught politicians the value of inter-dependence and pluralism. Choosing between security and human rights in tackling terrorism is a false dilemma. An obsession with security will not reinforce mutual confidence. Progressive politicians should be more confident in promoting multicultural liberalism as an antidote to populist leaders, who prey on people’s insecurities and present themselves as their “saviour’.

Religious illiteracy exacerbates the potential for social ruptures. Europeans are too often guilty of judging others through the prism of their own cultural legacy, and of appropriating secularism as their own invention. There is nothing inherently secular about European civilisation. In any case, a stereotypical understanding of secularism in the Western context cannot be applied to Islamic cultures. Promoting human rights and democratisation must take local realities into account. In Palestine, for example, Islamic groups are driving politics by providing vital social services. The future of democracy in the Arab world depends on the ability of progressive forces to promote social and economic development. This requires a strategy of engagement that is non-dogmatic and non-expansionist.

Liberal elites tend to be allies of the Bush administration’s alleged desire to democratise the world. But while Western liberalism is paralysed by a combination of post-colonial guilt and post-modern prevarication, the US is willing to employ an array of weapons—from military force to economic pressure—in the name of promoting democracy. This indicates a profound intolerance of traditions that may be perfectly valid for those who live in these societies. One participant argued that Western progressives are waging a cultural war against the traditional world—substituting a modernist materialism that is morally more destructive than colonialism.

Several participants pointed out that religious dogma in the US—where 92% of the population claims to believe in God—is very retrogressive. Can religion be interpreted in a way that is more compatible with democratic processes? Is “revealed truth”—whether Christian or Muslim—democratically legitimate? Do we expect religious leaders to promote values that help people to become better citizens, or should religion be completely divorced from politics? Politicians and political parties do not provide the sense of community and empathy that religious affiliations do. What kinds of “secular re-enchantment” can the Left devise to connect politics to everyday life, as the Republican Party has done? How can we square universal values and competitive identities, so that our societies not only tolerate but glorify our differences?

The role of religion in public life is different in every country. Whereas headscarves are banned in schools in France, cultural tolerance is more embedded in Latin America, where individuals can freely practice a combination of faiths, or India, which is currently governed by a Muslim President, Sikh Prime Minister and Christian leader of the ruling party. Most progressives in Europe have difficulty fathoming faith-based views, because agnosticism is central to democratic philosophy. Religion may enrich societies and individuals, but it does not answer questions of public policy. Governments might be inspired by religious values, but the collective mechanisms should be decided collectively by the people.

Fifth Workshop
Transforming Undemocratic Lands

What are the motives, methods, and outcomes of attempting to transform undemocratic lands? What tools and techniques are required to promote democratic development? What balance of internal and external agents are required? How sustainable can new democratic regimes be over time?

Several participants spoke in favour of democratisation in principle, (“the definition of being a global progressive”), although the motives and means by which it is applied are often dubious. Others questioned the premise of promoting democracy, which is not only antagonistic to classical theories of democratic society but presupposes that western democracies are perfect, which is far from the case.

The credibility of democratisation policies depends on their motives, which were categorised as geostrategic, humanitarian, or enlightened self-interest. Credible motivation for interfering in other countries is critical not only to building alliances, but also to the sustainability of outcomes. The confusing and often unconvincing combination of motives called upon for the invasion of Iraq undermined the credibility of that campaign. It was argued that global terrorism, the threat of China, and hunger for resources were the real reasons behind the Bush administration’s campaign to “promote democracy” in Iraq and elsewhere.

The bottom line is that foreign policy is still determined by national self-interest. Economic realities drive geostrategic policies. China does not care about enabling undemocratic regimes in Asia in order to access their natural gas resources. The US has proven in the past that it has no qualms about annulling elections or supporting totalitarian regimes to access their oil reserves. Today, human rights abuses in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib render America’s democratic rhetoric virtually meaningless. Another inherent problem with US determination to export democracy is that it is equally determined not to apply democratic principles to global institutions. The US refuses to address global issues such as climate change and bio-engineering through transnational processes, claiming such policies should be confined to the nation state. The EU could take the lead in tackling global problems collectively, using its experience at the regional level.

However, the EU has its own limitations in terms of how it engages with undemocratic regimes. The EU is equally guilty of double standards—whether it is individual members making exceptions for privileged partners such as Russia, or the EU failing to implement rules of conditionality when countries flout human rights. The EU does not have a clear democratic agenda partly because its own member states are so diverse. The EU is reluctant to set benchmarks for accession countries by which current members could also be judged. For example, Italy would never be admitted into the EU by the same standards now applied to accession countries. On the other hand, this diversity allows accession countries to choose their own model.

So far, enlargement has been a success story in terms of promoting stability, democracy, and the rule of law. Organised crime and corruption receded in the Czech Republic and Hungary as they moved closer to EU membership. It remains to be seen how much internal progress can be made in Bulgaria and Romania—both poor countries captured by organised crime and corruption—as they try to integrate into the European mainstream. Given that EU cohesion and stabilisation funds are often exploited by corrupt individuals, a key factor will be investing in a well-paid and well-educated civil service, judiciary, and police force. These countries might need “intensive care” for a long time after joining the EU. This raises questions about what kind of long-term “monitoring” is required once democratisation has taken place.

The EU might be a model of regional development and democratisation, but it has yet to articulate a strategy or develop a capacity for global engagement. The EU appears to have reached “a point of indigestion” with respect to its own neighbourhood. The enlargement agenda has been captured by populists, who frame the issue in terms of xenophobia, like migration. Halting the enlargement process could cause a backlash among countries already engaged in democratic reforms, motivated by the ultimate promise of EU membership. Similarly, the EU’s wider neighbourhood policy, which demands all the obligations and offers few of the benefits of membership, will not suffice to entice fragile states on the fringes of the Union, such as Croatia and Belarus, to promote real reform.

Historically, the US has a more successful track record in promoting democracy abroad, whether in promoting democracy in Europe or helping countries to draft constitutions. European efforts to promote democracy in the post-colonial era have been far less vigorous. In terms of methods, the contrast between the US and EU could not be starker: the “army of civil servants and competition lawyers” versus “the F16s and Abrams tanks.” Or America the missionary, versus Europe the monastery. The Bush administration’s willingness to take pre-emptive action against failed states is less acceptable to Europeans than the Clinton administration’s focus on humanitarian intervention. For most European liberals, the notion of promoting democracy through force is a contradiction in terms. Even if the use of force is legitimate, afterwards countries face the same challenges in terms of how to develop a democratic society from the bottom up.

Europeans argue that Americans over-emphasise power, rather than power-sharing. The EU, one of the biggest donors of foreign aid, has been quietly promoting good governance outside its borders at the grassroots level. This development strategy should not be underestimated simply because it is uncontroversial. On the other hand, the EU’s legitimacy and efficacy abroad are hampered by a bureaucracy that is slow and inflexible.

Elsewhere, global agents like the World Bank are turning to modern methodologies in order to support democratic revolutions in Africa. In Ghana, promoting a democratic, inclusive state through accountability, dialogue, and decentralisation is now a specific objective of World Bank policy. Rule of law and anti-corruption measures were cited as crucial elements of successful democratisation in emerging democracies, from Western Africa to the Western Balkans.

In the age of globalisation, it may be harder to sustain authoritarian states, but this does not mean the alternative is democracy by default. The decline of the nation-state creates a vacuum for a new set of actors to seize control of power, whether criminals, capitalists, religious leaders, or despots. Democracy liberates many forces, not all of them good.

Recent dictatorships in various parts of their continent make Europeans more acutely aware of the fragility of democracy. But the culture of democracy runs deep. Democracy grows out of the history and experience of society itself. Democratisation programmes are meaningless unless they engage and empower the societies they aspire to influence. Installing the mechanics of democracy is not enough. Simultaneous efforts should be made to change habits of the heart.

Rachel Howard