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n this September day Greece will play host to the third annual Athens Democracy Forum. In 2015, the symbolic value of this hosting is stark. Greece’s ongoing economic issues were played out to dramatic effect this summer. The Greek people were at the heart of the play. Whether the people got exactly what they wanted or not in the end, they were heard. The pictures of the electorate that played to the world were the face of what modern democracy looks like.



It is in the spirit of maintaining, and expanding, the voice of the people that this annual meeting convenes again this year.



As the Athens Democracy Forum focuses this year on the concerns facings modern democracies, those images from Greece show us how far democracy has come. The cradle of democracy was once less inclusive. Classical Athenian democracy restricted the voting voice to male citizens. Democracy has evolved to take many forms, from populist oriented voting to broad representative democracy.



One thing was consistent until relatively recent in human history. Men remained the dominant voices in democracy for centuries. While there were societies, like the Iroquois, that afforded women voting rights in councils and communities, modern democracy didn’t see real strides until the 19th century.



Suffrage created an origin point for women to emerge as democratic leaders. Women currently hold the highest office in 20 nations around the world, with notable strides in Europe and South America. The voice of women in democracies could almost be taken for granted in the 21st century.



It shouldn’t be. A philosophy of rule established several millennia ago has opened its arms broadly to half of the population only over the course of less than two centuries ago. In the case of participatory democracy, history took too long to unfold. But it can unravel quickly, not just for women but for everyone.



This year the Athens Democracy Forum will focus on areas where the danger to democracy is acute. The prevalent marriage of violence and religious extremism can strip away the human dignity of those of outside faiths and women in or out of any faith set. Under economic duress, some major powers can be seen reflexively retreating from experiments with greater democracy.



Technology has made communication easier but we see the discomfort some even very democratic governments have with that. We don’t live in a world where the messages conveyed to the people are restricted to a handful of networks anymore. The competing interest of the state versus the democratization of information itself is a key battleground of this still young century.



All of this plays out against a backdrop of growing international income disparity. Part of democracy’s effectiveness is the faith of the people that their voice can matter. Increased unemployment and poverty for the masses is in stark contrast to narrow pools of extreme wealth that doesn’t hide its influence on the politics of democratic governments. How do we maintain faith in a system where many will feel they can’t afford their place at the table?



Democracy has been with us for thousands of years but its place has always been tenuous. Its strength and endurance can only come from vigilant maintenance and forward thinking about how to protect it and pass it along stronger to the generations to come.



It took too long to move forward. We can’t afford to let it go back.

About
Ana C. Rold
:
Ana C. Rold is the Founder and Publisher of Diplomatic Courier. She teaches political science courses at Northeastern University and is the Host and Producer of Future Tense podcast. Follow her on Twitter @ACRold
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

The Future of Democracy

September 14, 2015

O

n this September day Greece will play host to the third annual Athens Democracy Forum. In 2015, the symbolic value of this hosting is stark. Greece’s ongoing economic issues were played out to dramatic effect this summer. The Greek people were at the heart of the play. Whether the people got exactly what they wanted or not in the end, they were heard. The pictures of the electorate that played to the world were the face of what modern democracy looks like.



It is in the spirit of maintaining, and expanding, the voice of the people that this annual meeting convenes again this year.



As the Athens Democracy Forum focuses this year on the concerns facings modern democracies, those images from Greece show us how far democracy has come. The cradle of democracy was once less inclusive. Classical Athenian democracy restricted the voting voice to male citizens. Democracy has evolved to take many forms, from populist oriented voting to broad representative democracy.



One thing was consistent until relatively recent in human history. Men remained the dominant voices in democracy for centuries. While there were societies, like the Iroquois, that afforded women voting rights in councils and communities, modern democracy didn’t see real strides until the 19th century.



Suffrage created an origin point for women to emerge as democratic leaders. Women currently hold the highest office in 20 nations around the world, with notable strides in Europe and South America. The voice of women in democracies could almost be taken for granted in the 21st century.



It shouldn’t be. A philosophy of rule established several millennia ago has opened its arms broadly to half of the population only over the course of less than two centuries ago. In the case of participatory democracy, history took too long to unfold. But it can unravel quickly, not just for women but for everyone.



This year the Athens Democracy Forum will focus on areas where the danger to democracy is acute. The prevalent marriage of violence and religious extremism can strip away the human dignity of those of outside faiths and women in or out of any faith set. Under economic duress, some major powers can be seen reflexively retreating from experiments with greater democracy.



Technology has made communication easier but we see the discomfort some even very democratic governments have with that. We don’t live in a world where the messages conveyed to the people are restricted to a handful of networks anymore. The competing interest of the state versus the democratization of information itself is a key battleground of this still young century.



All of this plays out against a backdrop of growing international income disparity. Part of democracy’s effectiveness is the faith of the people that their voice can matter. Increased unemployment and poverty for the masses is in stark contrast to narrow pools of extreme wealth that doesn’t hide its influence on the politics of democratic governments. How do we maintain faith in a system where many will feel they can’t afford their place at the table?



Democracy has been with us for thousands of years but its place has always been tenuous. Its strength and endurance can only come from vigilant maintenance and forward thinking about how to protect it and pass it along stronger to the generations to come.



It took too long to move forward. We can’t afford to let it go back.

About
Ana C. Rold
:
Ana C. Rold is the Founder and Publisher of Diplomatic Courier. She teaches political science courses at Northeastern University and is the Host and Producer of Future Tense podcast. Follow her on Twitter @ACRold
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.