What Does 21st Century Democracy Mean?

Elections are central to, not synonymous with, democracy. Global trends from Africa, Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the United States demonstrate that authoritarians are increasingly coming to power via electoral means, often with broad popular support, but are subverting democracy once in power. This has given rise to the phenomenon of “elected authoritarians.” 

With both pro- and anti-democratic actors using the language of democracy and leveraging mechanisms of democracy, it is critical to have a shared definition for what democracy means. At Keseb, we believe that defining 21st century democracy is an ongoing, collective effort as many marginalized groups around the world have historically been excluded from such an endeavor. We also believe that there are varieties of democracies, which will always be in a state of evolution. 

For the purposes of Keseb’s current work, and as a starting point, we have adopted the following definition of democracy from the Freedom House

A starting definition for 21st century democracy…

Additionally, as part of the second Summit for Democracy in 2023, Keseb joined a coalition of civil society organizations calling on governments to uphold these 14 democratic principles