Newsletter N°31 - April 2023


Can You Ever Say Goodbye?

Dear reader,

As in a few weeks I will end my professional career - thus saying goodbye to the Navigator project and handing it over – it is a good occasion to take a personal look at my 20-year-old career path in the NGO.

Even at the start of my studies of sociology, one of my main interests were questions about the political constitution of a society and its genesis. In this respect, it was a lucky coincidence when I was offered to take on the Direct Democracy Navigator project, which would accompany me until this day. The associated worldwide research on direct democracy also meant changing my previously very German and (Western) European perspective on political structures. The data analysis strengthened the thesis that a coherent answer to numerous questions will only be possible with a view to the political-cultural development of a society and its history.

During the work on the Navigator, direct democratic popular rights were only rarely expanded (e.g. in Taiwan and Mexico). Once, an existing instrument was even abolished (the Netherlands). Other states transformed themselves into autocratic systems and are no longer listed in the database. The worldwide institutionalisation of direct democracy instruments is always interwoven with the general development of the democratic system of government. In 2022, the Bertelsmann Transformation Index stated in its report that there are now more autocratic than democratic states worldwide. This global development surely causes deep concerns.

Since the invasion of Ukraine and then diagnosed "turn of the times", I occasionally have the feeling that familiar structures we thought we had overcome are being repeated. But other topics, such as the analysis of the "Limits to Growth" (1972), the new-old discussion about women's rights or those of minorities, also play a role. Will history repeat itself? Recently I was asked, with respect to the world situation, whether I would see also a danger of the failure of democracy in Germany. As an adolescent, I would probably have answered "yes" to this question. Today, however, I consider the democratic system of government in my country to be stable and strong, embedded in a hopefully strengthening stability of the European Union.

So, can you ever say goodbye? Truly, I am happy to do without the work-related early mornings or occasional work-related stress. But a "goodbye" to the democratic system, the rule of law and the unrestricted validity of human rights will not be possible.

That is why civil society activists and NGOs like Democracy International are needed to stand up for democracy and make it strong!

Picture: Klaus Hofmann, "Direct-Democracy Navigator" editor  Academic Adviser, Democracy International e.V.

Klaus Hofmann,
"Direct-Democracy Navigator" editor 
Academic Adviser, Democracy International e.V.

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