The latest Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index shows that democracy is on the decline in the Global South. Large democracies such as India continue to face restrictions in civil liberties, and at least five other countries in Asia and Latin America have faced highly divisive and polarised elections in the past year.
But this decline has been met with creative resistance. Our exclusive Elections Report illustrates how a great number of Change.org petitions engaged millions of citizens in reclaiming their voice in defense of democracy in 2019. They created new spaces for civic participation beyond the ballot box, shaped election agendas, and strengthened democracy through online campaigns.
We firmly believe that these uncertain times demand stronger democracies, the voices of the common people and better tools to enable accountability.
Citizens were influencing the elections agenda
In Buenos Aires, the number of people living on the streets has increased by 23% in two years. But this was not an issue that candidates were talking about last year. Using Change.org, Josefina and thousands of other people across Argentina helped share the agenda during the regional and national elections of 2019.
Legislators on the city council responded to Josefina’s petition, and the topic became an election issue.
Politicians were held accountable
A group of young people in Thailand harnessed collective action after the Electoral Commission delayed releasing an indicative vote count. Their Change.org petition became a rallying point for those who felt let down by the elections. Asking for the impeachment of the seven members of the Electoral Commission, their petition grew to more than 800,000 signatures in a span of three days.
For Thailand, this was a rare space where dialogue and debate could develop, and where people feel empowered to hold the people in power accountable.
Women started movements
A growing number of campaigns in India illustrates the impact that women are having on political discourse. During the 2019 elections, for example, Sujitha’s petition caught the attention of electoral candidates. The third-largest party committed to creating a commission for the welfare of salt workers in their manifesto. Now the issue is being advocated in the Parliament.
Through the She Votes project, for the first time ever, top political parties used Change.org to hear from regular citizens and included a wide range of their ideas in their Election Manifestos and Vision documents
At the Change.org Foundation, we believe that sustainable, positive social change can only occur when people most impacted step up and take action. Citizens around the world are demonstrating how people-led social movements, amplified by online tools, can elevate the voices of ordinary people, create transformational change at all levels, and help strengthen democracy.
Read the Change.org Foundation Elections Report here.